Why ‘croakage’ is a corker of an idea

Last November when we were in Goa, Bunny and I were seriously bugged, the cause being not the virus but wine. Or, rather, a particular wine.

The laws of libel being what they are I shall not call this vile concoction by its official name but refer to it as Prodigious Peepul, or PP to use an abbreviation of its fictive appellation which also provides an onomatopoeic hint as to its taste.

Bunny and I shun it like the plague in liquid form, which it is. But, as we discovered to our dismay, in Goa it had made itself unshunnable. Wherever we went, the only wine that seemed to be on offer was PP, which by some subversive subterfuge, had cornered the Goan wine market.

Then Bunny had a brainwave. We planned to have dinner at Cajy Bar, which had been highly recommended. Bunny rang the restaurant and enquired of the young male voice who answered if we could bring along our own wine to have with the meal.

“You can, if you pay Rs 300 croakage,” said the YMV.

Bunny correctly surmised ‘Croakage’ to be lingua franca for corkage and assured the YMV that the croakage wouldn’t be a problem.

So we picked up a bottle of excellent Crucillon – a Spanish Tempranillo-Garnacha – for Rs 600, which together with the Rs 300 for croakage, made for a very enjoyable, and affordable, accompaniment to the splendid dinner of beef croquettes, chonak rava fry, and ard mass, pork ribs in traditional Goan style, all cooked to perfection by the lady of the house and served by the YMV, who turned out to be Eli, her courteously affable son.

All in all a wonderful evening, made all the more so for croakage, a hospitable as well as profit-making practice which other dine-in outlets across the country ought to adopt for mutual benefit to themselves and their customers.

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Affordable drinks, particularly wine, make good financial sense, both for restaurants and for their customers

I’ve long been flummoxed as to why most restaurants put such humungous mark-ups on alcoholic beverages, including wines. A wine that sells for, say Rs 1,200 a bottle in a local store will have a menu price of Rs 4,000, or more, plus 22% GST. Unlike food, the price of which must factor in the salary of the chef, a bottle of wine has no such inbuilt overheads. So why charge so much for it?

This deters people like Bunny and me from dining out, as for us the evening meal is incomplete without a bottle of acceptable red. If restaurants were either to moderate their wine prices, or to adopt the corkage system, or a combination of the two, they’d not only attract more customers but, under the benign influence of a glassful or two, their patrons might well turn an indulgently
blind eye to the right-hand side of the food menu where the prices are listed.

Affordable drinks, particularly wine, make good financial sense, both for restaurants and for their customers. Indeed, to further this laudable objective, the Gurgaon authorities have permitted eateries which are ‘Government approved’ (love the thought of a government that approves of my drinking) that are attached to licenced liquor stores where you buy your preferred libation at retail price and carry it with you to the dining table, under a BYO – Bring Your Own – deal.

While the managements of fine dining establishments might deem the boisterous bonhomie often attendant upon laissez-faire BYO schemes to be unsuitable for their ambience, they could fix a percentage-based cover charge on brought-in wine based on its MRP. It’s high time for the advent of corkage, or the cork-age. Let’s pop corks to that.