When my grandmother married my grandfather, she brought with her a curry recipe from the foothills of Ponda, which no one else in the family has since been able to replicate in its precise ratio of coconut cream to red chilly spice; a delicate combination of sweet cream and dry heat. Despite having spent a life-time in the diaspora, I’ve never gotten over my hankering for Goan food.
So it was extremely fortuitous when I discovered the Konkan restaurant in West Drayton, a short hop from Heathrow Airport. The restaurant is a venture by Godfrey Menezes, Director and Jude Pinto, Executive Head Chef. Both men come with years of experience in the Food and Hospitality industry. Godfrey started his career with Viceroy of India on Baker Street, Central London, and went on to open Eriki restaurant, while Jude did his hotel management in Goa, followed by training at the prestigious Oberoi Sheraton. In 2005, he was selected Top Chef, at the Asian Lifestyle food demonstration show. The previous London restaurants he has worked for are Chutney Mary, La Porte De Indes, and Veeraswamy
Food is a definitive part of Goan culture, reflective of our human desire to embrace the new, while holding on to the past. The history of our food is a tale of invading influences and defiance. The Portuguese introduced our palate to the succulence of pork and prawn, vinegar and wine, but amidst these new influences, the Konkans also defiantly held on to the integrity of recipes that predate the Portuguese; the fiery Xacuti for instance. Today, this recipe is almost always cooked with chicken, but back then it was the dish of the humble man, and it was cooked with what was available, vegetables, wild mushrooms, turtle and frogs. Jude assures me that he too is careful to maintain the integrity of Goan dishes. He sources the freshest coconut, fish, prawn and scallop from the market, flavours his Goan curries with mace, kokum and red chilly, and adds tang to his meats with palm vinegar. Wonderful, quintessential Goan cooking.
For the Goan taste buds, the Konkan offers sorpotel, crab xec-xec, rechad fish, Goan fish curry, amongst others. I’ve tasted almost all of these dishes at the Konkan. They remind me of festa days in Goa. Rich in texture and aroma, the food melting in the mouth. The Konkan also offers a variety of Indian dishes such as Lucknow Lamb-chop masala and takes catering orders. I’m told that the owner has been busy trying to convert the Caucasian population of Hillingdon into disciples of Goan food. So far, he’s had quite a few takers.
As I leave the elegant ambience of the Konkan restaurant, and wait outside for the bus, Godfrey pops over and asks if I need a ride somewhere. For all his thirty-four years in the UK, he is still a Goan at heart. Warm, welcoming and generous. That is exactly how you feel when you dine at the Konkan. Like you’ve just had dinner with a friend, who you’ve known for a long time.
Konkan Restaurant is at 107 Station Road, West Drayton, Middlesex UB7 7LT (near Heathrow). Tel 01895 420 973. See www.konkan.co.uk