Don't take the ‘it is supposed to be like this only' reply at any eatery, especially when food tastes bad and looks sad.

A small mouse wanders around the floor of a franchise outlet which specialises in fried chicken. It nibbles on the fallen crumbs and quickly scampers back to its hole near the pillar. When the guests bring it to the notice of the cleaning staff, the explanation they get is: “aake, khake chala jayega”(it will eat and go). If only food controllers visit these places as well, instead of targeting smaller fry like the local tiffin and Biryani walas.

This is just one part of a story where foodies in the city are taken for a ride by eateries in the name of offering a global dining experience. In comparison to the quality of food served, the hygiene levels are at their lowest in most of the places. What's worse, restaurants tryto push stale food to unsuspecting customers with a line, “it is like this only.' Discerning customers, however, are alert enough to differentiate stale food from fresh. “I could tell. I went to pack a sandwich on my way to work and I was horrified when I saw the lettuce in it — it was brown,” shares Preeti Singh, a medical student.

Most customers feel that once the joints are up and running, they begin compromising on the quality of food, with a notion that guests “wouldn't come to know.” Speaking of his experience at a steak joint in Jubilee Hills, software professional Siddharth says, “The moment the order for tenderloin steak was placed before me, I got whiff of bad meat. I didn't want to make a fuss so I decided to gulpit down quietly. But when I started eating, I realised the meat had indeed gone bad; so it was not just the smell but the taste too was bad.” When he brought it to the notice of the waiters and manager, their reply was, “Sir, it is fresh, and the dish is supposed to taste like this.” Surprisingly, when a fresh order for the same dish was placed by the same table a few minutes later, what came out didn't taste the same.

“Most of the times it is taken for granted that Indians don't know the taste of international dishes too well. Whether it is sour cream or barbeque lobsters; what is served in most five star hotels are not really fresh. Customers usually get blinded by the brand and the notion: if it is a five star, they can't go wrong,” says Shahid Mohammed, a businessman and a foodie.

“My first experience with sour cream was at a Mexican themed restaurant in a hotel. I thought to myself if this is how sour cream taste I definitely won't try it again. It was like having very stale curd. I kept away from sour cream after that until I had the opportunity to taste it on a trip abroad, where it was very different,” laughs Geetali Thakur, a food blogger. These could be just a few examples of eateries trying to push sub-standard food as ‘it is supposed to tastelike this.'

Those who know their global cuisine are of the opinion that restaurants in Hyderabad get away with sub-standard food because of two reasons — one, there is little awareness of global cuisine here; two, most of the locals prefer an Indianised spicy version of international items.

There is a serious need for food appreciation and palate training for a multi-cuisine experience. “Hyderabad is yet to get a restaurant that serves authentic continental food. And the ones who do serve authentic food are accused of serving bland food. However, I feel if customers feel they are being served sub-standard food, they should make a song and dance about it,” says Santha John, advertising professional and foodie.

Know your food

Smell: This plays a very important role. Smell is the first indicator of the quality of food served.

Taste: A meat eater will know how to differentiate between good and bad meat

Greens: When eating exotic greens, looks for freshness. Colour and texture of the greens served is the first indicator.

Palette training: For international cuisine, food palete training is important.

Identify chocolate: Good white and dark chocolate will be shiny and white spots on them are not good.

Chef Gaurav Chakraborty is from a leading hotel in the city