This post is a part of the What’s On My Plate series
Picture Courtesy: Sanket Chavan
Vasco Silveira, the man who keeps the soul of Ferradura alive
‘Sometime last summer, I set out to place myself in surroundings that were once so familiar; they were like a second home. A call from a familiar but affably gruff voice a few days prior to my plan intimated me that the owner of said voice would be celebrating the 35th anniversary of his restaurant, Ferradura or Horseshoe, and that I had best attend…or else. The voice belonged to Vasco Silveira, the Chef and Proprietor of the aforementioned restaurant and a burly man who I have the pleasure of referring to as a dear friend.
As of 1980, Vasco’s restaurant, Ferradura or Horseshoe, located in the Latin quarter of Panjim, has made itself a part of the landscape of the epically acclaimed Rua de Ourem which weaves Mala, Fontainhas and São Tomé together. Here, Vasco has been serving magnificently authentic Portuguese as well as Goan fare since 1980 and until recently was the only place in India that served Portuguese codfish, known as Bacalhau, which he would painstakingly import directly from Portugal and Macau. Vasco who was at one time based along the faraway shores of Angola, where he was born had a dream (and proclaims so much like the fashion in which Martin Luther King Jr once did). This dream spurred his return to Goa, the land of that his ancestors belonged to. This dream was the inner sanctum he dwelled in; one of opening his own restaurant in the distant land that he belonged to, a dream he would make a reality after taking an in-depth look at the native cuisine across the length and breadth of the state’s varied cuisine.
Picture Courtesy: Sanket Chavan
The interiors at Ferradura, highlighting its Indo-Portuguese links
My association with the man was happenchance, as his establishment happened to be my father’s haunt of choice in the capital city, and as such, a 35 kilometre drive was undertaken from Margao to Panjim for the same: a drive which would be undertaken for naught else. As such, I would be privy to the tales of Vasco’s past in the Portuguese military and much else. However, with the passage of time, and all the rites that come with it, we happened to for an independent bond of our own.
Picture Courtesy: Sanket Chavan
Vasco loves working with Goan spices and elements, as many of the dishes on the menu will attest to
His food has in time truly spoken for itself. Apart from the legendary Bacalhau no Forno, consisting of codfish with potatoes, eggs and olive oil he will happily also dish out ‘Lime Pepper Mussels’, which are simmered in wine and pepper sauce, Feijoada, complete with sausages cooked in a gravy of red chillies and a personal favourite, Ameijoas Bulhao Pato, which consists of clams cooked in wine and herbs. For those with cravings on the sweeter side of things (and I always count myself amongst that lot) the Bolo Sans Rival is to die for. Let me not even get started about his cellar full of Portuguese wine, for that is a topic that words will not do justice too. However, this time around, as I ambled amongst the walls that made this flashback from my earlier days ring true, I noticed on the walls, a bottle on Ginja.
For those who do not know of Ginja, it is a magical elixir that flies under the radar amidst all the wine that Portugal produces. Also known as Ginjinha, the drink is a Portuguese liqueur made by infusing Morello Cherries in a potent form of wine-based spirit (with an alcohol percentage ranging between 37% and 52%) called Aguardente while dissolving sugar into the mix, together with other ingredients. This is then served as a ‘shot’. In more evolved gastronomic times, Ginja has come to be served in chocolate cups, that can be consumed after the contents have been downed, adding yet another sweet twist to the plot.
This made me realise exactly why it was that I had learned to love Horseshoe or as I have always referred to it, Ferradura. It’s a throwback to a colonial era that is near dead. It is a look at a Goa that shared a colonial past based not on fear or subjugation, but rather, fraternal ties. It is, like a few other beasts of a similar nature, one of the last bastions of a bygone era. One of my favourite tales that revolves around this ‘area of conservation’ of all things culinary protected by Vasco, revolves around a domestic tourist that walked in insisting on being served Tandoori Chicken, clad in the customary ‘boxer shorts and banyaan’. Vasco promptly agreed to serve the same, opting to escort said ‘client’ to the ‘outdoor seating area’ i.e. the door that led to the street, telling him a few home truths in the process.
As the night wore down, the last few stragglers, including yours truly stepped out upon the very same pavement that Vasco ingloriously dispatched his aforementioned ‘client’ ever so many years ago and a sense of nostalgia began to creep in and mingle with the cool night air. I suppose that over time, one realises that the strings on your wallet can never tug as much as the ones on your heart. There may be bigger, better, glitzier and more contemporary establishments in today’s Goa (with all due respect to the same). However, while a price can be put on many things, including restaurants and the food they serve; memories remain priceless.
The food is here is neither understated nor overstated; it is what it claims to be: straight up Portuguese folk fare, interspersed by a few Indo-Portuguese counterparts. There are slight deviations from commercial recipes though, making these a tad more authentic.
Ferradura is probably one of the last places that focuses on Portuguese cuisine in Goa, though with the rise of many other establishments in the state, its drawing power when it comes to audiences is waning.
The average cost of a meal for two (minus the libations) would be an approximate of ₹2,000 (at the time of publishing this review).
How to get there
E-245, Rua De Ourem, Opposite Footbridge, Panjim, Goa 403001
Food is a huge part of any culture and for me, chancing upon a good meal is synonymous with having a great day. The What’s On My Plate series of posts is where I discuss food, great places to eat, and anything gastronomically moving. This could be anything from a great place to eat, to an obscure kind of food, to an origin story. After all, there is no love like the love of eating.