It’s the time of year when office festive lunches become the key appointments in the diary. This year, Team Y headed to the NHI, as Adam Hurrell writes
The National Hospitality Institute’s (NHI) classroom restaurant is a training space for the students enrolled there. When Team Y went along for our office lunch, it was a hive of activity, with three other large tables also taken up by corporate parties. Festive music was playing and there was a feeling of cheer in the air.
Dining from a set menu, there was no need to order; the four courses would arrive when they were ready. First up was roasted pumpkin soup with paprika and croutons. It was full of flavour, with a definite kick in the aftertaste that added a second dimension. Lacking in temperature would be the only criticism of the first course. It was closer to lukewarm when we wanted piping hot.
This was swiftly followed by the main course – a festive feast of turkey with all the trimmings. Top marks should be awarded for presentation, as it all looked very appetising. When it came to the eating, it was only the roast potatoes that let the plate down. They lacked a crisp fluffiness and were much too small for my liking. Although considering that the trainee kitchen staff were cooking for upwards of 20 covers, I suppose that’s just me being greedy.
The slices of turkey we were given were large, thick and, most importantly, moist. One of the biggest problems I often find with turkey is that it’s too dry, but what was served at the NHI was a million miles from this, with plenty of gravy, too. The winning part of the main was the cranberry jelly, which was excellent. A little bitter perhaps, but otherwise very good. The chestnut stuffing also went down a treat with my companions
At this point, Father Christmas put in an appearance carrying a plastic bag filled with presents. Unfortunately, he wasn’t here for all the boys and girls, but for one table who had preplanned a “Secret Santa” among colleagues. So we didn’t get a present, but enjoyed watching the other table unwrap theirs. (Note to Team Y: next time organise a Father Christmas!).
Christmas pudding and custard was dessert, and I loved the icing holly leaf and berry on the top – a thoughtful touch. The pudding was rather tough on the outside, but this was remedied by a rich sponginess on the inside. Moist and flavoursome, this, to me, was Christmas in a mouthful. The accompanying custard was smooth and went very well with the mixed fruit pudding, although like the soup to start, it could have been a little warmer.
Tea, coffee and mince pies made up the final course. The pies were delightfully small and formed the perfect addition to a nice cup of tea. Throughout our time at the NHI, the staff were charming and attentive, despite committing a small faux pas in removing the plates from the table before everyone had finished. Although admittedly, opinions on this matter do differ depending on where you visit in the world.
While at the NHI, I was very impressed with the standard of service, the appearance of the staff and the overall quality of the food. Our table’s waiter, Connor, was excellent (his mum was having lunch on the table with the Secret Santa), particularly as it was his first day in the classroom restaurant. It was obvious all the students had put a lot of time and effort into getting things right and, for the most part, lunch at their classroom restaurant was a hit. Everyone there seemed to be thoroughly enjoying themselves, whether diners or staff.
I will overlook any faults because serious credit must be given to the students of the NHI who were all trying their absolute best when we visited. It is important to remember that at the end of the day, the students who cooked and served our meal were just that – students. The NHI’s classroom restaurant provides them with the opportunity to put theory into practice and when a restaurant makes a tangible effort to give its customers the best possible experience, it deserves top marks in my book.
8 / 10 Service
7 / 10 Food
9 / 10 Ambience
A largely satisfying lunch served by the professionals of tomorrow
National Hospitality Institute
63 Street, Wadi Kabir, Muscat
Opening times: December 1
Christmas set lunch, minimum of eight per table: RO6 per person
For bookings: Tel 2481 3141
Y Magazine reviews anonymously and pays for its meals.