BY AUGUSTO RODRIGUES
Pedro’s is a restaurant synonymous with Benaulim beach which was the first place to open up South Goa to hippies in 1969.
“Hippies used to come with their vehicles and stay here. At that time there was nothing here and that is how my father started Pedro's. We first served the hippies and only later did local people start coming here,” recollects Thomas Fernandes, son of Pedro Fernandes who runs the restaurant.
“Life was very simple then. The hippies used to sleep in their vans, cook outside and used to go to Margao to shop. Hardly anyone came to the beach. Our people started coming later,” says Thomas.
Pedro's bar and restaurant has an imprint of Goan food the world over and the consistency in quality is maintained by Teresa Fernandes, wife of Thomas. We are a family-run restaurant, opines Teresa, who won the Master Chef Award at Ramada for her dish ‘Shark Ambotik’.
Thomas has seen the good and bad of life as he grew up with his siblings growing paddy and catching fish. “We are basically farmers and fishermen. We still cultivate our land and also go fishing. I worked hard from my young days and have never been ashamed of hard work. The important thing in life is how happy you are and not how much money you have,” thinks Thomas.
“Ours was an arranged marriage. I used to work at a hotel in Dona Paula and a relative of my husband matched us. I run the kitchen with my daughters and my husband deals with the guests,” admits Teresa as she oversees the cleanliness of the kitchen.
“I lost both my parents when I was six and had to start work soon. I went to school in the morning and worked after school in Agnelo Dias’s hotel called Prainha," recollects Teresa.
“The season has not really taken off that well. I think it will start after this monsoon. A few Britishers and Russians have come down but the other foreigners have not come. We get a lot of Indian tourists,” admits Thomas, asserting that Indian tourists make fantastic guests and adds, “Most of them come, eat well and leave fast."
“ A visit to Benaulim is incomplete without a drink and meal at Pedro's. I used to be taken to the beach as a kid by my parents and have continued the routine. Pedro's is like my second family,” admits Andrew D’Cruz from Margao, now living in the UK.
“Pedro's was the first outlet in Benaulim. After a bath, we used to go to Pedro's for a fresh-water bath. Theirs was the only place on the beach and it was Pedro’s goodness that drew people to him,” avers Mario Fernandes from Benaulim.
“People think that we have made a lot of money, but that is not true. Yes, we have money but we never allowed it to make us forget who we are. Being good and helpful to others is what I learnt from my father,” confesses Thomas.
“Happiness is learnt after one works hard and knows to respect others irrespective of whether one is rich or poor. Being simple is important and I think this is the lesson I learnt and have imparted the same to my children,” says Thomas, who has five daughters.
“When I started with my father, business was more laid back. People came, enjoyed their drinks, ate some fish and went back home happily. I try to maintain that style though customers appear to be in a hurry now,” alleges Thomas.
From a simple hut to a big spread-out restaurant, Pedro's is growing with time and as it does, his wife Teresa sees to it that the flavours of Goan cuisine remain intact.