This post is a part of the What’s On My Plate series
Picture: Fernando Monte da Silva
Karlton is known far and wide, for the quality of steak he produces
Many years ago, my sister pointed out that there was a place I absolutely had to try out, that the steak there was to die for. At that time, there was little to no signage to said establishment in Candolim, and as such, I blinked and I most certainly missed it, time and again. It was just that sort of place, really. Eventually, I learned to multi-task and look up, sideways, and at the road, all at once. It was then that I realised that the signage consisted of rice-lights upon a (then) thatched roof, which marked the spelling of the name, Horizon Grill. Eventually, the thatched roof gave way to tiles, and the rice lights to more definitive signage, but through it all, the food always remained the same: top notch.
Many others, just like me, referred to it by the name of the incumbent, Karlton D’Souza and simply called it ‘Karlton’s’. Taking the hint, the new and more contemporary sign for the season of 2015 (and beyond) says Karlton's Horizon Grill. Arguably the home of one of the best steaks in the country, Karlton's is a place that I have been returning to for the last eight years, ever since my sister and I had that conversation; and I promise you, I have never left there disappointed. In fact, it is one of my standing statements that if you've been to Goa and not eaten at Horizon Grill, then you've not been to Goa at all.
I would like to categorically state, straight off the bat, that yes, Karlton does work with all kinds of food – from seafood, to vegetable, to meat. However, it is the last one that the restaurant is known for, and is the claim to fame of the establishment.
To be completely honest, when I first walked in approximately 8 years ago, I was as sceptical as possible. If you work with meat, you will (almost infallibly) state that yours is ‘the best steak in the land’. I initially thought that this was another person making a claim to that throne, and I was ecstatic to be proven wrong. The cut here is along the lines of a filet mignon, and is seared on the outside, while the inside remains beautifully pink and moist. What I particularly love is the fact that while Karlton is more than happy to cook it to your choosing, he will not go above a medium because you will simply be ‘killing’ the steak. The steak here comes with a side of potatoes cooked to your specifications (but you know that you can’t go wrong with mash), and a green salad. In recent times, Karlton has taken my no-carb diet to heart, and very kindly replaced the mashed potatoes (sigh) with sautéed mushrooms and caramelised onions. Who says healthy can’t be delicious? My last outing there even saw him mix things up and plate it along with couscous.
Karlton's is (in my opinion) the ONLY place to eat a ‘Beef Wellington’ in the state. Let’s take that aforementioned steak, wrap it in the thinnest of crêpes, place a layer of mushroom duxelles around it, and then bake it in a pastry that will give way to advances made by your fork, until its golden brown. This comes along with a side of sautéed green beans and onions, which can be drowned in either a pepper or mushroom gravy. Picture that for a moment, and then exhale, because anyone who visualised that, has definitely been holding their breath in, in the process. To quote a friend I once discussed it with, "Even if the beef wasn't as great as it is, the pastry is to die for."
If pork is where your preferences lie, perhaps I might be able to make a case for the ‘Tandoori Pork Chops’. Not a common combination, I admit; but the char from the tandoor gives it a beautiful flavour that I love, and the spice gets balanced out by the sweetness of the potato and pineapple salad that it is served with.
Lastly, I recommend the pies, which are a huge draw for a large section of Karlton’s clientele that comes in from Britain. These include the likes of the ever popular ‘Steak and Kidney’, ‘Steak and Onion’ and ‘Chicken and Mushroom’. A thin layer of pastry smuggles across to your plate, plenty of filling, and I assure you, that one pie, can serve two moderate eaters. There’s plenty of sharing going on here.
On the dessert front, I struggle to find a winner. I’m torn between three favourites of mine; the Crème Caramel with Cointreau, the Warm Apple Crumble with Custard and The Brownie with Ice Cream. How does one even pick from that line-up. My secret is to go with two other diners, and eat a little of each, to be honest.
In fact, when it comes to great food, I have never been one to place a premium on the concept of ‘value for money’. However, that is something that is often called into question in Goa, especially along the coastal belt. It is here that I would like to insert a little anecdote. My mother isn’t a huge fan of the huddled masses in the over-populated northern belt. However, as we were passing through Candolim one afternoon, I recommended that we stopped by there for a bite to eat, before we proceeded on our journey further south. My mum agreed, albeit only to humour me. While she isn’t one to devour massive portions, she’s a fair eater, who scarcely made it through 50% of her main course. As Karlton ambled over, amicably (as he always does), she asked him why on earth the portions were as large as they were. To this, he merely grinned and said, “Are you not satisfied with your meal and all you could eat of it? That is all we aim to accomplish here. We don’t believe in the concept of fancy plating, if you have walked away from the restaurant feeling like you could have eaten more.” That encounter has stuck with me, and I have played it over in my head for eons. Quite frankly, that is exactly what you will get, if you venture down to Karlton’s, no matter where you’re from. From that outing, satisfaction is always guaranteed.
Karlton serves up hearty and wholesome food that tastes fantastic to boot. In my opinion, it is a venue that is second to none when it comes to working with meat.
I hate classifying things by the typical Indian parameter of 'value for money', but if I ever picked a place that matched that definition, Horizon Grill would be it.
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
Vaddy Candolim, Candolim, Goa 403515
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.