My dad’s birthday is July 12th. And this year it was a Tuesday. We’d made the Barbeque Nation plan because it is mid-way between home and work. That way, I could see the folks for dinner straight from work.
My grandmum loves eating out. But she rarely does. She prefers playing the adarsh naari and devoted patni because my grand-dad is very picky when he comes to food. Besides, he doesn’t (can’t) really eat out anymore. But this time, we told my grandmum only o Monday night that we had a dinner plan for Tuesday. She resisted at first (her usual thing). We then told her that she’d *have to* come because we’d booked a table for four and it was a buffet kind of set up. They’d charge us for four people anyway. Obviously, we lied. She bought it.
Turns out she was wearing her favourite saree to dinner on Tuesday. And she even ate twice the amount she usually eats. AND ordered herself a mocktail. Heh. She’s really adorable, like that.
I’ve been to Barbeque Nation a couple of times before. Way back in 2007 and 2009. 2007 in Bombay, when it was the newest and coolest thing around. And then, when I was home for the summer in 2009.
There’s something I like about the place. And quite a lot I don’t. I’ll talk about the part I like first.
You sit down at a table. It has a ceramic tile at the center. A waiter comes up, plugs the tile right off and sets in there a little grill, complete with burning charcoal and all. And then, he brings along a variety of kebabs on skewers. For vegetarians, you get mushrooms and potatoes and paneer and mixed veggies (tomatoes, onions, green peppers) and baby corn. They come in a variety of marinades – tandoori, for one. They have a really spicy ‘Cajun’ style thing too… only, it’s let’s Cajun more everything Desi. The non-vegetarians get shrimp, fish, chicken and lamb. So that’s seekh kebabs, tandoori kababs, Achari kebabs, Pudina kebabs and a couple of more kinds.
The kebabs are pre-cooked. They are brought to the grill and set down just so that when you serve yourself some, they’re a tad charred and nice and hot. Besides, you know that lovely feeling you get from making kebabs at home on a winter night, right? That’s what they’re trying to get you to feel like. Too bad you’re in an over crowded restaurant. The kebabs come with a set of oils and a set of sauces. The oils: mustard, honey-lemon and one more I can’t seem to remember. And with them, come a little brush. So you can feel special and fancy and brush some oil on the tikkas while they sit on the grill. The sauces – a really yum mango-chilly chutney, a yogurt based chutney and salsa sauce (I don’t know why they serve ketchup based salse or why they serve salsa at all!) to go with the tikkas and kebabs.
The kebabs, of course, keep coming. For as long as you like. They also serve khasta bread with the kebabs, in a move to cleanse the palette between flavours. Good move. But not too many people get it, until you’ve actually explained it to them. And with service and managing staff like yours, really, you shouldn’t bother.
The kebabs are smaller than kebabs served if you were to order a la carte. But then, they’re unlimited. So they’re granted that.
This time around, they also got plain kebabs in for us: paneer, fish and chicken: marinated in yogurt, salt and lime, and cooked. And then, we were asked to pick from the masalas and oils below. They were brushed onto the kebabs and cooked for a few minutes. Look Ma! I made my own kebabs! No jokes, please.
There is a lemon based oil and one infused with basil. And the two masalas: one is garam masala based and the yellow one, my memory fails me.
The cocktails are hopeless. They’re not potent. They take too long to come. They have fancy names and interesting combinations. But they’re not worth the money. And definitely not worth the wait. And this I speak from both my experiences at the Barbeque Nation in Pune.
After the kebabs, we’re allowed to go to a buffet and pick some more to eat from. A couple of soups, some salads, vegetarian and non-vegetarian curries, raita and biryani. AWe can also order rotis at the table. I don’t like this part at all. The main course is almost unnecessary. My dad and I usually share a roti and some mutton curry because just. *grin* The kebabs are good enough. And some times, good meals *can* be an assortment of kebabs and a few drinks.
So yeah, the kebabs are worth going for. The experience, most definitely. You don’t get that kind of stuff in an Indian restaurant.
I’m not too sure how much they charge per person. But with cocktails and food, I think my Dad paid close to Rs 3500/-.
The ambience: Too crowded, too loud.
The service: Awful. I remember the Bombay location being far better.
The bar: Don’t. Please.
Nothing beats lighting up a grill at home and making kebabs on your own. But there are people who can’t or just don’t do that. So there’s Barbeque Nation. And there are times when you just what to make grandmothers feel like there’s still so much awesome stuff in the world that they need to experience.