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The ‘Aashirwaadam Ceremony’ preceding a destination wedding in Goa was scheduled to be held in a city hotel in Thiruvananthapuram on the 25th of December 2019. This meant that the couple were to be blessed by the older generations of folks that my Amma was part of and moreover this happened to be her cousin sister’s grandson’s wedding. Simply put, the starry-eyed couple get to blessed by 2 generations of elder relatives they have no idea of whatsoever. They were 3rd generation Indian Americans. Now the 25th of December happened to be Christmas day. The peak holiday season time in Kerala.

That called for early reservations of our airline tickets and Hotel room two months in advance just as we received the invitations from the U.S. through Whatsapp. (We all have our memorable stories of last moment reservation disasters especially for family functions. Don’t we? We learn from them right? Book early, Keep disasters at bay.)

The era of snail mailing or couriering printed invitations for ceremonies had slowly disappeared like invisible ink. Technology had laid to waste thousands of printed invitations and helped folks garner Carbon foot prints instead.

So now everyone seemed to be on WhatsApp, except my mother. She used her mobile phone only for voice calls but stayed away from WhatsApp, so not only did the invites come to my phone, but I also had to forward them to folks in Kerala. I could overhear Amma tell them (every time I forwarded the invite to unknown phone numbers of known relatives) ‘No, that is my son’s phone no. He received the invites and I told him to forward them to you as I don’t use WhatsApp.’ At least she did not receive or circulate ‘Fake News’.

Since my mother could not trek all way through to the airport departure gates nor the long corridors of Hotels, a ‘Wheelchair’ was the ‘Wheels of choice.’When I booked both the Indigo airline tickets as well as the hotel room at the Hilton Garden Inn (this was where the function was also to be held) I requested for a Wheelchair.

The Indigo Airlines’ ground staff (3 of them in turn, one after the other) ensured Amma and me had a smooth and speedy check-in as she was in a Wheelchair. There was absolutely no waiting even at the security check also where I decided I needed a new belt.
(It looked desperately on its last legs, shriveled and worn out as I rolled it up along with the mandatory laptop, wallet and phone in the security tray)

After security, the ground staff rolled her in for a hearty breakfast of idlis and pongal, a smooth guided tour of the airport stalls & stores (think Mysore Pak packets for gifting sweet toothed relatives) and finally up the ramp of the aircraft into the front row seats.
So far so good. Too good!

Even on landing the ground staff at Trivandrum rolled her out of the aircraft and all the way around the baggage ramp and into a waiting car provided by the hotel. It was Christmas Day in Trivandrum which meant no traffic at all. We hit the Hilton Garden Inn hotel in no time.This time the Hotel employees did the wheelchair routine right up to our room. From that moment on started our In room dining experience at The Hilton Garden Inn.

In room dining or room service for food and beverages was first launched in New York at the Waldorf Astoria. Guests checking into the Waldorf during the 1930’s were enamoured by waiters serving meals directly to their rooms. Something unheard of earlier. It later caught the fancy of smaller hotels and room service or in room dining came to stay.The advantages of in room dining are that you could get whatever food or drink you wanted right in the comfort of your room. You didn’t need to dress up to go down to the restaurant for the fare they offer.

It suited us fine as Amma was not up to the idea of dressing up each time and being rolled around restaurants in a wheelchair attracting unnecessary attention. Save for the family function in the evening, we hardly left the the Hotel room for the 3 days and nights we were there. No sweat. When one is elderly and less mobile, staying in seemed a sound and practical option.

After the function, the following days had relatives coming over to our room to relax and chat up with Amma. Like the old saying went ‘ If Mohammed can’t go to the mountain, the mountain will come to Mohammed’. So that meant breakfast, lunch and dinner in our room.
And I have to say, the in room dining staff catered caringly to our every need. The In room dining menu was spread over Traditional Kerala delicacies, Western and Continental fare, Far Eastern and Chinese dishes as well as the usual midnight snacks and sandwiches.

The Appams for breakfast was phenomenal, lacy and soft. Accompanied by egg curry cooked the Kerala way – low on fiery chillies, but red and slurry with all those roasted onions and spices that populated the gravy. And to top it off, there was a ‘Steamed Kerala Banana (Ethakka)’. Brilliant!

Lacy soft Appams for breakfast
Egg Curry Kerala Style
Appam and Egg Curry
Steamed Kerala Banana (Ethakka)

By now the bubbly and spirited lady ‘Aishwarya’(who headed the in room dining division) had got the drift of these two folks in Room 320, who were quite expressive on how they wanted the food done. And as old habits go, I would always thank her for a meal cooked exactly the way we wanted it.

