A taste of Goa at Colaba

I first heard about Martins, the Goan food joint, soon after I shifted to Bombay in the late nineties. I had read about it too in the Times of India. However, while I knew it was at Colaba, I could not find it. Leos, Gokul, Mondes, Bade Miya, Churchill…all of these became favourite haunts but like U2 I still couldn’t find what I was looking for. This was till another Bengali friend who stayed at YMCA then showed me where it was.
That’s the thing about Martins. It literally is a hole in the wall. So it doesn’t make sense to start by telling you about the awesome Goan food that you get there. Instead let me start by writing about how to get there…especially since fewer people are familiar with South Mumbai or Colaba nowadays with the suburbs really coming up.
To reach Martins you have to go down Colaba causeway down South from Regal. Cross the Hanuman Mandir and the BPCL petrol pump which comes to your left till your reach the Strand alley. Take a left and then the first right and you’ll be there.
Martins is probably one of the oldest Goan restaurants in Mumbai. It is this tiny, unpretentious place which has about five tables if memory serves me right. Quite Spartan, no AC, shuts by about ten at night.
The food there is really awesome. It is quite popular and you normally have to wait to get a table. Takeaways work fine too.
Now the first thing about Goan food and the food at Martins is that it is really meant for meat lovers. They have only one vegetarian dish called…well ‘vegetable’.
My personal favourite there is the beef steak fry with deep fried onion rings and chips. It is really succulent and drips with oil… a gastronomic delight. It’s quite popular and there is a chance that you won’t get it if you are too late. It’s the best steak I have ever had. And the joke is that I’ve never got it at Goa!
The Goan sausage fry is quite good too. Though keep in mind that this traditionally is a fairly sour dish and you would do well to take small mouthfuls and temper the taste with Goan pao or bread. I once got some for a Goan friend at office who said it was quite authentic.
I am not much of a vindaloo person but my wife likes their Pork vindaloo. The pork cubes are nice and fatty. I had their sorpatel (finely chopped pork, pork liver cooked in pork blood) quite a while back as they make it only once a week. I think I liked it.
I have tried their beef chilly fry on a day when the steak was over. I was not too impressed. Though I must confess that my disappointment at missing my steak clouded my judgment.
Some of their other dishes are fish curry, mackerel fry and chicken vindaloo.
I would strongly recommend visiting Martins if you like meat, if you like Goan food, or if you like good food. Don’t be put off by the humble, no nonsense ambience. The quality is good and I have never fallen ill eating there. It is quite reasonable and a meal for two is unlikely to cross 300 Rs. The staff is very friendly. My wife and I always feel like we are meeting old friends when we go there.
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