Goa is known for its music, culture and food, and we found a place that showcases to the tourists just that…21 cocos. The brainchild of Mike Braganza, he and his wife Rachel has a buzzing place at Candolim, the lane just after Axis Bank. It was Sunday Night and music permeated the air….Irish Welles was crooning music that captivated our senses as we walked into the brightly lit and buzzing restaurant.
The first thing that caught my fancy were the 21 baskets above the bar holding 21 golden coconuts. ‘Why 21?’ I asked him. ‘Because that is my lucky number..’ was the simple reply. ‘and cocos?’ I asked in my best reporter voice hoping to cover the fact that hubby dear was going ‘loco’ over the irish Welles captivating voice. ‘the English always think of coconuts as cocos,’ Mike smiles. Well it was true. When the Portuguese took the coconut as part of their trade to England, they thought that the hairy surface resembled their ‘witch’ coco..and the ‘nut’ was added later. So that is how the name stayed.
And somehow Mike had managed to lure them into his restaurant. The place was packed, the glow of the pillars the bright orange of the waiters shirts created an environment of ‘happening’.
‘So what would you like to drink?’ a waiter asked. Looking around at the crowd…English with a few Indian NRI’s Joe immediately said ‘Cosmopolitain.’ I decided to keep my ‘senses’ intact and went in for a fresh lime soda. ‘Try our minty flavor..’ recommends the waiter. So I nodded expecting a sprig of mint as a garnish. To my surprise the greenish lemon concoction sported no sprig…the mint was blended in. I took a long sip…refreshingly different. ‘we blend it in our blender,’ Mike explains, ‘its great for a hangover.’
Although I did not need it…maybe Joe would need it later, he was blissfully lost in the music (I must admit that Irish Welles has a great voice), Mike had recommended the Tandoori tikkas. I looked up in surprise. But he nodded emphatically…and so onto the table came the chicken tikka and the minty kebab.
I would not have imagingined that a place like this could produce such succulent preparations…even the mint chutney was good. But it was the minty kebab….somehow the flavor of mint had captured my senses including my tastebuds……mixed with curd the marination was one to die for. And the diners were swooning there too. One of them with a rich baritone had now taken over the mike…(no not our Mike, he was very much with us) and was singing one of my favorite retro songs……’in your eyes, I get lost, I get washed away….you are simply the Best…’ I temporarily forgot Joe and the food….he sounded so much like Frank Sinatra, Tom Jones…all rolled into one.
With great reluctance I decided to focus on what Joe had ordered. The menu had listed old favorites…liver on toast, crumbfried chicken, cream soups. Well the choice was crumb fried prawns with Tartare sauce. The flattened prawns were decoratively arranged on a platter.the tartare sauce had a twang to it…..genuinely family fare, I thought my foot tapping unconsciously to the music.
By now more and more diners were involved in the music….the speciality of the house the Pepper Steak and the Penne in a seafood sauce was in front of us. The tempting hash brown potatoes and thick peppery sauce in the sauce boat did wonders to the meat…..if one likes to savor a good old fashioned steak then this is the place.
But the dessert still had to come….suggestion ‘Drunken Apples.’ Aha! Gotcha. After his second Cosmopolitain Joe agreed to try the dessert. Apples stewed in wine and grape juice combined with a scoop of vanilla icecream….
We sat back just as the other diners did….there was no hurry to depart. This was a place made for fun and family. As we said our goodbyes, I regretfully looked back for my ‘Frank Sinatra’. Perhaps I imagined it, but in the background the strains of ‘Simply the Best’ echoed in my ears.