New restaurants frill Panjim by the day and the eateries do tend to draw crowds from across India. Competing with these and retaining the culture, habits and identity of Goa is George Bar, one of the few such in the state capital.
Nestled at the foot of Panjim Church, George Bar takes the clock’s hands back in time through some of the dishes that tickled our taste buds in the past, and which are today sampled by the many tourists coming to check their tryst with divinity.
Started in 1956, George Bar must have set the bar for good food right from the beginning and that is why it still has a dedicated old local clientele for whom an occasional meal out has to be near the church.
“Since the pandemic I do not eat out as often but I visit this place at least once a week for a takeaway. There are some dishes that only a Goan will appreciate,” says Caetaninho Fernandes, as he waits for his beef rolado.
Beef rolado or beef roll – as it is now spelt in the menu – is tenderloin beef rolled around vegetables and a slice of pork fat and cooked. George Bar is one of the few restaurants – or perhaps the only – that still serves it and the fans are many.
“Initially, beef rolado was prepared twice a week but since people keep asking, it is now cooked daily,” says Eddie George, the youngest in the hierarchal line now running the place.
Eddie believes George Bar will not grow out of style because the family has cultured cooks on the basics of Goan cuisine.
“The secret of good food is in its marinating and that is a secret we keep at George Bar. Taste flows from the food through one's hands and that is the chemistry,” confides Rocky, the hand through which most food passes.
George Bar plays with the tongue with an array of beef tongue dishes, one vying with the other in terms of smoothness. Salted tongue and roast tongue are two preparations that bring out the nuances of appetite or aperitif.
If not beef, the pork served at George Bar takes one back to the good old days of the village feast which was not complete without pork on the menu. Start with roast pork or pork cutlet or rib and then try roast pigling – a gastronomical experience.
“We have Goans who come in the afternoon and at night and a lot of foreign tourists who want to taste and take back the experience of our food. Keeping the staff happy is my first and last secret,” confides Eddie.
“We have introduced Indian dishes in our menu to cater to the Indian clients that visit us during the day. Most prefer to eat the food they are habituated to, though there are some who experiment,” says manager Francis D’Costa.
Unlike many other restaurants in the state capital, George has maintained beef and pork on its menu because that is the essence of Goa and without them George Bar would not be the same.
“Whenever my friends from abroad come to experience Goa, I make it a point to bring them to George Bar because it is one of the few restaurants still serving food that gets us Goans back, again and again. So, why not let outsiders try?” asks Zenia.
The church next to George Bar, the garden alongside have been left behind by the Portuguese; and the food at George Bar is the taste of Portugal also left behind.