You’ve been at work all day. You have a restaurant to review, and it’s scheduled for 8 pm. The snarly streets mean you’ve to be on the road for almost an hour. It had better be worth it. And boy, Watson’s The Grub Pub was worth every penny.
The place is large, has a high faux-asbestos roof, from which hang unassuming lamps. We start with the simple, but ingenious Cheezling Bhel. The bhel itself adds a modern twist to the champion of the chakna — the cheesling. It’s tangy, fresh, and can keep the drinks company.
Next, the Classic Bruschetta sticks to the brief — it’s light, the topping is loaded with flavour. The Chilli Sesame Spinach continues the refreshing and light trope. Coated with deseeded red chilli, the coating adds crunch and kick to the spinach.
But if you’re at Watson’s, which makes its way here from Bengaluru, then you’re probably there for the cocktails, and they don’t disappoint for the most part. The Filter Coffee Margarita is your regular margarita, with the obligatory Chennai twist. A shake of tequila, Kahlua, ice cream, and filter coffee, then laced with some more coffee powder and salt on top, this one packs a delicate punch.
Divided into three sections, Watson’s offers something for most patrons — the regular seating space, which overlooks the Kalaivanar Flyover over T Nagar, for an expansive view, a smaller open-air section at the back, with a pool table at one end, and a dedicated bar, as well as a mezzanine floor. Each is splattered with your standard dose of pop art and pop culture graphics. What stands out — or doesn’t — is the unintrusive music, mostly late 80s to late 90s fare.
Try the Paneer Skewers. Tawa fried with chilli paste and turmeric, it’s zesty, and has a hint of pepper. It’s a great way to start your meal, and the paneer is cooked to tender perfection. Not worth much fanfare though, is the Chilli Sesame Pork. The sesame overpowers the mild spiciness of the pork, which is rubbery.
Try another cocktail Back on Black, though, and things snap back into line. One of the highlights, the whisky-based drink is shaken with ginger ale, lemon, and blackberry syrup. Leave your vehicle at home, and be ready to hail a ride, because this is potent and worryingly addictive. The warmth of the whisky dances with the twist of the lemon and the sweetness of blackberry syrup. Go back for seconds, and then for thirds.
Pair this with Mushroom and Cheese Pull-Apart Bread. A simple dish — a bun sliced in half, stuffed with sautéed diced mushrooms, which have been tossed with pepper and oil, and topped off with cheese. The Shepherd’s Pie is another classic done well. It’s creamy, warm, and best had at home, under a blanket with Netflix on. It throws nuance to the wind, and is unabashedly sinful. But, each flavour is distinct, the mince has a stand-out texture, and the potatoes just sit in with the pie. Be warned, I found a bone in mine, which indicates a need for greater refinement and caution in the kitchen.
The Watson’s Special cocktail is a let-down. It tries hard to impress, but ends up tying itself in knots. A vodka base with orange juice, orange zest, and orange marmalade, shaken with ice, it’s just too much of an overpowering citrus kick.
On the whole, Watson’s roars with all its Bengaluru pride in the bar menu, but the food is special across the board. You come for the booze, but stay for the beef.