NAGA PORK CURRY AND SUNDAY ROAST TO SEND ‘SHIVERS’ DOWN YOUR SOUL
13 Aug 2017 05:49am IST
This is a belt on perpetual oxygen. A magnet that draws vast swathes of humanity, literally sucking them from the offices and other work places in Bombay, Bangalore, Delhi each weekend to deliver them in a rocket propelled fashion for a weekend, and now long weekends, to Candolim, Baga, Calangute and further north.
With the long term folks not quite staying so long, the long enduring associations of restaurant, bar and shack owners with guests, mainly from the UK have given way to weekends of quick friendship with owners of nightclubs and pubs. Having a nightclub owner on speed dial is a big plus among the weekend visitors, a sign of having “arrived”.
But are the old times and more importantly the slow paced times still in a corner somewhere? In a by-lane perhaps, or in a back street away from the glare, heat and noise of the pulsating nightclubs. Perhaps the Goa of old is a fly on the wall, innocuous but intrigued at the Goa of the ‘new’. The Goa of the old happened when relationships between tourist and places were like that of family, and when the crutches of Facebook or Instagram were not needed to like and connect.
Sometime in the recent past, on a totally non planned wandering in the direction of Candolim, with none of the questions and quintessential dilemmas plaguing me overtly, I chanced upon place which is forever there in the recesses of our hearts, sadly drowned by the din of today’s Goa.
It was way past midnight and the lights on the little street that leads in from the busy thoroughfare that goes from Candolim to Sinquerim, right opposite Kingfisher Villa (arguably the former headquarters of hedonism) is dark and desolate. I walked a few steps and turned left into what appeared to be a private residence (which it also is) and entered a garden. And like all such experiences – biblical or otherwise – the entry into this garden, even when it’s dark and lonely, does strike a chord.
Shivers, the garden restaurant is the home, hearth and handiwork of the Bombay returned Melroy D Souza. And when he is not playing pool, with a passion that might join the Indian squad for the world pool championships, he makes Goan food and Naga food with such equal elan that it’s difficult to pick one, on any given day. And along the way, he has slow cooked and baked friendships of ease and perfection with folks from all over the world who have come to Shivers for over a decade and more, to lounge by the garden, listen to, play and partake in excellent music, sing and do simple things which make life living – like having a great Sunday roast.
Now the Sunday roast, is not a dish or a mere meal. It’s an institution where the roast meat – chicken, pork or beef is merely a player – albeit the central one, in the overall multitude of elements that go towards the making of this institution. And the elements, if we may solemnly name them, perhaps in their order of importance: carrots, cauliflower, cabbage, french beans, green peas, boiled potatoes, yorkshire pudding, english gravy and crackling sage and onion stuffing along with the choice of sauces, horseradish, apple sauce, mint sauce and mustard sauce. Speaking of sage, my personal favourite, if available in Goa, is the rich peppery rosemary flavour which pairs with roasts so well. And Melroy does this to perfection.
Moving back to current reality, the garden at Shivers, the nerve centre of excitement, revelry, great food and music, is on a “restful” sabbatical in the monsoons. Up above on the first floor, boys from other restaurants are playing pool, the bar half open but always willing to get a couple of rounds for late night owls like yours truly. Around the pool table, many of the boys who run shacks, restaurants and bars, use this season to unwind and catch up. These are the simple joys of real laid back Goan bars and restaurants. But Melroy’s magic does lie in the food he serves with a twist. Where else in Goa will you get absolutely authentic naga pork curry, where the flavours and the juices are so different? And he does this with other meats too and you can even order a Naga Thali with beef, or chicken, Naga style. And while you are at it, do call for a king chilly chutney. But his USP is getting his naga food just as right as his Goan thalis and those too with a typical Melroy twist, like a samarachi thali, a prawn balchao thali and a sorpotel pulao thali. The thalis are yet to be sampled and the first on the to do list is the Sorpotel pulao thali.
Sitting on the first floor, that evening, with the stillness of the night broken by the laughter of the boys playing pool, and tucking into steaming naga pork curry and some homemade dal, there were real moments of epiphany – that this is the Goa, we once came for and lived here. This is why Goa is home and this is why our land and its people are unique. What we see in the nightclubs and the five star hotels, is what those of us, who chose to make Goa home, ran away from.
As yours truly walked back down the lane, late into the night, there was spring on the feet and a happy song in the heart. And the Naga pork curry wasn’t the reason. It was the place where it was had, a place built with very different bricks. Real Goan bricks.
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