The past decade in India has witnessed the barbeque explosion in the world of cuisine all over the country, with the South too succumbing to its charms.
Barbeque in itself isn’t way too different from how ancient Indian food was cooked – over open coals. But the modernisation of the food and the technique comes from the West. With the influx of cosmopolitan crowds in the big cities thanks to the ever-buzzing IT industry, the trend for spicy, tasty and affordable foods in the bracket of “unlimited” buffets has become increasingly popular in the past few years.
Add to this, the popularity of shopping malls which have sprung across big cities, it gives an all-in-one opportunity for these restaurants to stay packed. The youth want bang for their buck, a good ambience, and a delectable range of new-generation foods. And barbeque seems to be the answer that ties it all together.
Image courtesy: Barbeque Nation; Paneer skewers
Barbeque Nation, Absolute Barbecue, Sigree Grill and a host of other multi-city restaurants boast of a wide range of starters in both veg and non-veg options, a hearty main course and even a selection of desserts – all at nominal fixed rates.
Sameer Bhasin, CEO, Barbeque Nation, says, "Having pioneered the 'live-on-the-table' grill in India, Barbeque Nation has brought different barbecue dishes and techniques from various global cuisines. For instance, popular dishes like Cajun spiced potatoes and grilled prawns have flavours inspired from Africa and the West."
Barbeque Nation currently has 75 outlets in different cities.
Says Chennai-based Eshvar Gurudas, who runs Absolute Barbecue with his brother, “Business has been excellent. So much so that we are now opening outlets in Dubai and Colombo. People are loving the concept of barbecue in this country. Especially because we love spice, the younger generation is very excited about getting such value of their money. There’s something for everyone. And they like that they can spend a good 2-3 hours over one meal. Besides, the starters that are cooked then and there on the hot plate are vastly popular. It gives them a feeling that their food is fresh and is prepared just for them.”
Bengaluru-based foodie, Akhil Konda, who is set to open his first restaurant near Electronic City, agrees with Eshvar.
He says, “It is all about value for money. People usually fill up on starters at such places. And the key to the success of these restaurants is the kind of starters they offer. And ultimately, the price points matter too. For example, something seems far more appealing when it’s priced at 399 than at 400. It’s only a rupee but it plays in your head.”
Restaurateur Suguna Priya Lakkam runs 2 restaurants in Hyderabad, Le Cinq and Foodie Monster Kitchen. She notes, “Barbeque spices work very well with Indian flavours. Besides, we Indians like our foods to be well-done. That’s the reason Mexican cuisine is successful in India too. So, with Cajun spices, and a new spin on traditional cooking (think corn on the cob), we have embraced these foods very well.”
She also notes that BBQ chicken and pineapple does very well on her menus for this reason.
The customers agree. Says Trivandrum-based foodie, Anjali Nair, “I love going to these BBQ joints. The food is yummy, piping hot, and spicy. Mainly I like that we just say how many “veg” and “non-veg” people at the table and we don’t have to majorly bother with the ordering and choosing which is a big headache. The waiters just start bringing the starters and meanwhile we’ve already started chatting. One less tension!”
Image courtesy: Barbeque Nation; Grilled prawns
So what’s the verdict? What’re the dishes that tick? Eshvar Gurudas ponders this for less than a second. Pat comes the reply, “Cajun potatoes and roasted corn for the vegetarians and grilled prawns and drumsticks which are the all-time most popular dishes at our restaurants."
One thing is clear. The barbeque “invasion” has only just begun. And it’s here to stay.