‘Look out for a yellow and white house,’ Joe instructs as we drive down the winding road of Saipem. I give him a look of disgust…can you ever see the color of a house in the night, especially in Goa? Unless of course , it is brightly lit with halogen lamps like some of those heritage homes. He did of course mention that we were going to eat at the House of Lords. I thought it was in London…you see the place where all those ‘propah-propah’ British aristocracy meet. But in Goa one never knows…maybe they have their own House of Lords set up in the countryside.
After eons of darkness, interspersed with a few roadlights we pass a ‘beautifully’ lit place…gardens, pergola et al. ‘Stop,’ I squeak, ‘the sign says House of Lor….it’s Lloyds.’ I look at him stonily. ‘That’s what I said,’ he quips, ‘the House of Lloyds…look at that beautiful old Portuguese-Goan home? That is the house of Lloyd Braganza and the restaurant in the garden is known as the House of Lloyds.’ I wanted to tell him that his pronounciation sucked, but he was already making a beeline for the wicket gate.
So there was this beautiful 100 year old bungalow in the background…and in the garden-fairyland. A small walk through the flowering shrubs and you reach a fountain, and behind it is…’tipplers Taverna’. Bar stools around the counter and a big cement balcao to share a drink and a tete a tete with your loved ones and friends…accompanied by the murmur and gurgle of the running water.
Meet Suruchi and Floyd Gomes. Floyd, Lloyd and Peter are the brains behind the venture, giving you Goa on a plate. Goan fare, seafood, meats, Continental fare…you name it the menu says it all.
So here we were seated very ‘propah-propah’ in the restaurant…definitely ‘classy up-market’ with retro music wafting seductively through the air. The reason I used the word ‘propah’ is that we had no idea…unlike the other guests; that the creation of ‘tipplers taverna’ was for that casual interaction with people over drinks and dinner while one waits for the food. However ,Rajesh and Sangeeta, Donabelle and Lester, Bina and Divya Kapur had no such inhibitions. Glasses in hand, they sat on the stools and the balcao exchanging pleasantaries and ‘gup-chup’ as they nibbled on the snacks they had ordered.
‘So what is your favorite preparation?’ I asked Bina who has visited this place often. Bina and Divya are of the ‘Literatti’ fame. ‘For me the Rosemary fish and the calamari fritters,’ says Bina. ‘Terriyaki, Porkchops and the steak,’ adds Divvya when asked for her views. ‘Oh those sauces that accompany the steaks are divine,’ Bina says ‘blue cheese, mushroom, pepper…take your pick.’
‘Well you can nibble a little of all those starters,’ Suruchi says as Floyd supervises the kitchens, ‘you see we both are ‘foodies’ and wanted to set up a ‘garden’ restaurant for country, retro and jazz music lovers as well as those who enjoy Continental and Goan fare.’
The starters arrive placed on the trendy blue cross cloth of the table. Bacon wrapped prawns with spicy mango salsa, Teriyaki beef skewers, crumb fried cheese jalapeno, crispy fried mushrooms. We just did not know where to start. But Joe always has the right moves….it was the ‘crustacean attack.’ Somehow or the other those prawns had landed on his plate before you could say ‘jumping joe.’ Well I made that up…it is supposed to be ‘jumping Jack’ but that was Joe in motion. But let me not place the blame squarely on his appetite…sorry the word is shoulder….but where those prawns were concerned his shoulders were nowhere in the picture... and neither were mine. Crispy, crunchy, spicy, tangy….gosh my adjectives seemed to be jumping from one flavor to another. The bacon crunched, the prawns were crisp the mango salsa that accompanied the dish both spicy and tangy. What can one add…the dish was a mind boggling .. And for those who do not like it fried ( there are some calorie conscious people unlike me) the dish can be sautéed to your convenience Floyd adds.
But now those cigar shaped pieces lying on the plate beckoned. Crumb fried cheese and jalapeno. Now while we were discussing Bina’s favorite dishes Suruchi had hastened to add that there were some vegetarian specialities too…because she is a ‘veggie.’ Her favorite was cauliflower Mornay. And now here was this ‘vegetarian’ starter placed in my mouth…..mozzarella and cheddar cheese flavored with jalapenos and garlic…crispy on the outside….soft and melting within. Well I know that the ‘no smoking’ is mandatory in all restaurants but this cigar had me oozing out great gasps of...fortunately not smoke or fire, but pleasure. The blend of cheese with the garlic and jalapeno…no sauce is needed to have you begging for more….aahhaaa!!!
But there was still the teriyaki. The small slivers of beef cooked to perfection…the spices coating every fiber of that minute morsel…silence prevailed on the table as every one of those starters were polished off the plate.
But Floyd was still organizing his piece de resistance. Smoked chicken and Pork Assad. We had requested a sample of both cuisines and here they were. The breast of the smoked chicken with its buttered herbs and white wine sauce was delicate to the palate. Maybe it is the thought of the wine sauce that is making me use these adjectives…but the sauce fully complemented the smoked flavor of the chicken. If you are in the ‘propah’ aristiocratic mood for fine dining, do order the dish…just right for the ‘Conti buffs’. But my favorite that night was those palm sized slices of Assad overlapping each other on the plate. The preparation was so ‘porky-porky’. There goes my adjective again. What I mean was that the flavour of the pork ’meat and fat so delicately entwined’ and the Goan spices that enhanced its flavour would have done justice to the reputation of the meals served in the days gone by in this 100 year old house. Abso delightful. My better half was in the seventh heaven of delight as he applied himself wholeheartedly to his meal.
Divya and friends had now left the ‘Tipplers Taverna’ to sit in the restaurant to enjoy their favorite dishes. As goodbyes rang out across the restaurant ours a little loud and tipsy…I can well image how the Lords of yore would have felt as they staggered out of their clubs after a fine dining experiences. Well Lord and Lady Mascarenhas were tipped to the ‘nines’ feeling replete and fine. A meal of fine dining one could well afford, in Saipem at the House of Lords…sorry Lloyds.
Restaurant: House of Lloyds (Indian, Continental, Goan)