The world of restaurants today is as fleeting and ephemeral as smoke patterns, or ripples in water—they come and go with changing winds and tides.
The world of restaurants today is as fleeting and ephemeral as smoke patterns, or ripples in water—they come and go with changing winds and tides. This wasn’t always the case. When I was young—which was a long time ago, but not a long, long time ago—restaurants and their reputations were as unshakeable as the edifices that housed them. They seemed to exist for generations, places which were almost like an extension of so many family dining rooms, given how grandmother to grandson had all frequented the same space at different points in their lives.
Restaurateurs today play a wildly different game. And you know this is true because if I were to ask you to name a restaurant older than two decades serving non-Indian food, chances are you’ll be left guessing for a long time.
Well, I have one. La Piazza at Hyatt Regency. That’s ‘High-ut’ and ‘Hy-aaaat’ for those who still run that sound into the ground. This Italian eatery has been around for 25 years running and possibly the only thing that has changed about it is… no, wait, nothing. From the tiles to even the chairs to the layout and decor, much continues to reflect the essence of a quaint Italian countryside trattoria as it did on the day it opened.
One more thing that has been constant about this place is Shaji Paul, a reserved man with humble beginnings who worked hard and rose through the ranks to be the man at arms for all things F&B at the hotel. Over the decades I have known him, I have learnt a lot from him and proudly count him as a friend. His time on the floor has given him a deep understanding of just what clients want. For one, he prices his wines very deftly, making top wines available at extremely inviting prices. And who even eats a full-on hearty Italian meal and doesn’t feel the need to pair it with wines spanning the length of the country?
But recently, when I was there, it was to try their menu, launched in April, with chef Gregorio at the range. Lovely salads, pasta, focaccia and one exceptionally juicy cut of pork later, as I was rounding it all off with a tiramisu, I realised that the place, for its simplicity, had consistently served up great meals for as long as it had been around. And this was perhaps the real secret to its longevity. The new menu is great no doubt, but there have been no memorably bad meals for me at La Piazza and that is the most amazing feat for any place.
But they haven’t just worked on food here; every aspect of a meal has been taken into consideration and then improved upon. Over the last few years, I have had the chance to visit their farms from where all the fresh (organic) greens are sourced. I have had a chance to taste in-house cheeses, which were made in collaboration with British cheesemakers. And this time, I even got to try their special house blend red wine, which was clearly the wine of the evening. It was supple and fruity, rich yet buoyant, and worked well with all that was placed before us.
So many years, so many restaurants, and yet La Piazza has managed to stand tall and is, in its own right, a bastion and an ode to good hearty Italian fare. If you have never been, now is a time as good as any to visit. And if you already know the place, well then, the new menu should be yet another reason to head back.
The writer is a sommelier