About a fortnight ago my classmates from school got together for a small celebration. About half way through the evening, we separated into two groups: three-fourths of the group were talking about sex and the other one-fourth discussed food and new restaurants. (No points for guessing at which end of the table I was holding forth.)
At some point a Parsi classmate, recently returned from London, asked where he could find the best Goan food in Mumbai. I wasn’t surprised. Every time I’m introduced to a Parsi the second question I’m asked is ‘Where can I get good Goan food in Mumbai?’ (The first question I, and I suppose all food writers, am asked is, ‘Which is the best restaurant I Mumbai?’ There’s no correct answer to that one.) While the rest of the world wants to know where they can get good Parsi food, the Parsis are always looking for Goan food.
The connection is not as strange as it sounds. Goan cooks who migrated to Mumbai either left to work on the ships or found employment with British families. If neither option worked out, they worked with the community that most closely resembled the British in manners and culture and were comparable in wealth and status – the Parsis. It helped that Parsis, like the British, were meat-eaters, unlike the other wealthy communities of Bombay. Over time the Parsis assimilated some Goan dishes into their cooking, which is why you will find a Parsi balchao, baffad and vindaloo.
A half-Goan classmate who has a store at Dhobi Talao came to the rescue. He had just eaten at Castle Hotel, a very old and forgotten Goan restaurant in his neighbourhood. The food, he said, was great and quite cheap.
I’m familiar with the area, but I had never heard of Castle Hotel. That’s because it’s hidden in a narrow, infrequently used lane connecting JSS Road and Kalbadevi Road. Nor has it been written about too much. The place had just one framed article from two years ago by Jharna Thakkar in the Mumbai Mirror.
Castle Hotel is small. You couldn’t swing a cat in this dining room that fits in about 5 laminate-topped, four-seater tables. On one side of the entrance is a half-empty cold drink refrigerator and the other a cash counter.
On the night we visited, the restaurant was managed by just one elderly lady whom everyone called ‘Aunty’. Once she took our order, she went into the kitchen to heat up the curries and fry the fish, served us, cleared the plates and finally collected our payment. It helped that only one other table was occupied at the time.
The food is very simple and has the rough edges of an unfussy home-style meal. The masala of the pungent pork vindaloo (Rs 80) was coarsely ground and I could feel some of the spices. Unlike most Goan restaurants where the gravies are thick enough to be sopped up by bread this vindaloo was more liquid and meant to be eaten with rice. Aunty was a bit unsure when I asked for bread, and I realised my mistake only after reading the menu again: it does say pork vindaloo rice.
I thought the fish cutlet (Rs 18) was a bit bland and the fresh bombil fry (RS 40) was more batter than fish. However, the partner-in-dine enjoyed the freshness of the rechado bangda fry (Rs 40) and the punchiness of the rechado masala filling.
The portion sizes are small and just enough for one person which meant that I was still hungry after the vindaloo and bombil.
I decide to try the pork sausage (Rs 100) which turns out be a nice, spicy, oily Goa sausage chilli fry with lots of chopped onion, but no potato. Castle uses the commercial Goa sausage which has a thick, edible but avoidable skin. It’s best to pull the meat out of the casing and mix it with the onions.
Castle is unlikely to become my go-to place for Goan food, but I wouldn’t hesitate from popping in once in a while to try something new on the menu.
534, Behram Mahal
|Invited by PR company||No|
|Guest of the chef/ restaurant||No|
|Restaurant knew I’m a food writer||No|
|Meal comped by the restaurant||No|