If you live in Abuja or are a regular visitor to the Federal Capital, you must have heard of and probably have shopped at Grand Square. Set in the heart of Abuja’s Central Business District, Grand Square has at various times in the past couple of years, trended as having some of the most sought-after groceries or snacks especially in the baked goods (sliced bread and baguettes) and ice cream sections. Not many people however seem to know or patronize the less popular Grand Café which is located upstairs, or the shawarma stands in the cold foods section. And the most recent addition, the ‘smack-in-your-face’ smoothie bar to the right at the entrance seems like a bold move and just beckons.
I got introduced to the salad options at Grand Café about 2 years ago. It was a brunch and my friend Ivie and I talked a couple of friends into visiting the Café. Fast forward to 2013/2014 and a couple of salad ‘dos’ with close friends and colleagues as well as a couple of referrals to friends and it’s time for a review.
The salad options are chicken or tuna, with a fresh mix of cucumber, lettuce, beef tomatoes, hard boiled eggs and the most generous portion of diced chicken, in the chicken salad option. Sounds rather routine, bleh even, but the freshness of the veggies, the spice in the chicken and the dressing, just put the words ‘bleh’ and ‘routine’ to shame. Regular dressing is purportedly Heinz salad cream. I say ‘purportedly’ because my salads with the same dressing don’t quite create the same ‘feel like dancing on the tables’ buzz. Each salad comes with baguette slices on the side and there’s a sandwich option for those who want their stuff all maniacally neatly cut. Hehe.
So……, riding the crest of salad-induced ecstasy, even after numerous tries, and reeling from midday hunger, we decide to try out the shawarma from the station downstairs.
Now where do I begin? It’s a hot day, we’re hungry and it’s the kind of hunger where even an army deserter’s boots would probably taste good. The Grand Square beef shawarma experience? Total ‘flat-on-your-face’ train wreck. I haven’t felt this upset about a meal in ages. I mean, there’s good food and there’s great food. And you bear the lousy service that comes with either because the food makes up for it. Not so in this case. I can still taste the foulness of the miserly portion of beef in the shawarma. The cabbage had the distinctive fading crunch of ‘not-so-fresh’ and the onion slices were a definite ‘off’ note. my friend had the ‘Jumbo’ which came with cheese and sausage in addition to your choice of beef or chicken and the cheese didn’t taste good…
It was a riotous mess which wasn’t helped by the fact that it was lukewarm straight off the griddle or whatever it is that the heating contraption is called. We should have expected that from the lack of aroma, I mean, everyone knows that shawarma joints across Abuja play table soccer with your nostrils once the wrap goes in the pan.
Then there is the smoothie joint with a great location at the entrance.
The welcoming sign ‘Hush’ is rather apt I say. If you get there on a hot day and are not in a rush, you will definitely go really silent while sipping greedily on refreshing cold fruity goodness. The portions are great (at least the take-out options are) and the prices aren’t bad either. What I can’t for the life of me understand is the use of a bottle rather than the regular cup with a hole in the lid and a fat straw for easy chugging. The thing I took away looked suspiciously like ‘kunu’ or ‘fura da nono’ and the regular juice straw we were given made it sound like we were drinking cement mix. That’s almost a deal breaker.
My friend had the ‘Gov. General Exclusive’, a blend of pineapple, apples and watermelon only the watermelon turned out to be watermelon juice. Fresh though, but it’s a betrayal of sorts. I had the ‘Nutty Blu’ blend of less than a handful of blueberries and a ton of pineapple. I’d have liked some more blueberries but it didn’t taste bad, nonetheless.
So..I’ve oohed and aahed in delight over the salad, still shudder at the memory of the shawarma and remain decidedly ambivalent towards the smoothie. It’s on to the portion of this that makes me feel like Professor Moody of the Harry Potter series.
Grand Square is located in Abuja’s Central Area and has a decent parking lot. So choosing to eat there during rush hour isn’t a bad idea. It’s easy to get to from other part of the Metropolis and cabbies can easily be relied on to direct anyone there.
I don’t quite get what Grand Square owners are going for with this place. The Café upstairs isn’t the cleanest place in the world. The air conditioners are nearly always filthy and the outdoor seating area looks desolate and dusty. The last time I was in, technicians were working on the A/Cs while we were being served. While that was annoying, I hope that means the whole place is being worked on.
This is difficult to rate. The waiters in the Café are a polite bunch and so are the Smoothie bar even though the latter seem more eager than knowledgeable. The cashier at the cold foods section where we got the shawarma on the other hand, was plain old nasty. In her choice of words, her body language and the whole shebang. Sadly, that’s not really a rarity at Grand Square on the whole. Needs work, people.
Individually and as a whole, most of the prices work. The salads cost about N1,500 and the smoothies between N700 and N1,500. The shawarma prices begin at N700 for a regular without sausage or cheese. This isn’t bad but considering that you’d need floodlights to find the pieces of foul-tasting meat, for me it was 700 bucks too many.
This Vs. Others: Would I go back there? For the salad, it was preordained from about the time that Mufasa took baby Simba up the hill to holler at the ancestors in dedication. The smoothies I’d like to give a second chance. The shawarmas…..let’s not talk about it yet. It was a wise man who said “never say never”. I’ve a couple of salad bars lined up to try out and then I’ll tell you what the verdict is. Same goes for the smoothie. Shawarmas though, I’ve a soft spot for the Ketchup offerings in Wuse 2 and the Chicken Capitol in Wuse Zone 3. Taste awesome and are always hot, hot, hot.
So, that’s it for today’s review. Drop a line letting me know what you think and where you’d like to have me review
Grand Square deets
|Plot 270, Mohammadu Buhari Way, Central Area, Abuja||+234 9 5230064, 2345030|