Kolkata Food Bloggers were invited at the launch of the new menu at Tea Trove, Deshapriya Park branch. This was my first time to this place, I was informed that there exists another Tea Trove on Elgin Road which serves a vegetarian menu. I walked in 10 mins late, my usual, to find Amrita engaged in a conversation with the cordial host and owner, Shruti. Soon after, we were introduced to the consultant Chef Mark who was instrumental in designing the menu. The fact that both the owner and the chef openly invited our ‘candid opinion’ impressed me because I now see some hope for the city food scene becoming more professional and competitive in comparison to their vintage counterparts who continue to be complacent to feedback and dishing out underwhelming food in the name of heritage.
Rants apart, we had a quick look at the regular menu as well as the new menu; the new menu is largely Italian with a bit of Mediterranean and American influences thrown in, definitely more attractive for an adda joint that Tea Trove is designed to be. Multiple options for fried chicken wings is definitely something I would love to opt for as my evening snack with tea and adda. We were served two versions of wings – with barbecue sauce and with a spicy thai dressing. As a personal preference, my vote goes for the latter – the Thai sauce was sweet, salty and spicy; closest to the typical strong flavours served across Thailand. I liked the fact that they did not go easy on the chillies because Thais never do that. I am usually not a fan of barbecue sauce but I think the tamarind twist given to the normal store bought barbecue sauce made me have more than one of those wings.
Wings apart (no pun intended), we were served Aranchini with pomodoro amd mozarella (rissoto stuffed with melting cheese and deep fried) – I did taste the wine from the rissoto, the crunch on the exterior and there was enough cheese oozing from within it, the tomato sauce served with it was freshly made and not store bought – so I can say a lot of effort had gone into it and it was what it was supposed to be. I just have to admit though that I am not a fan of Aranchini in general, so there.
There was a beer batter fish served with a tartar dip – I liked the freshness of the fish, it was rightly seasoned and the tartar dip had chunky pieces of chopped veggies that added texture to the otherwise smooth texture of the fish. The only bone of contention was the absence of batter despite the name, and while I did not miss the batter at all, it would just be nice to call it differently.
California crisps – deep fried brussel sprouts – I must say, was a very bold choice for the menu, and as Mark admitted – a bitter vegetable is an acquired taste; people will either like it or hate it. And although I was very clear about my choices, our friend Manjari seemed more open minded and after one or two bites, announced the dish grew on her. Especially of the vinaigrette, she said and I agree, the tangy basil vinaigrette was par excellence. It had to be, to make you like brussel sprouts, so I would say it had done its job, at least for someone!
The veg lasagne came in next, and it was pretty disappointing from the start. Although the flavours of the filling were bang on, I would say the lack of cheese in all layers, the thickness of the pasta and the serving on a flat plate instead of a baking dish played villains-in-arms.
Our low slung mood from the lasagne was however, lifted by the next and last serve of the evening, the roast chicken with Mediterranean salad. Loved the thoughtfulness that went behind retaining the crispy skin over the chicken, the strong Mediterranean flavours of the chicken being aptly balanced by the delicately flavored salad, croutons and mushrooms. It might be a bit safe to go easy on the seasonings though, because some found it over-seasoned though I did not mind it given the tamer sides that balanced the strength of flavours.
We were also served three types of drinks from their regular menu – all being punches made with green tea. Tom and Jerry, which was cola with green tea; an iced tea punch, and a strawberry crush with green tea that was served in a salt-rimmed glass. I did not take much liking to either of them tastewise. Logically, as a tea lover, I would like to have green tea for its detox benefits so the cola or strawberry flavours wouldn’t be of much help there. Instead, as an ardent tea lover, I would really love to see a few more pure tea flavours on the menu (apart from the Assam and Darjeeling that the already do). The regular ones like Chamomile and Earl Grey, even a lot of good infusions that are now available off the shelves so I think this is easily doable and would do wonders for a good girlie adda.
For the benefit of the establishment that has taken the initiative of inviting feedback, here are some suggestions to sum up:
- Expand the pure tea section on the menu
- Add vivid descriptions to the new menu so that customers know what to expect and are not caught unawares by surprises that do not appeal to their personal tastes
- Deliver what is promised on the menu
- Try to bring about consistent quality. Given that it is always the bad experience that usually sticks around in the mind of a prospective customer, it would be good if they pull up their socks on their Achilles’ heels and make a turnaround on the delivery. Given that, despite some disappointments, there were instances where certain flavours unexpectedly lifted our spirits and made us go for seconds, I feel they have the potential to extend the same to all their dishes.
- The decor is quite friendly and does enough to make you feel ‘young again’ (in my case). I am not too sure of the practicability of the low seating areas though, it could be uncomfortable for both the customer and the waiter to maneuver sitting, serving, eating, cleaning. Of course, they’ll need to ask their regular customers if they are ok with it.
- Pay attention to their service – customers like alert waiters who know when the table needs forks and spoons, or have a fair idea of their menu and what the dishes contain. The waiting staff might need more training.
- Last and most importantly, keep up this attitude of proactively seeking feedback from customers, because I personally found it very commendable and think it will take them a long way.