The story goes that a pilgrim passing through the Portuguese town of Barcelos was falsely accused of theft. Stealing was considered a crime heinous enough to be punishable by death. In a last-ditch appeal to the judge, who was enjoying a cockerel for dinner, the pilgrim cried, “If I am innocent, may that cockerel get up and crow!” And, lo and behold, a cockerel rose up on the judge’s plate and began crowing loudly. Ever since, the Barcelos Cockerel has been a symbol of faith, justice, and good luck. It’s this Spanish town and its famous cockerel that Barcelos, the latest multi-national food chain to enter Hyderabad, draws inspiration from.
If the above story and the rooster on Barcelos’ logo seem oddly familiar, it’s probably because it’s the same legend that Nando’s also built its brand around. Flipping through the menu at Barcelos it’s impossible to not be reminded of Nando’s, another popular chain with roots in South Africa. Nando’s has been in India for quite some time but has unfortunately ignored Hyderabad so far. During my Bangalore visits, I had discovered just how good Peri-Peri slathered on chicken can taste and I was eager to check out what Barcelos had on offer.
Barcelos began in 1993 in South Africa, and arrived in India in 2015. The first Barcelos outlet in Hyderabad is in the busy Forum mall. The diner is setup like a European street café with the seating area lined by street lamps and African water colour prints. The tall roof, vintage décor, and restrained lighting lends the restaurant a cosy and relaxed vibe. On the table are the four Barcelos sauces – Tangy Lemon, Mild Peri, Very Peri, and Supa Peri. Piri Piri is Swahili for “pepper pepper”. The sauce originated in Portugal and is prepared from crushed chilli, pepper, lemon juice, and a host of spices. The combination of the heat from chilli and pepper with acidity from lemon and the fragrance from spices and herbs has made this sauce a global sensation. Most of the dishes in Barcelos uses these sauces and you can pick a sauce depending upon how well you handle. Be warned though, the Supa Peri packs a serious punch.
We started off with a bowl of Chicken Liver in Very Peri sauce served with a Portuguese bun. While mutton livers are a prized ingredient in Indian cuisine, Chicken Liver is a much rarer sight. I fell in love with this at Nando’s and having this dish at Barcelos definitely brought back memories. The liver was cooked beautifully, and much of the pungency that can throw people off had been eliminated. I’m pretty sure that I’ll be back at Barcelos just to try this.
Chicken dishes are quite obviously the forte of Barcelos, and they come in many avatars – Wings, Drumsticks, and Whole Flame Grilled Chicken. Each of the preparations had been grilled perfectly. Tender and juicy but fully cooked with a robust flavour of the Peri-Peri sauces. The most eye-catching among the Chicken preparations is the Espetada – chunks of meat from the thigh that are skewered and grilled to perfection. The dish is served as a hanging skewer on top of a bowl of rice and sides. The chicken, once again, was superb. However, the rice was fairly average.
If the onslaught of Peri-Peri gets tiring, you can pick from Barcelos’ selection of Arabic Mezze appetisers, salads, wraps, and more. I didn’t have the appetite to try these, but I did take a bite from the famous Burgers. Barcelos loves playing with colours and has burgers available in a striking black, a vibrant red, and a natural white bun. The colour of the bun is derived from its ingredients and not through food colouring. The white bun uses milk powder, coconut, and flour. The black colour is derived using wholemeal flour, roasted wheat, and herbs. The red bun contains tomato powder and chilli flakes. Each burger is available in a choice of veg, chicken, or mutton patty. We were offered the Chicken one. The Burgers looked attractive but tasted quite mediocre.
The Chicken dishes are undoubtedly the signature of Barcelos’, but it does have a fair amount of vegetarian options – including Broccoli and Pineapple Kebab and Peri-Peri Paneer Kebab. A vegetarian variant of the Espetada is also available with Mushrooms.
One of the biggest surprises for me was the drinks menu at Barcelos. Barcelos features a fully stocked bar and offers a range of classic cocktails as well new-age molecular gastronomy influenced creations and a dozen concoctions inspired by Portuguese flavours. The highlight is their Sangria menu, which features 21 variations. From the Rosey Cardamom Sangria with balls of watermelon to the Ginger Pear Sangria with white wine and cloves with brandy, there’s an astounding amount of diversity in the drinks. The Sangrias come by the glass or in pitchers of 500ml and 1000ml. There are also over a dozen milkshakes including several boozy milkshakes.
With a well-crafted food menu and a surprisingly elaborate drinks menu, Barcelos comes equipped with all the firepower needed to succeed. The fact that it’s located in one of the busiest malls in the city is just the cherry on the cake. Comparisons with Nando’s is inevitable. I’d personally rate Nando’s a notch above Barcelos purely based on its sauces, but I won’t be surprised if others feel the reverse. A meal for two at Barcelos will cost around Rs. 1600. Barcelos is a great place to catch up with friends over an elaborate meal and drinks, as well as for grabbing a quick bite before heading into a movie. I’m thrilled that food lovers in Hyderabad finally have a place to satiate their Peri-Peri cravings. I’ll be making a beeline for Barcelos soon for more of their liver and grilled chicken.