I’ve never been a drinker: just the occasional glass of wine or a liqueur, once in a blue moon, used to be fine with me. Then, several years ago, I had to give up drinking all alcohol for medical reasons. My husband (also never very fond of alcohol, except beer, which also he consumed only once in a while) gave up drinking too, in sympathy.
Why then, you ask, did we go to a place called Rockman’s Beer Island?
We were in Gurgaon’s Ambience Mall—one of the largest and most prominent in town—and were looking for a place to eat. Besides the food court and a few chain restaurants (which we’ve eaten at, in their Delhi outlets), there were few options, and none that really appealed to us. Wandering around the furthest reaches of the mall (on the topmost floor, and tucked away in one corner), we found this restaurant. The menu looked interesting, the place had an interesting ambience one doesn’t usually encounter in restaurants in this part of the world, and it was—since this was lunchtime on Saturday—blessedly empty.
The most interesting fact about Rockman’s is that it actually contains a microbrewery: beer’s brewed and dispensed right here. It’s quite atmospheric, what with the gleaming copper tuns, the massive steel dispensing vats, and a range of beers to choose from. The restaurant’s décor itself is dominated by wood, with functional, unfussy furniture, a large-screen wall-mounted TV, and large windows looking out (onto a parking lot, nothing exciting).
The menu is divided into two parts: Indian tandoori (which we skipped), and—the larger part—German and other continental. The continental section contained fair range of appetisers, some soups and salads, quite a few entrées, and a handful of desserts (of which only one, a raisin and rum cake, sounded interesting; the others were the usual boring desserts one finds on menus in restaurants in and around Delhi).
After some thinking, we decided to share an appetiser, a currywürst, and follow that up with individual entrées. I dilly-dallied between the schwabenteller (grilled pork filet, served with mushroom sauce and fried onions) and the pork koteletts mit senfsauce (grilled pork chop with a sauce of capers, garlic and stone-ground mustard), finally settling for the latter. My husband took a while, too, since a roasted half chicken, a grilled jumbo prawns, and tenderloin with mushroom or pepper sauce sounded equally tempting; he finally settled for a Würst und schnitzel platte. And, since we weren’t having beer, we ordered a fresh lemonade each.
The lemonade was served up within about five minutes of our placing the order; the currywürst came another five minutes after that. This consisted of three large grilled sausages with the curry sauce (tart, a little spicy, and like no curry I’ve ever had before) poured over part of each sausage. On the side was a large helping of fries, and one of a very lightly dressed salad of lettuce leaves and chopped bell peppers. The sausages were juicy and tasty, the curry expendable, the entire dish too large to have as an appetiser if you’re on your own.
The appetiser, on the whole, hadn’t been bad, so our expectations had risen—only to be dashed. My pork koteletts mit senfsauce came, two measly pork chops smothered with a yellowy-creamy sauce, with a massive helping of sautéed carrots, beans, broccoli and baby corn on the side. Also on the side was a serving of the thick noodle-like spätzle. This dish had multiple problems:
1. The spätzle was a little gluey in places (I’ll concede, though, that it didn’t taste bad).
2. The pork chops were perhaps the worst pork I’ve ever eaten: stringy, tough and chewy beyond belief.
3. In the sauce, the overwhelming flavour was of capers; the garlic and the stone-ground mustard seemed to be in very short supply. Besides, the sauce was too salty: eaten only with the pork and no spätzle, it was hard to swallow.
My husband’s Würst und schnitzel platte consisted of a large grilled sausage, and a schnitzel—beaten very thin, breaded and crumb-fried—with a tiny bowl of mushroom sauce, a heap of sauerkraut, and a gigantic helping of potato wedges on the side. The potato wedges had been coated with some unidentifiable batter before being fried, the purpose of which escaped us: it lent no interesting flavour or texture to the wedges. The meat in the schnitzel was a little on the tough side, but tolerable, and the sausage was fine. Well, it’s not easy to go very wrong with an imported sausage and a decent grill).
Both of us agreed that the entrées seemed to be dominated by the sides rather than the meats. I couldn’t finish either the vegetables or the spätzle on my plate, and my husband left nearly half of the potato wedges. Eventually, we ended up being so full that we skipped dessert.
Our bill at Rockman’s was Rs 2,500, including taxes and service charge. We, of course, hadn’t drunk any alcohol. Considering the fact that the food was pretty substandard, this was daylight robbery as far as we were concerned. The large number of tables and chairs in the waiting area outside the restaurant, however, indicate that it’s probably extremely popular among the beer-loving, partying crowd. But does that give Rockman’s an excuse to charge exorbitant sums for awful food? I think not. We will not be returning.