has always been an assembly-line 5-star hotel, and Cafe Takeoff is its assembly-line coffee shop. Assembly-line translates euphemistically to "regular", and bluntly to "characterless". The operative part, however, is 5-star, unless you are very keen on the operative part being assembly-line.
So Cafe Takeoff, the lounge coffee shop of The Manohar, is a regular 5-star coffee shop. It was created not to become a popular restaurant by itself but because a 5-star hotel needs to have a coffee shop. The layout is quite bland, with about 10 tables capable of accommodating about 50-60 people cumulatively. The service is, of course, packed with 5-star hospitality.
The biggest draw of Takeoff are the prices - it's perhaps the least expensive of 5-star hotel coffee shops in town, which makes it a ready choice if you are in the neighbourhood, need to entertain someone important, and also need to watch the costs. The lunch buffet is Rs. 450 here, compared to Rs. 700 at Marriott
Coffee Shops remind mainly of breakfast buffets with baskets of bread rolls, baguettes, croissants and broiche with cheese and butter in foils, made-to-order omelettes and fresh fruits, and plenty of continental fare in the menu, and Cafe Takeoff is no different. Breakfast buffets cost Rs. 300 in Feb 2008, and with the multi-cuisine fare, are a motivating way to start another day.
At Rs. 450, the lunch buffets are more elaborate, with 12 veg/non-veg salads, a soup, 4 non-veg main course items, 3 North-Indian and 3 South-Indian items, 3 Chinese items, biryani, rice, pulao, sambar, curd and 11 desserts including pastries and halwai varieties. There's live pasta with the buffet, but the restaurant's extensive continental menu is available mostly a la carte
The a la carte
menu includes soups averaging Rs. 140, salads averaging Rs. 160 and sandwiches/burgers avaraging Rs. 220, reminding you that exclusivity is expensive. 4 pizzas cost about Rs. 260 each on average, but pasta at Rs. 255 is more extensive - it comes in a choice of penne, spaghetti, fetfuccini and fussily, and is served with 7 options in sauces including cream, mushroom, marinara, bolognaise and neapolitan.
Lasagna at Rs. 275 is part of the European veg selection, and in non-veg you have the popular Grilled Tiger Prawns (Rs. 485, expectedly pricey) and Classic Beafsteak among 4 options. The Indian menu has 3 soup varieties, 7 tikki/kebab starters, 10 dishes in the veg main course (mostly North-Indian, but with a Bendakaya Pulusu thrown in) and 8 in the non-veg (more South-Indian here with Royyala Vepudu, Chettinad Meen Kozhambu and Miriyalu Kodi Kura), 5 rice/biriyani items, and the standard naans and kulchas. 12 varieties of desserts include names like Classic Tiramusu, Vanilla Brulee, Khubani Ka Meetha and Shahi Tukda.
5-star hotels take toning things down seriously, and the food doesn't get very spicy. That can be a problem if you get your regular biryani from Madina or Alpha, but for the kind who eat at places like this, it tastes just right.
The restaurant is open 24 hours, with a much more limited menu 11:30pm onwards, but including mini-meals for Rs. 375 (veg) / Rs. 445 (non-veg).
Takeoff is value for money assuming there's such a thing as that in the lexicon of 5-star hotel customers. It's ethical to guess it'll stay that way, given that The Manohar's biggest backer (almost literally), the airport in its backyard, has moved.