(A monthly column first published in Car N Style magazine).
A 'nation' without tips?
By Ravi V. Chhabra
A Bengali ex-colleague and friend called me up after many months and knowing me as a foodie with a craving for seafood, she asked if I could suggest her a place for great non-Bengali style fish! I retorted: “Have you gone bonkers? I have a weakness for Bengali fish and can recommend a few places for it. You are asking a Punjabi to suggest you a place for some great seafood?”
“Yes, I am,” she said curtly. I couldn’t resist telling her about my experience at Barbeque Nation restaurant at Jangpura Extension the week before. The restaurant specializes in great barbecue and serves it temptingly on table top grill on skewers. An eclectic selection of vegetarian and non-vegetarian kebabs and tikkas arrives swiftly at your table within minutes after the welcome drink. Although the seafood section is limited in range, the unlimited supply of delectable ‘surmai’ (seer) boneless fish and tandoori crimson prawns more than makes up for it.
The restaurant’s soul rests in the portable barbecue grill placed inside the table and is replete with skewers with all sorts of stuff that includes prawns, fish, chicken, mutton, mushroom, paneer, various kebabs and vegetarian selections - a concept it claims to have bestowed in this country - BBQN (as it is affectionately called) offers a wide range of cuisines. The starters range from Oriental to Mediterranean fare.
The vegetarian grilled items include Schezwan grilled vegetables, paneer kali mirch, Italian mushroom and crispy tandoori aloo (served with Cajun mayonnaise). The non-vegetarian delicacies include mint prawns, parsley fish, mutton Hyderabadi seekh kebab and angara tangdi. On the table are a choice of marinades and a variety of chutneys and dips. Baste the starters with your favorite marinade. The barbecue is its raison d'être. As an indication to stop the incessant supply on the skewers at your table make sure to put down the BBQN flag on your table.
The décor is soothing and with a lot of wood and exposed brick walls. The seating is comfortable to dine and relax. The place is perfect to be with friends or family. The scrumptious food and the smoked flavor from the grill create a wonderful aroma. A pleasant ambience makes you feel special at the Barbeque Nation at Jangpura Extension. A place where you may not even need to go beyond the starters! In contrast, you can give a miss to the average and spicy main-course! Make sure to book in advance as the place is packed, no matter which branch.
A food connoisseur Rashi Oberoi explains: “Even a good meal served with the utmost hospitality is just the thing to make your outing special. Here even your smallest wish becomes their command. My husband and I are not spicy food eaters and observing this the service people immediately served out bland kebabs which were even more scrumptious than the spice marinades. The chef personally took us around explaining the dishes. The course is unlimited semi cooked veg/non-veg kebabs that are cooked and warmed on a mini grill placed on your table, followed by main course and desserts on a buffet spread, that is, if you can make it up to that. Must go for it! ”
In 2006 Sayaji Hotels Ltd established the first Barbeque Nation outlet in Mumbai. The group has plans to open chain of restaurants across all major Indian cities. After the success of the restaurant in Mumbai, BBQN branched out in Bangalore and Hyderabad in year 2007. It now has outlets at Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Lucknow, Jaipur, Pune, Ahmedabad, Vadodara, New Delhi, Gurgaon, Kolkata, Chennai and in Chandigarh.
Though the menu is pre-fix here, the variety in starters and main-course is rotated daily, so your buffet experience will be delightfully new each time you visit the BBQN. In case you have a BBQN favourite, make sure to confirm before walking in for the dine-in, else you will be taken aback.
The selection off the grill on the day of my visit to BBQN were tandoori prawns, Oriental grill fish, mutton gillafi seek, murgh achari tikka, Thai grill vegetables, paneer achari tikka, pesto mushroom, sweet and spicy tapioca with pineapple, and khoya khubani kebab.
The two soups that I tried were Morocco harira (veg soup) and murgh pudina shorba, the latter being more flavourful. The main course comprised laal maas, dum ka murgh, mustard fish, chicken dum biryani, choliya te paneer, Rajasthani gatta curry, plain rice, aloo capsicum, nargisi kofta curry, assorted vegetables in chilli plum sauce, chilli garlic noodles, dal makhani, corn gobi ki tehri and veg biryani.
A range of sumptuous desserts followed the lavish buffet - apple cinnamon cheese cake, litchi orange gateaux, walnut brownie, chocolate roll, rajbhog, phirnee, gulab jamun, butterscotch and strawberry ice-cream along with cut fruits.
Here’s a note of caution. If you like to eat without a pompous show of celebration for your special occasion, make sure you keep it discreet from the manager/staff. A whiff of it and you will have a bunch of waiters rallying around you clapping and shouting greetings that are loud enough to give you a heart attack! The live band playing soft vocals makes your experience special here in any case.
The restaurant offers innovative schemes on dining like early bird discount of Rs. 150 per head from 7:00-7:30pm Wednesday through Sunday. Special buffet rates are applicable depending upon buffet timing and the day of the week. The choice of buffet ranges from Rs. 600 (vegetarian) to Rs 700 (non-vegetarian). Buffet includes a welcome drink that could also be a pint beer. The bar comprises most leading liquor brands that are reasonably priced. My lunch here was all the more delightful due to an efficient and extremely courteous service by the waiter-in-charge at my table. When I offered him the tip, he pointed smilingly towards his broach that read No Tips Please!