Black Market, Goa- Restaurant Review

The best moments happen when they are unplanned. And moments like these are rare. In the middle of a work day, thanks to some free time, we went out to lunch. Selecting a restaurant these days is like picking a bespoke suit. There’s so much to take into consideration : the taste, the style of cuisine, your mood. Most importantly, is it the right fit for you in the current pandemic situation?

I appreciate that restaurants these days have more than a few problems. If you’re lenient, customers will feel trepidation. If you’re strict, they may get annoyed. And if they don’t see any visible effort to sanitise and take temperatures, they’ll believe you’ve been flouting the standard operating procedures. It’s little wonder that most restaurants haven’t bothered to open at all.

Our first choice was Black Sheep Bistro. But we were informed that it was shut. Instead, its sibling Black Market was open for business. So, with some reluctance, that’s where we went.

The folks at Black Market seem to have honed the art for taking ordinary interiors and transforming them with swank, taupe shades, embellishing them with vintage pictures and offering diners a lovely ambience without pretension. The interiors are so spacious and the tables positioned so remarkably apart, it felt like I owned the place.

On the walls hang a set of pictures. The distinctive board of Cafe Aram peeps out from one of them, while another depicts the charcoal factory. Look closer, and you’ll see a close-up of the statue of Abbe Faria, the world’s first hypnotist. The black and whites with a blondish-brown wooden frame add a slice of vintage Goa to the ambience.

I’ll leave nostalgia to do its whimsical thing. But those images are a nice touch.

For drinks, we chose a recommendation by the steward : spicy watermelon, while my companion picked the old fashioned with Jim Beam.

Apart from being as pretty as a picture, the spicy watermelon packed a nice light airy punch. One sip, and I was sold. Not everyone can get the old fashioned right. But at Black Market, its preparation was enthusiastic and taste as smooth as it comes.

The service was diligent, yet unobtrusive. The menu is short but displays verve and ambition. After much consideration, we chose the Malwani Stroganoff chicken and the Tribal Chicken.

The Malwani Stroganoff chicken comes first. It’s a powerful and dynamic plateful built around robust, reliable ingredients : rice, gravy and chicken. It’s a delicious dish that greases the conversation rather than being the highlight of it.

The Tribal Chicken comes next. It’s a beauty! Two hunks of chicken perch atop a yellow puree and a side slide of mash potato and soft boiled veggies. The chicken was cooked just right and the puree lent a tasteful hit to the taste-buds. It’s an appealing plate of food that’s considerate of your well-being. I must make a mention of the garlic bread. I’ve never had garlic bread served quite like this. The piquant sting of garlic, along with butter undertones and bread that was softer rather than crunchier, made for a pleasurable eating experience.

While our palates were on a trip to food paradise, a few diners made an appearance, adding to the liveliness of Black Market. The music was just what the afternoon ordered- low and loungy. Our senses were humming.

My love for churros can be traced back to Black Sheep Bistro, where I first tasted these flaky wonders. Unfortunately, they don’t serve them here. Instead, the person taking our order recommended that we try the “basque” a cheesecake pastry inspired by the Spanish variety or so we were told. His elevator pitch was so passionate that we decided to go for it. It turned out to be the best decision ever. I don’t think I’ve tasted a more delicious cheese cake. It delights with every mellow, melt-in-the-mouth spoonful. Be nice to your sugar levels and share it with a buddy.

At the risk of sounding trite, this was an afternoon well spent. The ambience, the meals, the music and the dessert can be appreciated in isolation- but it’s all part of the same adventure. This is a place that doesn’t demand attention but commands it regardless. I’d like to see how it fares in the night. Do the lights dim low? Is there more scurry and less laid-back? Does it feel more like a pub than a restaurant? For now, I can’t get involved. I’m immensely satisfied with everything at Black Market today. What happens in the black of the night, is for another story. And hopefully, lightening will strike twice.

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