No-Pakistanis dinner ‘club’ in Pakistan = No-Indians hotel in India

RASHMEE ROSHAN LALL January 10, 2014

Philippe Lafforgue at his no-locals French ‘club’ in Islamabad

I’m not sure if this is still the case, but back in the 1980s, the Windermere Hotel in Darjeeling, was really really not keen on Indian guests. Unless they were accompanied by foreign passport-holders. I know this for a fact because my family was able to stay at the picture-perfect, pretty little hotel only because we were joining my parents’ American friends. Yes, gentle reader, Sam and Anne Clarke, who were visiting from Boston, interceded for us to stay at a hotel on Indian soil. Being young and heedless at the time, I’m not sure how the Windermere Hotel worded rejection letters to the Malhotras and Mehras and Kapoors and Bhatias seeking a room at the inn.

For those who’re surprised at a style of discrimination that should’ve gone with the British, consider Philippe Lafforgue, a French expatriate in Islamabad, who has run his three-month-old French fine-dining experience La Maison off-limits to Pakistanis.

I heard Mr Lafforgue on the BBC describing it as a private expat dinner “club”. The no-Pakistanis policy was a gesture of cultural sensitivity married to a chef’s fanatical devotion to the finest French cooking, he said. For, what is French cuisine without a fine wine, he told the BBC’s Razia Iqbal. And then there’s all that pork (belly and suchlike). Mr Lafforgue added that he was in the process of regularizing La Maison’s status as a “club” that could legally bar entry to non-members. If he manages this, the story effectively becomes a non-story.

But can he? He sounded supremely confident despite being in the eye of a Twitterverse storm but NBC News seems to have a slightly different take on the story. It’s been reporting that the police are on to Mr Lafforgue even as angry Pakistanis (Muslim and non-Muslim) question the discriminatory policy.

The facts must determine judgement.