THIS IS WHERE WE ATE, DRANK AND LIVED AND WILL DO SO YET AGAIN
10 Sep 2017 05:40am IST
The old faithful of Panjim are flexing their muscles, flaying their arms, breathing the fresh air and giving it one more shot. The capital’s ole eateries have spruced up, given themselves new furniture and paint, have some eclectic folks coming in to take charge and have signalled a revival of the aroma of the fifties, and the fine sounds that stir memories. The sound of a teaspoon touching a saucer in Cafe Bhosle, the thud of footsteps as a patron climbs the steps of club Vasco, the sound of the voice, as soft as a tear drop, of one the lady staffers of Pakiza as she says “ready” before she brings the biryani out. A quick pause at Pakiza. It is in a by-lane off 31st January Road on the foot of the hill where Crown Hotel is. It’s a place run entirely by ladies and thus there is no dearth of a charm offensive that takes their biryani from superlative to ethereal.
And then there is the aroma of Panjim’s cuisine, that of the burnt crumbs of the beef cutlet at D’Silvas, Miramar, the aroma of the thick gravy on the ross omelette at Panjim square, the taste of the lingering fat on the chunky sausages in the sausage pulao of George’s Bar, the very lemony and less sugary perfect lemon tart at Mr Baker’s and the tomato bhaji at Tato’s. All these were the rights of passage. They cut back to 2004, when this Goa rookie had set foot here. And to this day that teaspoon that touches the saucer at Bhosles and the sausage that burrows itself in George’s pulao have just not changed. What has not changed either is the furious battle between ham and cheese in the medium done steak at Venite. They still jostle with the same verve, claiming their share of attention, as you bite into the only steak to the east of the Suez Canal which does such a fine medley of ham and cheese, perfectly stuffed into a perfect steak.
But why are we on this nostalgia trip. Over the years, fellow journeymen would have realised that there is no reason to do the things we do. But if you insist, there is a little buzz that our beloved Clube Vasco is on the verge of coming back to life with one the city’s loved folk on a mission of reviving old bars and taverns, bagging rights to take Clube Vasco, in the heart of the Panjim garden square, back to the past. But this means different things to different people.
For yours truly, this was the seat of education with my former late guru Dinito sitting me down and explaining nuances of Goan life, culture and cuisine, with the seriousness of opera master training a future Italian operatic tenor. But Dinito’s specialty was the cuisine of the continent and he loved and studied it with the seriousness of a Pavarotti in an opera house. Lessons on food and music, in jazz and the blues, on the art of fine wine pairing, were all held during long afternoons on one of the tables of Clube Vasco.
This is where we watched all the major league games, the Champions League Finals. This is where we partied and danced and yes, this is what made Panjim home.
And it looks like those days are coming back again.
A few steps away, Clube Nacional has rekindled the fires of Panjimites, a section of who spent a portion of almost every evening in the genteel embrace of the club.
They met for a tipple and more, the evening banter included anecdotes and stories, history was recorded, written and told in a place where romance met realism.
While Clube Vasco’s revival project is commencing, Clube Nacional has already been revived and has opened its doors, to the explosion of joy of many, including many whose limbs cannot carry them to the club anymore but their memories surely do.
Panjim is a carnival all right. This quarter still remains more Goan than most places in Goa and by the time the Carnival arrives both Clube Vasco and Clube Nacional will be well into their second innings. People make places your companions for life but in Panjim these places make you have fellow companions for life. They work without Facebook promos, email shots, Sunday events, PR machinery and the rest of it that goes with places these days.
And they don’t need do, as long as nostalgia drips from their walls and ceilings and you have folks like us to bathe in it.
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