Maha eatery's 2021 challenge: 'Grab a bite, get a bike'
By Quaid Najmi
Pune (Maharashtra), Jan. Jan 20 (IANS) This is one New Year challenge announced by a Pune restaurateur that is driving foodies and bike-lovers crazy.
On Jan. 1, when Atul Waikar, the young owner of Shivraj Hotel on the Old Mumbai-Pune Highway threw the gauntlet, people rubbed their eyes in disbelief.
Five brand new, gleaming Royal Enfield Bullet bikes – each costing around Rs.1.70 lakhs – were up on the firing line outside the eatery, with a poster proclaiming the ‘Bullet Thali’ challenge, grabbing eyeballs, by the 30-year-old Waikar, himself a bike aficionado.
“The offer is simple. If you want to win a free Royal Enfield Bullet bike, then gobble up my yummy non-vegetarian ‘Bullet Thali’ in 60 minutes flat,” Waikar told IANS.
Akin to the Bullet bike, the Bullet Thali is not for the weak-tummied, smiled Waikar, as the challenge was poised to set the cash registers roaring after the long Covid-19 pandemic lockdown.
It is a massive ‘thaal’ (platter) with 16 starters and main dishes comprising a mouthwatering gourmet of fried surmai, pomfret, chicken in tandoori and masala, dry and grey mutton, prawn biryani, kebabs, several salads and other accompaniments – all whipped up by a battery of over 4 dozen cooks.
Many came, saw, and ordered the ‘Bullet Thali’ but were knocked down the table half-way, though the reputation of the challenge has spread far and wide now.
“Yes! I also heard it this week… I am now practicing to eat like a Bakasura, and then go for the challenge,” a young Pune medico, Dr. Reeana F. Irani – a foodie-cum-bike lover, enthusiastically told IANS.
On learning of Shivraj Hotel, retired Mumbai Assistant Commissioner of Police Ashok Jadhav patted his slim middle and wishfully told IANS: “I am going for the challenge… Hope to own one of the bikes there!”
Waikar who invested fully in the new bikes, is pleased with the response and is currently doling out over five dozen ‘Bullet Thalis’ to customers – who eat less but ogle more – at the two-wheelers displayed outside.
However, last week, there was an unassuming, roly-poly customer who sauntered in, casually ordered a ‘Bullet Thali’ – and to the shock and surprise of the entire packed restaurant- rode away on one of the Bullets!
“The lucky winner was Somnath Pawar of Solapur… He completed the ‘Bullet Thali’ in under an hour and we formally gifted him a bike of his choice,” Waikar said.
Besides ‘Bullet Thali’, Shivraj Hotel has a gluttonous menu for his ravenous patrons – a Bakasur Chicken Thali, Sarkar Mutton Thali, Special Ravan Thali, Pahelwan Mutton Thali, and Malvani Fish Thali, each costing around Rs.2,500.
Waikar, who started the eatery 8 years ago after his middle-college, regularly comes up with such innovative ideas to keep the customer and cash inflow steady.
In an earlier competition, the hotel challenged four people to finish the staggering 8 kg Special Ravan Thali – with a prize of Rs.5000 and the bill generously waived off.
Nestled in a corner of the lush green hills of the Western Ghats, the restaurant has virtually become a landmark for its thalis, with many from Mumbai, Thane, Palghar, Pune, Nashik, Aurangabad, Satara, and other places trooping in even for Sunday lunch/dinner tagging along relatives and friends, Waikar said.
(Quaid Najmi can be contacted at: email@example.com)