This post is a part of the What’s On My Plate series
Picture: Fernando Monte da Silva
A look at the Pasteis de Nata available at Nata, in Anjuna
I love my Iberian trips. It puts a lot into perspective for me on a personal and cultural level, and quite frankly I love the cuisine. It’s not overstated; it’s simplistic, and quite pleasing to the palate all-round. So imagine my surprise when I manage to find a local haunt that to an extent serves what I need. Through a cousin’s experiences, I discovered Churrasco do Patrão and Nata. Tucked in along the by-lanes of Anjuna, and along the main road that leads to the legendary Wednesday flea market, the little café is a shared space, which dishes out Portuguese fare of varying shapes and sizes.
By day, the space is the culinary temple of Gonçalo Morna of Coimbra in Portugal, who runs Nata; before turning it over to different hands from 7 pm onwards, which is when the workings of Churrasco do Patrão take over. While both establishments work along Portuguese lines, this is the primary difference. Churrasco do Patrão has one solo star on the menu, the grilled chicken. Trust me, it doesn’t get more mainstream Portuguese than a frango grelhado or grilled chicken. If you refuse to take me seriously on that front (and I will hate myself for saying this), just think Nando’s.
Now this brings me back to my preferred half of the operations, Nata. I have said this a million times over, but nothing quite comes through cooking like love; the love of putting good food on a table. Does Gonçalo manage that? Without a second’s doubt! Let’s talk for a moment about the space. Is it fancy? No, not really. Is it clinically bohemian? Even further off the mark. However, what it is, is precisely one the quintessential little cafés that have dotted Anjuna’s strip, that have been run by ‘foreigners’ since the 70’s; a little couch to lounge on, and 4 small tables. That’s all that Nata is made up of.
But it is these places that have precisely delivered some of the best food the state has seen. Let us for a moment look at Gonçalo’s menu. Reminiscent of any street-side café in Portugal, set along its cobbled pavements, Nata serves up piping hot, crisp tostas or grilled sandwiches. They come in an array of fillings, ranging from pesto to olive tapenade, and from rucola and cream cheese to mushroom and onion (which is delightfully good), to my personal favourite, the mista, which is made of grilled ham and cheese. While all of these are absolutely delectable, my only regret is that the bread is store bought, and neither baked in-house or of a less mainstream nature. The filling though, is top notch.
Another thing that is bound to draw audiences here is the prego. Considered one of the 3 unofficial national meat sandwiches of the country, alongside the bifana and the leitão, a prego (literally meaning ‘nail’) is a beef sandwich with a filling of a tender and thin steak that can be served with mustard or hot sauce for moisture. Ditching the bread, one can ask for it to be served on a plate with fries or rice and a fried egg as accompaniment. Gonçalo nails the brief on this one, and even the bread is perfect baked, making the prego a very authentic experience.
Very, very, very importantly, one has to make a mention of the fact that Nata is home (in Goa) to what may well be (on a sweeter note, at least) one of Portugal’s finest culinary moments: Pastéis de Nata. These little egg tarts are custard-y and crumbly in their housing of flaky pastry. While they had in time made their presence felt in places where the Portuguese people had settled over time, such as Macau or Brazil, Goa has seldom had a permanent place where they had them in constant supply. Popular chef, Vasco Alvares made them for a while, Mr Baker in Panjim stocked them briefly, Grand Hyatt in Bambolim made them for a short span too, and then there was a recent attempt at a makeshift version by Cluck Tales, in Panjim. However, Nata has the closest thing to the real deal, in this little part of the world.
This is Gonçalo’s first season with Nata, and he plans on taking a short sojourn to his motherland. One hopes that upon his return, we find an expanding menu, which will doubtlessly impress more than it already does; and believe me, that is saying something.
Cafe Nata is still clearly in the teething phase, but can, without a doubt really excel if the menu is expanded to other things available on a standard issue Portuguese menu.
As things stand, a prego and two pasteis are a great way to spend the early evening reading, on the premises.
The average cost of a meal for two (minus the libations) would be an approximate of ₹1,000 (at the time of publishing this review).
How to get there
907, Market Road, Monteiro Vaddo, Anjuna, Goa 403509
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.