The iconic O'Coqueiro in Porvorim, which has been running since 1968, has had a revamp; and it only gets better. If you’ve dined at O'Coqueiro before, you know it’s located inside a colonial Portuguese bungalow and has an old-school charm to it. The vibe isn’t lost, though the property is revamped and refurnished. They’re kept a lot of the original components and just made it more casual for a casual night out or a quiet lunch. They’ve added high chairs, the bar counter and a few pieces of décor. The lanterns and the ambient lighting also adds to interiors.
However, the statue of Charles Sobraj in the verandah is gone! Very disappointing, I know. It had become an identity of the place, ever since the notorious Charles Sobhraj was captured by the cops as he dined to fine feni (local Goan drink), Stuffed Crabs and Cafreal at O'Coqueiro. I was told, they are going to replace the sitting Charles Sobraj statue with a standing one shortly!
The food is definitely Goan, with a slight Portuguese accent at time. Though they have some variants of the Hindu Goan food too, they are well known for their Portuguese-Goan food, which is very popular among the Goan Catholics. There’s lots of seafood, pork and beef, besides chicken and vegetarian items as well.
The legendary Cafreal is known to be first served in a restaurant set up at O'Coqueiro when it first begun operations. And they have retained the original Cafreal recipe through the decades. Though it’s a bit different than the Cafreal we have otherwise, the distinct flavour of the condiments mingling with well-cooked chicken in the O'Coqueiro kitchen can seldom be recreated at another place. If you haven’t tried Cafreal yet, you must!
The ever-so-popular Goan delicacy Cafreal, is originally a recipe brought down by Portuguese in Goa. It is actually originated in Mozambique (a Portuguese colony in Africa) from a dish called Galinha. Afterwards, Portuguese adopted it and made some changes in it before it reached to beautiful Goa and became the legendary Cafreal devoured by so many. In this dish, the chicken is marinated overnight with lots of coriander leaves, ginger, garlic, lime juice or vinegar along with dry spices. The Galinha Cafreal @ Rs 350/- served with local Goan bread – the Poie, at O'Coqueiro is their take on this legendary Goan-Portuguese cuisine!
The food menu in itself is very impressive. The service, under the leadership of Sauven is something to look forward to. They have other signature light bites – like the Stuffed Crab and Squid Rava Fry. We opted for the Calamari Rava Fry @ Rs 225/- – which was as basic as it can get and again, a favourite Goa recipe. Though the squid was a bit rubbery, probably because it was cooked on high flame, the taste was quite good.
|Calamari Rava Fry|
Cooking seafood is an art which is difficult to get right. And I was pleased with the Butter Garlic Kingfish @ Rs 450/- at O'Coqueiro. The buttery kingfish, mildly flavoured with garlic and cooked to perfection was juicy and drool worthy! I’d definitely go back for more.
|Butter Garlic Kingfish|
Meanwhile, we sipped on our drinks – mocktails to be honest – the Lone Ranger and Blue Pina. Owing to the highway liquor ban, O'Coqueiro is forbidden from serving alcohol, though you can get your own bottles if you feel you need some to go with your food. Or else just go in for a mocktail with a slightly Goan touch, like the Lone Ranger @ Rs 150/- which is basically a coconut cream and strawberry crush concoction made with apple juice. Aaaand, it’s pink! I again loved the colours of the refreshing Blue Pina @ Rs 150/- – pineapple juice and blue curacao with lime, sprite and soda.
|Mocktails - Lone Ranger and Blue Pina|
Besides a range of cocktails and Goan delicacies, they also have a bit of continental, Indian and Indo-Chinese cuisine for those who do not enjoy Goan food. They also have an all-night menu, which is up for grabs all night. The midnight menu includes versatile all-time favourites like Fries and Sandwiches, Burgers, Fish-n-chips and Biryani. They also have basic Goan items like Chicken Cafreal, Beef Chilli Fry, Pork Sausage Chilli Fry, Xacuti and Mutton Kheema, all served with local Goan bread – the Pao, which is usually a great combo! Also, everything in the night menu is reasonably priced.
Though they refrain from alcohol, they give you many other reasons to visit them, all through the day or night (remember their 4 am food menu?). They have regular events – like the live music nights and parties. The festivals see a massive revelry going on all through the night. They are planning on starting stand-up comedy shows and other events shortly too, going by the ample space they have – their impressive garden, that is a perfect outdoor space for events and functions, their indoor restaurant, the AC section, private dining section and also the verandah (balcony), which gives you a perfect Goan brunch experience.
|Brunching at O’Coqueiro|
Getting back to my little Portuguese brunch, the Costela de Porco and Bife O’Coqueiro com ovo a Cavalo was up next! I was thoroughly impressed by both – the beef and pork. For a hardcore non-vegetarian and a Goan at that (who loves meat as much as seafood), this was sheer bliss!
The Costela de Porco @ Rs 350/- at O'Coqueiro is a delicious mountain of pork ribs and mashed potato on a plate. The flavoursome pork ribs, infused and roasted with spices were served with sautéed veggies. The buttery mashed potato was one of the best I’ve had in Goa. Though mashed potato is the most basic item served as a side, many focus on the main item and tend to ignore the preparation of the mashed potato. I loved it!
|Costela de Porco|
Bife O’Coqueiro com ovo a Cavalo @ Rs 350/- – traditionally marinated beef steak with red wine wine sauce, topped with fried egg and served with mashed potato and sautéed veggies. The steak was juicy and wholesome – a complete meal in itself. Definitely a wise pick for lunch. Other favourites in the mains would be the Perna de Galinha @ Rs 350/- or the Roast Pork @ Rs 350/-. They also serve the popular Goan favourites Beef Chilly Fry @ Rs 350/-, Pork Sorpotel @ Rs 350/-, Pork Vindaloo @ Rs 350/- (they’re known for their vindaloo besides their cafreal) and Beef Roast Tongue (which isn’t really served at many outlets) @ Rs 350/-.
|Bife O’Coqueiro com ovo a Cavalo|
The highlight of the meal at O'Coqueiro would definitely be trying one of the home-style Goan curries like the Samarachi Kodi @ Rs 300/-, Fish Caldin @ Rs 400/- or Fish Ambotik @ Rs 400/-. They also serve Prawn Balchao @ Rs 350/- (my favourite!) and Fish Parra @ Rs 175/-, besides fish curry. I did end up trying the Samarachi Kodi with boiled rice and Fish Parra and I loved it!
As a Goan Catholic, you tend to gorge on this a lot, and I couldn’t help but fall in love with the food. The Parra was so well made – and I say it having eaten it at home all my life. The dried fish pickle was cured really well and that I’m sure the marination had penetrated really well into the dry fish over the months giving rise to the spicy tangy flavour, which I absolutely love.
|Samarachi Kodi with boiled rice and Fish Parra.. a perfect Goan meal|
The desserts again, had a great Portuguese-Goan character. Most of it comes straight from the O’Coqueiro kitchen, however some is locally sourced. They have everything from the Bebinca, to Dodol, to Seradurra, to Caramel Pudding (all @ Rs 125/-). Yumm right? We enjoyed our Caramel Pudding and Seradurra despite of being stuffed to the brink after our meal. Who can say no to dessert right; that too, to a well-made bowl of Seradurra!
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