My travel on the Executive Class on Shatabdi Express from Chennai Central to Coimbatore Junction on 25th July 2018 left me with mixed emotions! I just felt like writing about it, and here it is !
Firstly, the cleanliness quotient on the train has certainly improved, without a doubt. The compartment, seats, toilets, everything was clean. I was quite happy about it.
I have travelled in similar trains – Duronto from Chennai to Coimbatore, Shatabdi from Chennai to Bangalore, and my memory of these experiences isn’t anything really worth raving about. Food, in particular, has been very pathetic that it became a norm for us to parcel breakfast from Hotel Saravana Bhavan in Central Station. Whether it is better to be hanged or shot is debatable 😉 We’ve always had a good experience at HSB in Central.
During this trip, I was quite skeptical, but still eager to see if anything has improved at all with respect to food!
The custmomary water bottle and a newspaper was given as soon as we were seated. As the train started to pick up pace, slowly the waiters/train stewards started with their job.
Coffee and biscuits to start with! A couple of Marie biscuits, Instant coffee powder, dairy Creamer and sugar! I decided to have my coffee black, and it was okay!
Then came the starter to the breakfast – Two slices of white bread, butter, jam and cornflakes with milk. Most of them refused cornflakes, and I did the same. Just had the bread with butter. Some things are quite obvious! As far as I remember, there has always been a lukewarm response to Cornflakes and in spite of that, they’re hell bent on serving it, why !?!?
Then came the actual South-Indian breakfast – Pongal, Vadai, Oothappam with Chutney and Sambhar. Pathetic is the word! Pongal and vadai were manageable, Oothappam was a sorry excuse for one, you could swim in the sambhar – it was so watery, and chutney was on its way to the bin! If one cannot serve a decent South-Indian breakfast in Tamilnadu, then they’re unfit to call themselves caterers! Not sure with whom IRCTC Catering tied up, whether it was from the pantry, or the stalls in the platform, it was absolutely not worth it!
I envied the family who were seated next to me who opened their tiffin boxes and blissfully ate their home-made idlies smeared with Molagapodi.
Quite disgusted with the breakfast, I was left wondering why some things do not change!
Meanwhile, after whiling away some time listening to music, it was quite in-between breakfast and lunch when they started to serve soup with soup sticks and a cutlet. Soup was a cream soup, just passable after adding two small sachets of pepper. The cutlet was soggy and barely manageable. Soup sticks with butter was okay! Again another round of mediocre food.
If it were me, instead of spending money on all these formalities and sub-standard food, I would just serve a wonderful breakfast and lunch, with a nice Filter coffee in between! It would have left most of the customers satisfied.
Finally, another hour or so, lunch was served. In fact, by now, I had made up my mind to get down at Coimbatore and have a wonderful meal at Hotel RHR, just outside the station. Surprisingly, the lunch that was served was quite decent looks-wise, and don’t know why, I wanted to try! This was certainly way above the sub-standard food that was served in the morning! As I started to eat, the feeling only got better. 2 Rotis, Rice, Dal, Paneer Subzi, Aloo-Methi Subzi, Curd and Soan Cake. Rotis could have been better, no complaints. Rest of them were pretty good. Someone called Roop Caterers served this, and it was definitely on the brighter side. If they had managed to serve the breakfast with this same standard, it would have certainly left me satisfied.
Service was pretty good, nothing worth complaining!
Air-conditioning was an issue every now and then and the electrician was on his toes all through the journey. That could have been better to make the journey pleasant.
I think IRCTC Catering should take these things seriously to satisfy their customers, and realize that someone bringing a food parcel from another restaurant, in spite of knowing that food is served on board, is shameful, to say the least!