Pizza Express has opened up their latest outlet in Mumbai – this time it’s at Powai. A & I are enthusiastic pizza eaters (read: order it at italian restaurants, try make it at home — base and sauce included & we are very clear on the kind of pizza we enjoy) So when Pizza Express opened at Sakinaka, we were promptly there! Six months later they have trooped into Hiranandani, Powai. And a whole bunch of bloggers were invited to partake in the launch — and so was I. This post is not about Pizza Express and the great pizza. I can sum it up in one line – they have good pizza, some lovely offerings for vegetarians and YOU MUST GO!
This post is about my first invite to a launch as a blogger and all the events leading up to it and IT 🙂
I got an email from Manoj of Powai Info and Bandra Info fame. He asked if I would want to go. I think I replied in a super-quick (read: greedy) 2 minutes flat. “I would love to go, thank you so much for thinking of me. Husband’s out of town on that day so I’ll ask if any friends will come along.” Couple of messages to foodie friends, one said no, and the other said yes. YAY! I replied to his email with both our names + numbers.
A few days later, I got a call.
— Hello, I am S and calling from Pizza Express. We’d like to invite you to our launch party on Wednesday.
— Oh, thank you so much. That would be very nice.
Sophisticated and poised: check. Not showing inward joy: check. Jumping around and dancing while on the phone: Check check check
I WAS excited, super excited. I had a dentist appointment for Wednesday morning. Cancelled that as I didn’t want any restrictions on what I ate. Wednesday arrived without any ceremony and unfurled its long hours in a slow and detached manner, with no respect for my emotions, at all! But things were getting interesting. I had gotten a call confirming the invite two days before the event, but the friend accompanying me HADN’T. I had given her number & name too, so I assumed she would. How could I go alone for something like this? I called the person organising the launch event and the conversation went like this.
— Hello, you called me yesterday about the launch party for tomorrow night.
— Yes, your name please?
— Well, my friend is coming along too, but you didn’t call her up… errr… Can she come?
— Of course, she is coming with you right, I asked you if you are bringing anyone along and you mentioned her name, that’s why I didn’t call her. She can come.
And then an unnecessarily enthusiastic and thankful voice said,
— OH THANK YOU SO MUCH!”
Yes, that was me!
The day continued in an uneventful fashion. I plodded at the computer.. nothing great was getting churned out. Post lunch I sent out a quick message to my friend, “It’s at 8. Will you get done with work?” (Background: She is notoriously late. If Indians have their own standard time, she makes it worse and takes double that time!) She replied,“Can only leave by 7.30 from office. So will be there by 8.30. You go ahead without me, I’ll meet you there.” That doesn’t work, I could be alone for hours given that I like to be on time and she likes to be late. I did what I could at that point — called up the Pizza Express woman and checked (thanks to true caller I could hunt her down!). She said, with a mild laugh in her voice,
— You can come whenever you want… It’s 8 onwards you know.
And she chuckled again as she said bye.
Inward thought: That was something my mother would have done — called and checked; not just arrived late! We all become our parents even when we try so hard to avoid it. I become like mine in my most vulnerable moments; when I most need to be ME.
Rain pitter-pattered down all evening, my friend arrived by 8.30 and we left for Powai. It’s a short drive away and autos are notorious in the monsoons so I decided to drive. Anyway all restaurants have valet parking, right? RIGHT? Got there, parked next to the curb, asked her to hop out and call the valet. Pizza Express didn’t have valet parking! Parking in Powai can be a bummer, though not impossible. Sigh. We drove much further, parked and then walked back in the light drizzle. Though it had not been as smooth a start, I do love walking in a light drizzle!
Pizza Express was crowded and that’s an understatement — local trains would have been embarrassed. Suddenly I wasn’t feeling that special anymore. There were people inside and people outside and people everywhere. Two groups of people were being told that there was a private party going on inside and the Pizzeria wasn’t officially open. (Special feeling back) I think my chin went up at notch at that moment, I walked up to the door and as I entered the Manager asked,
— You’ve been invited for the party?
Chin went up a tiny, tiny notch higher.
— Yes, we have.
We entered, gave our names to the woman at the reception for the name tags.
— OHHH, Hi, I spoke to you. I’m S.
And she smiled, a knowing smile. I was famous (or infamous, depends on perspective I think). I was the woman who called and asked why her friend didn’t get an invite. And who called again and asked if she could come at 9 for an event in Mumbai where nothing starts before 10. Sigh.
We stepped in, got a table, plonked ourselves down and got ourselves a glass of wine. The food took a long time, and we waited hungrily for more than 30 minutes. The servers were apologetic, but if we wanted food we should have been next to the counter, whereas we were seated comfortably and neither of us wanted to move! By the time the servers walked through the teaming crowds to reach us, their plates were empty! Most of the food we got offered was non-vegetarian. Nothing for me. The server Deepti shook her head and said,
— There are too many vegetarians here!
And shook her head again.
Once the crowd lessened by around 10.30 pm, the food started flowing. We still never got the plate of their famous dough balls. And large plateful of Pizza reached other tables but not at ours — where one wanted Pork Pizza and the other was desperate for vegetarian Pizza. There was a dance show of sorts and the manager tried to speak without a mike, which was stupid on Pizza Express’s part. But overall I loved the evening — I was there for the food 🙂
As a kid I loved return gifts… as much as I thought they were an unnecessary expense in some ways, there is something to be said – and felt – about taking away something from a party. It makes you revisit your time there. For a new Pizza chain what better way to worm into our hearts but with generous cheesecake. And we each also got a Movie CD & a fridge magnet! Yay, return gifts! I was happy.
It was my first invite to a launch part, and I had a blast! I went back again three days later with the husband and we tasted the dough balls 😀
Some learnings that I HAVE to share with you:
– When you get invited to a launch party in Mumbai, you can take a friend along. You do not need to bother with her / him getting invited. They definitely don’t want you coming alone and getting bored!
– Also, take a friend along who can be quite shameless in asking for food. Not in a mean way, but in a really nice way. I was lucky. I didn’t have to tell anyone I was hungry or that I wasn’t getting vegetarian food. She did it all. And DON”T BE EMBARRASSED to ASK. They are supposed to feed you, and you are there to eat. So EAT!
– You can be fashionably late and these are ‘onwards’ parties. Not fixed times!
– Arrive later, the crowd thins down and then the food flows.
– Dress up. People are really ‘stylishly clothed’ so if you are the kind who feels embarrassed wear your best clothes. There are a lot of socialites at these kind of events.
– Get a gang of 4+, that way you get more food.
– The minute you enter and settle down, inform the manager that you are a blogger. While I don’t think I can ever do that, some bloggers did and they got some AMAZING service! Of course, this questions integrity and reality of your reviews or in my head it does!
– You are there for the food. So if you do not mind standing, stand close to where the servers come out of the kitchen, then you ALWAYS get first dibs!
– Sit near the open area – or the space that looks like they’ve cleared it up for something. There is a chance they will put on a show, and if you’re far away, especially in a restaurant, you won’t see much.
– Drop your business card on the way out (Do not FORGET to take it like me!) If they are good with their systems you’ll be part of their database and future programmes / launches or free tasting sessions (my dream!)
– Thank the person who invited you. Be nice! It was sweet of them to ask you there afterall…
Those are my tips if you’re invited to a launch party. Or rather my ‘do not behave like me’ pointers — call it what you may! Enjoy chomping 🙂