BY KUHELI BHATTACHARYA RANE
It was the year 2006 and my brother and I had just come to know of a restaurant that served unlimited starters somewhere in Khar. So we drove up and down Pali hill and lost our way only to find the most value for money place in the whole Bandra suburban area. It was a time when a single plate of prawn starters cost around Rs 250 in any Bandra eatery and these guys were offering unlimited for Rs 400!
We wagered that they would shut down in a matter of two months and it was best to get all our friends and family before Barbeque Nation shut down because of bankruptcy. It’s been nine years and Barbeque Nation opened its 42nd branch in the country in Caculo Mall, Panaji.
Situated on the fourth floor of Caculo Mall, there is a small board saying that they provide valet parking, which would be great especially since it’s never easy to find parking around the mall. We were not aware of it, but by all means ask for it if you plan to visit. The interiors are in wood and glass, much like many of the other Barbeque Nation across the country. There is live music most nights here, which is a novelty as it is present in only a handful of Barbeque Nation branches, explained our waiter Surinder Singh.
Eating at Barbeque Nation is all about the experience, and it is due to the courteous and extremely swift service provided here. The minute you sit the waiter will explain to you the concept of the ultimate unlimited food experience. There are five vegetarian and five non- vegetarian starters served at the table. There is a coal pit right at your table and the skewered kebabs and starters are laid on the barbeque grill at your table.
Since they are 95 percent cooked, you still have a few moments of acting like a chef as you can choose between three marinades and three sauces to apply you’re your meat and veggies. A flag at your table indicates that you have flagged off your food race and indeed it is, since the waiter speedily delivers the starters and inundates you with so much food that one reaches satiety just looking at the massive quantities and choices of food.
Its fun the first time over, but trust me it can get a tad annoying when so much food comes to the table so quickly. We always ask them to go slow and bring only a few starters which we like. Otherwise the meat chars and the paneer melts right of the skewer even as you chat with your guests at the table. They are always happy to give you fresh unburnt kebabs. For those who have not been to a Barbeque Nation before it can get quite overwhelming as you race to eat as much as they serve, but relax, because this is a marathon of food and not a hundred meter dash. Pacing yourself is the key here.
After a starter consisting of button mushrooms, exotic veggies like zucchini and broccoli, pineapples, (which I marinated in the sweet chilli marinade and really liked) the house special of Cajun spiced potatoes, and the omnipresent paneer tikka, we have the chicken , prawn, mutton seekh kebabs, fish tikka, and the special of the day a crab starter. Did I mention you can have any and all of them as many times as you want? As Obama said it “yes we can.”
Move on then to the extensive main course buffet consisting of two soups, a host of salads, customary biryani along with assortment of vegetarian dishes and Chinese noodles and even curd rice for the south Indians.
We were explained that the menu is the same across the whole country and therefore catering to varied taste buds. The menu not only is the same but changes twice a week across all the branches. Sometimes they have a few chefs’ specials. Well, the day we went they had a crab dish for starters and a delish crab gravy for main course.
When in Barbeque Nation you can’t help doing the mathematics in your head. Order a plate of this crustacean anywhere in Goa and it would cost you Rs 700 and above, and here they are offering unlimited amounts of my favourite crustacean along with a power packed buffet for almost the same price.
If that is not enough, there are desserts consisting of phirni and ice creams and chocolate brownie and pastries. The new entrant however is the Kulfi station which serves up to six flavours of kufi with your choice of toppings. We had the paan, mango and malai flavours with rabri and almond shavings and gulkand as toppings. Kulfi has a pan India appeal and was very happy to see it instead of the ubiquitous ice cream.
We had a wonderful server, ever helpful and an encyclopaedia when it came to information about the various Barbeque Nation across India. All of the staff at present is from Mumbai branches and have been trained extensively for six months, key to running a chain of hotels is maintaining the same standard across all outlets and they do a commendable job.
As we sat there my husband and I reminisced about the time when the staff danced and the time they sang their version of Happy birthday song. As he put it “we come to Barbeque Nation not just “khane ke liye” but “khilane ke liye”. It’s not just the food, it’s also the experience which we have loved to share with others. Go here and take your friends along to make some food centric memories.