BEVERAGE: In its 19th year now, Rodeo, one of Delhi’s first standalone pubs, continues to charm
Rodeo. The first time I heard about this pub-cum-restaurant at Connaught Place was my first month in Delhi. Rodeo was new too, had just rounded off a year, it was 1995. Like many of you, I was pleasantly amused at seeing the old world butterfly door there, the saddled seats around the bar and yes, the waiters in waist coats, high boots and cowboy hats expertly carrying a grab of beer mugs to the tables.
Not just from my country bumpkin benchmark, even for a Delhiite I found, the Rodeo experience was new, its casual, boisterous air novel. It was not just the first Mexican restaurant in the city but was also perhaps the first standalone pub, seemingly inspired by the kind you hear of or been to in the West. Having grown up on a dose of Westerns (Remember The Great Train Robbery?), my maiden trip to Rodeo was particularly memorable for walking through the butterfly door even as the music played at the backdrop was the famous tune of Good, Bad and Ugly.
Years later, just the other day, walking through the same door, and striking up a conversation with Prashant Kumar, the general manager at Rodeo, brings me back the memories. Also, that I am not alone in this nostalgia trip. Kumar points at a foreigner family dining out at a corner, saying, “They came to India five years ago and had burritos here. On this visit, one of the things to do in their list is to have burritos again at Rodeo.”
Even as the family is happily munching on burritos, Kumar pins down an important reason why Rodeo still lives up to the old experience. “One reason is because the taste and quality of food is the same. Our chef has not changed for many years.” Sanjay Kumar, the Executive Chef of Shervani Hospitalities Limited, which owns Rodeo, “regularly checks the quality of food served, the spices used, the application of temperature in the dishes.”
A chat with the owner Saeed Shervani later confirms my hunch, “Growing up in the era of cowboy movies, to have a bar like a saloon has what gave the idea of opening Rodeo.” It was originally thought to be only a bar. “But due to the then prevailing policies, we converted it into a Tex-Mexican restaurant. Rodeo is the first speciality-based restaurant of Delhi,” he says. Master Chefs from Mexico, Sergio Snyder and Roberto Treves, were brought in to design the menu. Soon they were joined by Chefs Louis Thomas and Michael Diaz from the U.S.
“They trained our chefs to make nachos, tacos, salsa, etc. Today, everything Tex-Mex that we serve here is made in our kitchen,” says Kumar.
The beverage that sells the most at Rodeo is draught beer. “We also serve a Mexican beer called Michelada. It is served in a glass with a salted rim and lime juice,” he says. The Sangrias and the Martinis are also popular, a reason why you get them in pitchers here.
Yet another popular section in the bar menu is that of tequila shots, the Mexican exclusive. Even as we chat on the popularity of the traditional shots served with a lemon wedge and salt versus the ones mixed with other spirits over crusty nachos served with a variety of dips, a bartender on duty makes for us three of its popular shots — The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. The Good is, as the name says, pretty good. Has tequila with a dash of Tabasco and “chased with Sangrita, a tomato juice mix.” The Bad is, well, can be bad for the chilli haters. It has tequila served with chilli olive. The official line is, “Eat it if you like it hot.”
Finally comes The Ugly. It also has another name, cucaracha which means cockroach in Spanish. The tequila shot is flambéed with Kahlua. The menu gives enough hints about the potency of the drink that comes to the table with a blue flame, saying, “If you have three of these, you go home as a cockroach, crawling.”
Kumar is keen on concocting for us yet another popular tequila drink, Six Steps to Hell. And then, he also has Brain Haemorrhage lined up among other hot shots. Well, the names suggest they are not for the faint hearted. Six Steps also reminds me of a friend once describing local brews in Kerala. One of them is apparently nicknamed Ettu, as the consumer is sure to fall down after taking eight steps.
Meanwhile, Shervani, on being asked if he has a plan to have more Rodeos considering the city has expanded, says, “We are ready to open a Rodeo anywhere in Delhi on management/franchise basis.”