I am usually unhappy about monopolies. Why let one entity enjoy all the privilege? Why let people feel helpless at the hand of that one entity? Let there be choice. Let there be an open competition!
So I was excited about this new barbeque restaurant in Vadodara (Centre Square Mall). And yet I compared it with the popular and solidly standing Barbeque Nation umpteen times. As excited I was about seeing how different it was from BBQ Nation, I was restless. What if their brave attempt of walking on a road less travelled fails? Closed down, failing restaurants always give me blues.
I was baffled to see that The Barbeque Grill (TBG) was almost a replica of BBQ Nation. The same stone flooring, the same short wooden partitions between booths, the same open kitchen, the same menu, the same glass windows. Even the same napkin holders. Was I disappointed with the similarity? No.
As long as the aesthetics appealed to me. I liked the open spaces between tables, the minimal wall art, the bamboo lanterns and the huge glass wall facing Vadodara Central. We were lucky to get a table there despite the crowd. It was an absolute delight to stare at the wide road and glittering Central sitting there while the staff cleaned our table. The charm of a restaurant goes up by 50% when you are sitting by the window. As per me.
Talking about the crowd, we had to wait for 1.5 hours to get our table because food guzzlers of Vadodara kept flocking in to check out the new restaurant. Was it their love for food or the on-going Eat-two-pay-for-one scheme that dragged them there till as late as 11 pm? The latter, I suspect. Crowds from all pockets of the city sauntered in and were willing to wait endlessly to get a space in this new joint. We were one of them, naturally.
I wondered how the food quality was going to be (I was hell-bent on being extremely critical. I minutely observed and compared each movement with BBQ Nation) given that the restaurant was new and they were suddenly faced with huge crowds. They met my expectations mostly. The starters (two chicken, one fish, one prawns and one mutton) were good. So were the main course dishes. I am told Dal Makhani was delicious. The plethora of salads and main course looked a bit smaller than usual but I did not feel any deficiency. How much can one eat, after all? Desserts included cakes, Gulab Jamuns, Fhirni and some soufles. The Gulab Jamuns lacked taste but the cakes were yummy.
The most commendable thing I thought in the whole experience was the manner of the staff – everyone from Manager, Owner, Servers, Cleaners to Receptionist. Despite the mad crowd, demanding customers, new operations and excess workload shared by few people, the staff remained friendly and calm. I never saw anyone show any hint of irritation or frustration. Neither was anyone ever rude. They smiled, offered us more food, patiently catered to all our requests and behaved like it was not their duty, but a fun assignment. I will think of them next time my job tries to drive me nuts.
Given the chaos and delay that happened on this visit, I was not able to experience the elegance and charm of the place. Even after being given a table, the cleaning and putting basic things on the table took close to 20 minutes and that too, after millions of reminders. It was understandable given the situation but will not be tolerated in the normal course. We just used the time to observe and analyse.
TBG is going to give a tough competition to BBQ Nation. Some crowds will shift to the former and with them will shift loyalties. I observed that the menu is a bit smaller than BBQ Nation’s while the price is almost the same (Rs. 525 per head). They better be good consistently, going forward, to keep attracting crowds.
Definitely give this a go. And do go early to grab a window seat.