PICTURES: Dream R700 000 wedding meal goes sour for Ballito couple

What was meant to be a R700 000 fairytale wedding ended as a stomach churning nightmare for a Ballito couple and their 180 guests at the Fairmont Zimbali Lodge.

Eshara Chotoo and Udesh Rangan said the catering at their wedding held over two days in September was a disaster as guests fell sick after consuming the food.

The guests became ill by consuming kheer, an Indian milky rice pudding, which had an “oddly sour” taste and had to be removed.

They have since laid an official complaint with Zimbali Lodge management and were considering legal action.

Chotoo and Rangan, who are both attorneys, selected the five-star Zimbali as their wedding destination for their extravagant do.

“We had pre-tastings at the venue and it was great.

“We asked for a specific chef to prepare our meals, but what we received on the day of the wedding was blatant misrepresentation. The desserts were different, the food tasted different and was not even prepared by the chef we requested. There was nobody on site to handle the complaints on the day of the wedding,” said Chotoo.

Their catering cost was just over R100 000. It was a further embarrassment to the couple on the day of the wedding when guests were asked to pay for water which was R30 for a 500ml bottle.

“Asking my guests to pay for water without even consulting us was a huge embarrassment to us. We were told it would be included in the package. The guests also knew the kheer was spoilt. They complained about it and it was taken away, but this dessert was never replaced. Those who had one or two spoonfuls immediately knew that there was something wrong with it,” said Chotoo.

The Sunday Tribune spoke to three guests who confirmed the dish was off.

Chotoo and Rangan, who returned from their honeymoon last week, said they set up a meeting with the establishment to relay their “disastrous” experience. They said they were told by a representative that the establishment was “highly embarrassed” and that the representative admitted they “dropped the ball”.

Zimbali Lodge spokesperson Joanne Crow said they could not respond directly to the representative’s comments.

Chotoo said management admitted to not using the chef that had been requested.

“The director said she had issues with the chef. He had an attitude problem and had been pulled into disciplinary action. This entire conversation was recorded by us,” said Chotoo.

The couple said the establishment offered to make it up to them by offering them the opportunity to relive the wedding with up to 10 guests and be treated to a private dinner service, with wine.

“This was the final blow for me. What an insult, after we paid an arm and a leg for a wedding. I was upset and requested a full refund. Ten guests will never make up for the horrible dining experience our 180 guests went through,” said Chotoo.

She claimed the establishment then proposed a R13000 refund, but Chotoo said it “wasn’t about the money” for them.

“R13000 will never rectify the fact that (what should have been) the happiest day of our lives has been ruined. We do not want their money but we want people to know that such a luxury establishment has the potential to do this to other clients.”

Crow, said when they planned large-scale events several meetings took place.

“With regard to the comments, I want to assure you that we are committed to maintaining the highest standards for health and safety. This situation is currently under investigation and we are also awaiting a report from an independent authority,” said Crow.

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