In room dining was no more a chore, by now it had become a friendly process, almost as though we were living in the room for months on end. I would initially scan through the entire menu, discuss withmy mother (as she basically stuck to traditional cuisine, though a Far Eastern food adventure was always an option, she would consider). I would then place the order with Aishwarya who repeated it with perfection and would also suggest additives, accompaniments and ensuring that the spice levels were kept low.

For lunch we went for fish. And the Chef did not disappoint. We were asked by Aishwarya to try the ‘Meen Pollichathu’. Fresh Sear is the fish of the day she said. And fresh it was. Chunks of sear seared with masala, wrapped in banana leaf and cooked to perfection. As the aromas swirled around the room, my mother agreed to its freshness. For Mallus from Kollam, residing in Bangalore, we know the difference in flavour fresh fish brings on.

‘Meen Pollichathu’-of sear seared with masala, wrapped in banana leaf and cooked to perfection
‘Meen Pollichathu’

My yearning for meats now demanded to be satiated. They were listed under ‘International Mains’. I ordered for ‘Pork Chops with Pommery mustard and garlic’- served with wilted greens, grilled apple and herb jus. I would have preferred the pork chops a wee bit softer but the chef had done a great job of it. And Aishwarya the ‘wonder woman’ had ensured that there was buttery mashed potatoes added on to my request. The original dish had no potatoes. I loved every bite of that juicy pork chops.

‘Pork Chops with Pommery mustard and garlic’- served with wilted greens, grilled apple and herb jus.

We were now pretty sure that we were getting exactly what we visualized from the in room dining or even better. My next under the ‘International Mains’ was Tenderloin Beef Medallions – served with Fried egg, grilled vegetables, carrot mash and red wine.
I ordered it medium-rare

Tenderloin Beef Medallions – served with Fried egg, grilled vegetables, carrot mash and red wine.

And exactly so it came through the food runner.
Food runners was what I called the waiters who served up the food in our room.
Not only was the tenderloin medallions cooked rare – medium, the meat was tender and flavoursome.

I thanked the chef again for a brilliant meal.
The Malabar Mutton Biriyani was next on the list. What surprised us when it arrived was that the mutton was in medium sized slivers, totally blending in with the myriad flavours in the rice. Mildy spiced but it was flavor abundant! The Chef in charge scored again.

To round things off, Amma went on her Far Eastern adventure with Mixed Non-Veg Noodles and Wok Tossed Chicken with Greens.

Mixed Non-Veg Noodles
Wok Tossed Chicken with Greens

Just as I finished placing the order, Aishwarya suggested ‘ Why don’t you try out our classic Beef fry and Parottas sir’. I said ‘ I did not find it on the menu!’ And then she pointed out ‘ Sir, it is listed under ‘Indian Mains-Tenderloin Regional Speciality Roast.’ And there it was.
Tenderloin cubes in ethnic spices with coconut slivers.
And I stupidly was looking for Beef Fry!

Beef Fry with Parottas-Tenderloin cubes in ethnic spices with coconut slivers.

So at the fag end of our Trivandrum sojourn, I was served the classic Kerala Beef fry, all covered in roasted spices and the quality of the meat was the best I could think of in a Beef fry in Trivandrum. The Chinese noodles was filled with tiny prawns cooked to perfection. The Wok tossed Chicken pieces were juicy and soft to match to the fresh, green Bok Choy and Broccoli.

My total appreciation for the entire in house dining team of the Hilton Garden Inn spearheaded by ‘wonder woman’ Aishwarya and the chefs who created the dishes that took our experience of ‘Room Service’ or ‘In Room Dining’ to a whole new level!
Whenever travelling with an elder, don’t forget to book a wheelchair on the airline as well as the hotel. Also if you are in Trivandrum and Ok with In room dining as your source for food, try the Hilton Garden Inn.

You’ll be amazed.

Every word I have written stands testament to every juicy bite me and my mother had.

‘When’s the next family function in Trivandrum? I’m game!’ I tell Amma as we roll out to into Bangalore Airport’s entertainment venue just outside the terminal walls where a rock ‘n’ roll band does a cover of U2’s ‘ I still haven’t found what I’m looking for’. Strange, when I found ‘exactly’ what I was looking for in Trivandrum.

About the Author

Monu Danesh Surendran works for a retail organization in Bangalore and heads it online and branding division. He is a foodie by passion and therefore tries his hand at stuff in his home kitchen. While not dabbling in cooking during his days off he likes his music and of course trying out food. He prefers home cooked cuisine though restaurant fare guarantees a good outing with friends.

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