Radar | Jan 11,2020
It was a tale told by the likes of Jonathan Swift – Henry VIII, a 16th century British monarch, being so pleased with the luscious slice of pink meat served to him, unsheathed his sword, laid it on the sirloin and knighted it.
“Hereafter, thou shalt be dubbed ‘Sir Loin,’” he declared.
If admirers of food are not knighting them, then it is chefs naming dishes. Auguste Escoffier, renowned as a chef and restaurateur, author of a number of books on the art of cooking, the inventor of both the basic sauce and the chopped carmelized almond topping that bear his name, took part in the naming as well.
Over the years, expensive and richly elaborate food has come to go hand in hand with the name of a good hotel. This is because a hotel and a restaurant create the optimal spatiotemporal relevance, and for this also, there is Escoffier to thank.
As the early 20th century unfolded, César Ritz, the Swiss restaurateur and hotel manager, worked with the master chef himself, Escoffier. Cleanliness, high standards and conciseness were all the name of the game. It is, to an extent, an effect establishments in Ethiopia have been attempting to replicate for decades, with some success.
After a long walk last week, I treaded gently into the Ghion Hotel. Not all that much had changed from the old days when it was the second most posh hotel next to the Hilton. I used to pass by the hotel when I was a kid, with its gardens of big trees and a swimming pool. It had an elaborate stable for the well looked after palace horses with a field in the olden days.
After I grew tired of my walks, I went into a restaurant, and even more lethargic at the thought of a return walk, I demanded the perfect fish dish. Sadly, it was not to my expectations. The addition of the Grove Garden Walk in the back is a plus for the hotel and its long service of seven decades, but the years have moved on and only the memory of its grandeur remains.
At least, it is not doing as terribly as Taytu Hotel, the first modern such establishment in Ethiopian history. It serves as a matter of historical interest but not anymore as a hotel or a restaurant worth its salt in this day and age.
Also, a sacrifice to history is the chain of hotels owned by Bekele Molla, one of Ethiopia's earliest and prominent business persons. The man, who always tried to find the bright side of dire situations, is known for his perseverance. It was as he was struggling with one of his chains in Hawassa that another hotel popped up to offer competition. Although he never lived a substantial amount of his life overseas, it did not stop the colourfully witty man from learning from his foreign national customers.
A keyword among many was “beach”, he heard about it again and again. He asked what it was, to learn that it was all about the sun, sand and water, enabling him to come up with Bekele Mola Langano, as a lakeside establishment. It was one of the gems of its day and a subsequent victim of history as other resorts and hotels began to pop up.
These days, Addis Abeba and its surroundings are different. As the number of hoteliers and restaurateurs has grown, the competition has heated. Partly, this is to the benefit of consumers, which can choose between offerings from traditional to Oriental to Western. It has also meant that the race in posh-ness is beyond what the ordinary Ethiopian would dream to afford. The sophistication and exquisiteness in service and design of the Hyatt Regency and the Sheraton Addis have trumpeted the likes of Ghion but have made them every bit as inaccessible as the old ones.
PUBLISHED ON Jun 19,2021 [ VOL 22 , NO 1103]
Radar | Jan 11,2020
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