THE PRINCE AND PRINCESS OF WALES ARRIVE AT THE STATE BANQUET GIVEN BY INDIAN PRESIDENT SRI RAMASWAMI VENKATARAMAN AT ST JAMES COURT HOTEL, IN LONDON 5 APRIL 1990
President Sri Ramaswamy Venkataraman and his wife, Shrimali Venkataraman, paid a State Visit to the United Kingdom from 3-6 April 1990. On the evening of April 5, 1990, The President held a banquet for the Queen at the St James Court Hotel (now the Crown Plaza) in Buckingham Gate.
“It was a night to remember,” recalls Sam Bhadha, then the hotel’s general manager, who had the “Tata family’s personal gold cutlery” flown in from India, along with “80 dozen mangoes, 80 dozen pomegranates, 60 dozen chickoos and 60 dozen custard apples”.
The Duke of Edinburgh turned to Satish Arora, one of the chefs who had come from the Taj group in India, and declared: “The dosa (fermented crepe made of rice flour and black lentils) was excellent — are you from south India?”
Sam, now resident in New York as executive vice-president of the Highgate Hotels group that includes the Radisson Lexington, is reckoned by the Bollywood fraternity and Indian tycoons to be the best hotelier in the world.
That night, he says, “the Queen, Charles and Diana looking very beautiful, the Gloucesters, Princess Margaret were all there — the biggest gathering of royals at one banquet — plus Margaret Thatcher.
Ravi Shankar played the sitar in the courtyard.”
Bhadha remembers: “Prince Charles had a dosa stuffed with lobster but ‘Why is yours different?’, he asked the president, who cut half of his vegetarian dosa, stuffed with wild mushrooms, and passed it to Prince Charles. We whipped Prince Charles’s plate away and ordered him a fresh dosa — it caused chaos in the kitchens.”
The Telegraph of Calcutta