What does the average person know about Mongolia? All I know is that many of the population play a kind of polo with goat heads, and that Ewan MacGregor enjoyed traversing the vast landscapes by motorbike in his series The Long Way Round.
The fact that it was a grey and dismal Sunday is worth a mention; however, it was lunchtime and entering a dead empty restaurant and feeling like you have rudely interrupted the window cleaning isn’t a great way to start the experience. I waited, and in the end, was forced to interrupt the chores (why weren’t they doing this when the place was shut?!) to be seated and receive a menu. A point on the menu: it had to be the first ever draft as it resembled a toddler’s scrapbook with messy writing and spilt tipex marring each page. Dirty extension cords, scruffy signage and coupled with harsh red and black colour scheme made me feel like I was in a car mechanics boudoir. The best bit about this place was the menus’ attempt to encourage the guest to eat like a Barbarian. Apparently, you could choose to either grill or dunk your food in a hotpot but the ‘mechanics’ were unclear and no matter how many times we stuttered and stumbled during the order taking process, our waitress was unable (and unwilling) to clarify the procedure or even act somewhat sympathetic to our plight. Hedging our bets, half the table decided to grill and the other half to have the hotpot. I went for the ‘spicy’ hotpot which was no spicier than a damp sock and utterly flavorless to boot; rather worrying for something that had promised a taste explosion. The grillers in the party seemed to be fairing a little better; however, I struggled to understand the Mongolian angle in all of this. It just reminded me of the French pierrade, but without the charm. Whatever you chose to grill or dunk was collected from an unappetizing buffet located in the centre of the restaurant. It isn’t unfair to say that some of the offerings looked rather tired. I say ‘some of the offerings’ because it was nigh on impossible to tell what was what (no labels) and it was difficult to drag the waitress from her cleaning duties to get a decent explanation. The ‘fishballs’ were a particular lowlight, especially when they were still frozen in the centre. It was all accompanied with rice and noodles, which were, well, rice and noodles. No attempt was made to explain what went with what; how to create a compelling taste combination. It was simply left to the diner’s knowledge and discretion.
Yes the food was cheap; the Sunday buffet was £12.50pp, but that shouldn’t mean that a dinner should have to endure such an experience. There were glimmers of potential for a different, social dining experience but the realities of this restaurant overshadow these. I would rather be a Barbarian, eat in a cave and forage for my own lunch of nettles and bark than eat at the Mongolian Grill again. I’m afraid I would go The Long Way Round to avoid this restaurant in the future.