Monsoon in Goa is one of the most beautiful things to experience. But, for a foodie, it can be tough because almost every restaurant worth its salt – or sugar – is shut for the season! One of the few old timers who stay open through most of the off-season, and one we eagerly trooped into last August, is O Coqueiro, housed in a huge bungalow by the highway, with beautiful open verandahs, sweeping arched doorways, terracotta roof and cosy courtyards that spell ‘LAZY’!
O Coqueiro (means The Coconut Tree in Portuguese) was famous for its finger-licking, authentic Goan food decades before it became famous for being the restaurant from where criminal mastermind and famed fugitive Charles Shobhraj was finally arrested. Yes, they actually have an endearing hand-cuffed, white statue of Charles Shobhraj on its verandah with a plaque proudly describing the incident!
Like me, if your ears perked up at ‘authentic Goan food’ and everything else was a blur, then there’s good news for you… O Coqueiro has landed on the shores of Mumbai! So, for this entire week, you can dig into a specially-crafted menu of their best-sellers from Goa, prepared with authentic Goan ingredients by their very own chefs right here in the kitchens of Bungalow 9 in Bandra!
Always a sucker for Goan food, Neha, Dash, Teddy and I followed our Goan-obsessed taste-buds and sniffed all the way to this lovely bungalow in Reclamation, Bandra. A festive, sunny courtyard dotted with large Rio-style masks and fish-nets greeted us as we settled into our quiet, comfy table under the wooden cross beams.
Soon, plates of Prawn Stuffed Papad, Butter Garlic Squid and Goa Sausage Chilly came and were polished off, with some great thirst-quenching Ginger Peach Ales and a couple of mountainous Strawberry Margeritas that looked straight out of a dessert factory… Conversation flowed as much as the food… from various foodie discoveries in Goa, to re-connecting with old friends like Joe Sequeira (who used to run Not Just Jazz By The Bay and is at the helm of things here), to Teddy’s ‘accidental’ discovery of the Long Island Iced Tea at ‘Jazz’ (or so he says!) to Neha’s pet cats that almost talk like humans… this I’ve got to see!
But the main course arriving soon after put an end to all conversation as we bit into the Kingfish Fry, beautifully crusted with poppy seeds, a somewhat intense Prawn Balchao, a mildly flavoured Mutton Xacuti and platefuls of fluffy and freshly-made Sanna, the traditional steamed Goan bread drizzled with Toddy!
The Chefs probably thought we wouldn’t be able to manage anything after that meal, so our desserts arrived very late, almost as an after-thought. But apart from the strangely thick icecreams, the desserts were well worth the wait! The 9-layered perfectly caramelized Bebinca was on the right side of sweet, and the deep-fried Banana Fritters were some of the best I’ve had – simple and light with a crisp batter covering a warm gooey centre… blissfully home-made and delicious!
I would happily go all the way to Goa to grab a bite of O Coqueiro’s signature dishes like the Stuffed Papad and Chicken Cafreal. They are honestly that good, and ‘advertising gurus’ and ‘Mad Men’ of the creative world Josy Paul and Agnello Dias who sauntered in late that afternoon, would agree with me in a blink! But if you get the same goodness of flavours and crunch right here, in a charming bungalow in Bandra, surrounded by Jackfruit and Mango trees, on a sleepy, lazy afternoon… why go anywhere else?