With immigration stats confirming migrants from the Subcontinent comprise the second highest of Australia’s citizenship conferrals, it’s inevitable that our Indian eateries are going to grow. Drive through most suburbs these days and you’ll find an Indian restaurant taking precedence over the Chinese restaurants that once filled this spot. Not all Indian restaurants are created equal of course, and Grill and Chill was our group’s choice for a mid-week dinner, based on its glowing food reviews. Both the Urbanspoon and the TripAdvisor peeps seem to love it.
I was one of a handful of people who arrived early, and it looked like a quiet evening lay ahead. By 7.30 however, there wasn’t a spare table and people were still turning up without bookings and having to wait. Something must be good, right? Well the food certainly was good, but the service was another story.
My friend JD and I chose to share our dishes and ordered the vegetarian platter for starters. This generous plate featured onion bhajis, tandoori paneer cubes, vegetable samosas and Hara Bhara kebabs (vegetable cutlets made with spinach and potato), with a smooth mint dipping sauce. The mixed platter was a great way to sample a variety of Indian savoury treats, and it was lucky we’d only ordered one main dish as we would have struggled to eat any more. The starters were appetising and flavourful, although paneer on its own is often a bit lacklustre and I prefer it in a curry where it absorbs the flavours of the sauce.
Two of the group who adore onion bhajis, ordered a plate of the tasty fritters and were well satisfied. It’s a little bit of a guilty pleasure ordering a whole plate of deep fried bhajis, and this non-greasy version was very good. They were crunchy, with a good ratio of onion to batter, and spiced perfectly. I’m glad we had a few on our mixed platter.
The fish dishes sounded enticing so we opted for the Goan Fish Curry; a rich coconut cream based dish with firm fleshed fish fillets, mustard seeds and curry leaves. It was lush and tasty, and served with Basmati rice. We ordered the medium heat version, which was just as well as the chilli factor in Grill and Chill appears to be quite high.
Two of our group each ordered the Chicken Biryani, and although they expected the mild versions, both complained that it was super spicy. Despite their attempts to wave down a waiter to get the soothing yoghurt raita that came with the dish, this proved frustrating and it eventually arrived some 20 minutes later. It had taken about an hour for the main curry dishes to arrive and it was obvious the kitchen and wait staff were under enormous pressure. When I say wait staff, this was actually just the owner and one other guy – absolutely run off their feet and unable to cope with demands of the packed restaurant.
Our other group member chose the Tandoori Chicken for her main, served with a naan bread. It was a generous serving, and delicious according to her. She barely made inroads into her large serving, and resorted to a doggie bag.
What I really don’t understand about restaurants these days is why they scrimp on wait staff. When you know you are going to be busy, employ another waiter. Two guys to serve a full restaurant – that’s just ridiculous. There was no way we were going to get their attention to order a drink, so we had to go up to the counter and ask for them. I noticed the table next to us with their hands in the air trying to attract the waiter, but in the end they just gave up. The young waiter did the best he could, even managing to replenish the water carafes throughout the evening; however he was run off his feet and just couldn’t provide the service that was expected. It’s not good enough to just serve great food these days; dining out is an experiential thing and people expect good food, good service and ambient surroundings.
However, the food at Grill and Chill was exceptional and there were so many other menu items I’d love to try. Most of the 12 different chicken dishes sound delicious, and the signature Honey Chilli Cauliflower dish is apparently amazing. There is a lunch time Thali plate on offer for $14.99 and this would be a great way to sample a few different dishes. When a restaurant is packed to the rafters on a Wednesday night, it’s doing something right. It just needs to get with the programme and employ another waiter or two.