Kolkata’s Mocambo Controversy

What Really Happened?

13 Sep, 2016 by Priyadarshini Chatterjee

Habitually, Mocambo, one of Park Street’s iconic dining addresses, has featured in nostalgic reminiscences of a by-gone era of jazz, Pam Crain and Antony Menezes’ six-piece band, or in articulate eulogies of their stellar devilled crabs, Yorkshire pork chops or chicken á la Kiev. Or, such was the case until a Facebook post by Dilashi Hemnani, accusing the restaurant of refusing her a table on grounds that her company, her driver Manish, was not suitable for a ‘fine-dining’ establishment such as theirs, went viral on social media. According to Hemnani’s post, the restaurant's staff first argued that Manish was not appropriately dressed and later charged him of being intoxicated. 

Of course, a sign at the door here (and they are not the only restaurant that has it) clearly states ‘rights of admission reserved’, yet, such a blatant instance of discrimination (clearly based on ‘economic and social standing’) enraged (and rightly so) thousands. Ever since, the social media has gone berserk. Scathing remarks condemning the restaurant’s discriminatory conduct abound, Mocambo has made a rather speedy transition from being a legendary eatery to a notoriously classist establishment thousands swear never to set foot in, (staunch Mocambo fans included).

Incidentally, this is not the first time that a city restaurant has denied entry to a guest on despicable grounds. In September 2014, late Suzette Gordon, better known perhaps as the Park Street gang-rape survivor, was refused entry to a resto-pub. The manager of the restaurant claimed that Gordon had a history of creating nuisance in an inebriated state and hence had been barred from entering. Gordon maintained that the only reason cited for not allowing her entry was that she was the ‘Park Street Rape Victim’.  Of course, the now obligatory social media outrage followed. However, the restaurant is still in business.

Nonetheless while hash tags like #shamemocambo and #boycottmocambo continue to trend furiously on social media sites, there are a few who would like to give their favourite eatery the benefit of doubt. They are eager to hear the other side of the story, for there is always one. Yet others are hinting at a 'conspiracy'.  

The restaurant, however, is yet to come up with a fitting response that would help them salvage their marred reputation. In a recent report, a leading daily, quoted owner Nitin Kothari saying, “We consider Mocambo to be a ‘small’ restaurant that welcomes everybody irrespective of caste, creed, race or profession. We only want our guests to be neat, clean and dressed decent. But in this case the driver accompanying the woman was not wearing a neat and clean dress that would have made other guests uncomfortable.” We tried to get in touch with the Kotharis, but they were unavailable for comments.

Sadly, the Mocambo incident is merely a manifestation of an ingrained proclivity for 'appearances' most of us subscribe to, consciously or not. After all, the very concept of fine dining, it appears to me, is intrinsically classist, for who goes to a Fine Dining establishment just for the food?

Written By

An independent journalist based out of Calcutta and a dedicated food enthusiast, she writes mostly about food and travel, and has worked and written for publications India Today, The Telegraph, Live Mint as also Lonely Planet India’s website. She also loves to experiment in her kitchen and runs a food blog – allthatsdelicious.com. But mostly she eats, frets about how much she eats and then eats some more.

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