The man behind Horse Shoe, one of Goa’s most celebrated restaurants, gears up to give us a taste of his brand of Portuguese cuisine
Vasco Silveira has had no formal education or training in cooking. But he enjoys a reputation that most chefs would be envious of. Silveira’s regulars never have to pick up the menu at Horse Shoe, his 35-year and two month-old restaurant in the Latin quarter of Panjim, Goa. And mind you, we’re not talking about everyday customers here. “My regulars come once a year on holiday and call me from the airport. Before I know it, they’re in my kitchen chatting as I cook for them,” smiles Silveira, who takes pride that his customers feel completely at home in his restaurant that is actually a 300-year-old Portuguese house.
Born in Angola, Silveira relocated to Goa back in 1977 and has called it home ever since. But interestingly, the man who has traversed Europe and South East Asia extensively (“my last stop is always Portugal,” he says), has never set foot in Chennai until two days ago, when he arrived at The Raintree St Mary’s to give us a taste of his Portuguese Bacalhau (salted cod) and Goan Chorico. This will be the fifth time he is being invited to host a festival at a hotel, having done others in Marine Plaza and Residency Sarovar Portico in Mumbai and Tea Bungalow in Kochi. Sadly, this means his restaurant back home in Goa will have to shut till he’s back; after all, Silveira is the only one who does any cooking in his kitchen.
Having arrived with 1,000 Goan sausages in his suitcase, Silveira insists that this is something I must try. “They are a blend of pork and spices that are smoked on firewood for a week. Then I keep them in the sun for an hour so the oil drips and they’re not too fatty,” he says, as I listen with a watering mouth. And besides the xacutis and vindaloos that are a staple at any Goan food festival, Silveira promises that we will taste his famous Portuguese soup with kale leaves and potato puree. And if we’re lucky, his signature mussels simmered in wine and pepper sauce. What about dessert? “Bolo sans rival. The original Portuguese cake has almonds. But here it’s changed to cashewnut, because the almonds are bitter and expensive,” laughs Silveira, who will make a quick stop at Pondicherry before leaving to host his next festival in Mumbai.
From June 19-28 at Colony, The Raintree St Mary’s. Lunch and dinner buffet from RS 1,450 onwards. Details: 42252525
— Ryan Peppin