Souza Lobo, established in 1932, is Goa’s brand restaurant that has passed through two generations and is still offering its clients the best of food, spiced by owner Jude Lobo's vision that ‘satisfaction comes by serving good food; allowing people to have a good time by imbibing the cultural flavours of Goa.’
‘Satisfaction is part of my life. At some point, we have to realise that what we have is more than enough. Sadly, greed is taking over our culture, and we are unable to comprehend that we are losing the essence of life,’ muses Jude, as he attentively supervises his staff who are attending to guests in the restaurant.
Souza Lobo was called Pavilhao Sousa Lobo when his grandfather Joao Fortunato Lobo started it on 19th March 1932. It was then a favourite haunt of the Portuguese and, as his father took over, it was one of the first restaurants on the northern coastal belt to cater to and provide accommodation to the hippies and residents of Bardez. ‘We had eleven rooms, and they were mostly occupied by people from Aldona in April and May, and the hippies used to take rooms for six months or more during the rest of the year,’ recollects Jude, as he steps back in time.
Souza Lobo is one of the few restaurants that still serves authentic Goan food. While cuisines have changed, trying to keep pace with changing tastes of tourists, Jude has maintained the originality of the Goan dishes served in terms of appearance, taste and aroma emanating from the kitchen. ‘Importance is always given to Goan flavour. The other dishes are always accompaniments. There are times when a few customers ask for some different food and we serve it,’ says Jude, whose style of treating his customers centres on his own way of living.
‘In other countries, they create resources, they create structures, while we are blessed with natural beauty in Goa. We have to preserve that beauty. What is created can be replicated, but the beauty we have cannot be recreated anywhere and that is why people from all over the world keep coming,’ believes Jude, for whom the essence of living appears to stem from simplicity.
‘Goans are an integral part of Goa’s cultural ethos, and it is sad that many are leaving Goa for good. Goa cannot be Goa without a Goan. This has to be understood by people still living here and people from out of Goa coming to live here,’ reflects Jude, who has himself been at the receiving end of an Indian trying to displace him from his mooring.
‘War never helps. I was first approached with a proposal to buy the place, and I refused because I cannot sell what I have inherited – what my parents and grandparents worked for and left for me. I really wish he could one day come over, sit across and tell me what he wants because there is no point in keeping anger,’ says Jude, when asked to dwell on the dispute he is having with an Indian who has bought property next door.
‘I am not fighting my enemy. I am actually fighting my own government that I have elected and some people for whom money is more important than cultural ties,’ argues Jude, who believes that what is Goan will always remain Goan.
‘We used to buy fresh seafood, meats and spices every day, and we continue the practice even now. We create a home away from home atmosphere for the boys working with us and that is reflected in their service to our clients. If we have happy staff, we have happy customers,’ confides Jude, whose smile makes one most comfortable.
Jude took over running Souza Lobo when his father passed away in 1994. The restaurant had seen consistent success for years until the pandemic happened. ‘Business is back to normal now,’ says Jude, as he requests one of his staff members to try and accommodate a customer waiting for a seat.
Jude says, as he gets up to escort a Goan family out of the restaurant, ‘Yes, it is nice to still see people from Goa coming for a meal and enjoying the ambience.’
‘Every individual has his own style of handling customers and staff members. I think happiness and living a simple life are the keys to the success of the restaurant and my life. If I was asked by God what I would want after life, I would say to return here,’ says Jude, as he tries to mentally banish the troubles neighbours try to inflict on him.
‘There was a time after COVID when business was slow because many people had stopped coming. They had either lost their jobs or lost someone in their family, and holidays were most probably not on their minds. Things are changing now,’ says Jude. He excuses himself and goes to help his staff as Souza Lobo takes on the appearance of the days when getting a table was lucky.