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Big meal for an indulgent Sunday

THERE WAS a time when the mid-morning rush on Brigade Road on a Sunday could only mean one thing — a sumptuous brunch at The Only Place. For those who miss the feeling of having eaten enough steak to last a week, Lazio, on Haudin Road in Ulsoor, will bring back fond memories of the (m)eatery.

As you walk up the narrow staircase to the restaurant, you almost wish you had chosen some other place to eat. Lazio is no fancy restaurant. It doesn't have the extravagant touch that most continental eateries in the city have. No Moroccan urn to dress up the corner or modern art adorning the walls. Just park-bench style wooden seats and tables. And the menu card is pretty straightforward as well. There might not be any description of the food, but the first thing you notice is the price. And priced between Rs. 100 and Rs. 150 a portion (which is really big), you are already thinking, "Is this place for real?"

No-fuss interiors

The proprietors of the restaurant have no qualms admitting that that's the way they like it. Says Ummar, the Manager of Lazio: "Unlike other restaurants, we have not spent too much money on the décor and interiors. We think it is important that we serve good food and are trying to concentrate on maintaining the quality of what we serve."

Ummar's father was the manager at The Only Place, and when it was forced to close down, he decided to open a place of his own. Lazio started out as a speciality steak restaurant. But with many offices opening up in the area, they soon introduced Chinese and Indian cuisines to cater to the lunchtime crowd. But most of its customers still come here for the steaks. And the biggest crowd presumably is on a Sunday.

The steaks might be good, but it's the service at Lazio that's the biggest attraction. "The waiters are very friendly and once you come here a couple of times, they even seem to know what you are going to eat," says Richa Agarwal, one of Lazio's regulars.

To specification

Lazio: a place with no great d‚cor, but plenty of good food — Photos: Murali Kumar K.

"Most people enjoy eating here because we make the food according to their specifications," says Ummar. You can choose for your steak to be rare, medium, or well done, decide how spicy it should be, and even ask for the extra flavours or herbs that you love. Whatever your preferences, the steaks are served in 15 minutes flat. And it is for this very reason that the Lazio management chooses cooks who aren't from any hotel management institute. "We hire good cooks. They don't necessarily have to be trained at a college. We have found that chefs who have studied the books often refuse to experiment with the recipe. My father was involved in running the kitchen at The Only Place. So he helps develop the masalas, and we improvise from our customers' feedback," says Ummar. For the more ambitious person who wants to try his hand at whipping up a steak or barbeque at home, Lazio also sells marinated meat.

Lazio was started in 2002, and in the last two years, it has seen a phenomenal increase in the number of customers. Ummar says that they never had any big-budget plans for the restaurant and have done close to no publicity. "It's only by word-of-mouth that people know of this place," he adds.

Full house

Leaving the restaurant at 3 p.m. on a Sunday afternoon, I was quite impressed to see the place almost full.

I asked one of the waiters if it was like this always. He smiled and replied: "You should come here on a Sunday night, madam. Sometimes there isn't even enough place for us to move around."

Lazio can be contacted on 25327787.

* * *

Ambience: Don't expect too much

Speciality: Steaks, served with salad, mashed potatoes, french fries, and garlic bread

Wallet factor: Affordable

Service: Top-notch


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