Sunday, May 18, 2008

To the Alcove, for the Fruit of the Sea

Don’t blame me my friends, it is the sea air which has made me lapse into Shakespearean prose. ‘Fruit of the Sea’ indeed. If that is what you want to sample…to ‘The Alcove’, you must go.

Nestled up on a hill, high above Ozran Beach( small Vagator ), the breathtaking view of the sea and swaying coconut palms, is a soothing balm for people who are on a hectic work schedule.

Run by Milton and Vanessa Marquis, this husband and wife team, seems to have launched the winning ‘Mackoy’. The ambience is sophisticated, yet rustic. Slatted wooden benches with rattan cane chairs, the two lower decks open to the elements, the sun and sea air….it is what I would call a ‘chill out zone.’

Although, their menu lists out ‘everyone’s favorite,’ I asked Vanessa if the ‘Alcove’ had something special to offer. Out came the sunny smile. ‘Most people like to play safe, in terms of food,’ she said, ‘its so refreshing to have someone try something different.’ ‘So what’s different out here,’ I asked, my pen hovering over the scratch pad, a little like Inspector Clousseau in the Pink Panther Series. I was under the impression that it was one of the ‘beach shacks’…a little sophisticated of course, that dotted our coastline. She bustled away to the bar…and hey presto cool refreshing ‘Pina Colado’ made with lichee, not Pineapple juice, and a tall glass of fresh strawberry juice, just the right recipe to quench the thirsty beach farer.

‘Our speciality is sea food,’ she confesses softly, ‘the foreigners love our grills. Miltons goes out every morning to pick up his fish from the Betim Jetty or Chapora.’ I look towards the cold dispense unit, where their fish is displayed. There is a variety of fish to pick for one’s meal.

‘So, you recommend the ‘fruit of the sea,’ I said waxing poetic, blame it on the Strawberry juice, honestly speaking…I did not get a chance to even taste Joe’s concoction.

And so the meal began. Avocado and Prawn Salad, Calamari stuffed with Prawns, Seafood Chowder, Baked Rock Crabs. Heaven on earth. The fish…the Pomfret Reichade preparation, flaked off the bone. Melting Moments…no I am not taking about the dessert. I looked up to see a tourist motor gliding across the vast expanse of water. I felt that way. Floating in limbo….the seafood was par excellent.

I looked around discreetly to find out, who else had discovered this hideout. There was a mixture of foreigners and Indian’s…..the restaurant apparently catered for both. ‘In the season, especially December…we are rushed off our feet,’ confessed Milton. ‘Oh, it must be the foreigners who come to the beach,’ I ventured. ‘Besides them, we have had many people from Bangalore and Mumbai…Kabir Bedi, Sanjay Dutt, Anil Kapoor…and even Rahul Gandhi.’ I did a double take. I could understand the ‘Bollywood connection’, but when the name of a restaurant reaches the corridors in Delhi…that is some advertisement.

I looked at the price list..mentally preparing myself for a high bracketed place. No my friends, the price is ‘down beat’, something which would compare to some of the ordinary restaurants in Panjim.

‘I would not like to be known as a ‘high priced’ restaurant’,’ confesses Milton, ‘I would like people to come here and enjoy themselves.’

I now looked forward to the dessert. My perception is that most beachside shacks do not have a wide variety to offer. I resign myself to the fate of having an ice-cream. The waiter, brings in generous portions of a lemon cheese cake and a Dutch Apple Pie. I take a small morsel…testing. The test did not last for long. Every single crumb on that plate was finished. I could not have asked for a better finale.

The day had started badly. We had lost our way to the flea market, had taken two wrong turns into small bylanes at Vagator…had landed at Ozran Beach with tempers frayed…believe me, I had no hope of holding hands with Joe on Valentine Day. The lunch at ‘The Alcove’ had pampered our taste buds, its ambience soothing our frayed nerves…for rejuvenation of mind and stomach; it’s just what the doctor ordered.

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