‘Love’ at The Park Calangute
‘Love’ at The Park, Calangute is a celebration of different culinary traditions with a Goan twist
By ANNA FERNANDES
A great restaurant is a lot like great music. From the décor to the food to the service, everything flows in perfect harmony to create an experience that can transport a diner for even a couple of hours to a state of complete bliss. A restaurant that seamlessly embodies this experience, is ‘Love’ at The Park Calangute.
On a humid Saturday afternoon, my friend and I drove up the winding roads of the north to The Park Calangute. Travelling during tourist season on bumpy roads and a glitchy GPS that frequently sends you off the wrong exit and onto a ten-minute-long detour, isn’t the best experience. But once we finally got to our destination – the mere hospitality of the hotel’s workforce along with the restaurant’s staff put us at ease, and the chilled passionfruit-pomegranate mocktail we were served, knocked the fatigue right out of us. The drink was served in a traditional Goan matka that pleasantly contrasted with the effortlessly chic milieu of the restaurant. Amid the hustle and bustle of the Calangute beach belt, ‘Love’ at The Park Calangute cuts an incongruously sophisticated dash. The all-white canvas of the restaurant is accented with aesthetic hints of purple that bring the place to life. The restaurant adopts a simple yet modern décor that is highlighted by chic acrylic chairs, plate-glass facades and whitewashed furnishings. The minimalism of the restaurant’s décor is in line with the vision of the extremely genial General Manager of the property, Saurabh Khanna, to let the food take centre stage. In his 16 years with The Park Group of Hotels, Khanna has worked in various capacities from F&B service to operations.
At ‘Love’, the heart and soul of the establishment is the food, specifically curated by Executive Chef Prasad Dalavi. Chef Prasad joined The Park Calangute in 2016, bringing with him a wealth of culinary experience, exposure to different cultures, and a distinct style of operation. That afternoon Chef Prasad along with his team crafted a sumptuous 6-course menu laden with gastronomic delights for us.
We started our meal off with the Oven Roasted Tomato-Basil Soup – served with a garlic crouton. The smooth blend of the tomato-basil rich cream had a bold zestiness that we enjoyed and was offset perfectly with the crunchy garlic crouton that elevated this perfect start.
This was followed by the Prawns Peri-Peri – served with Goan chilli sauce on a prawn-cracker. Tangy, smooth in texture and with a tinge of spice, the prawns were cooked to perfection in the sauce lending it its authentic Goan essence. The prawn cracker was served on was a nice touch – giving the dish an added zing as well as an aesthetic appeal. Next on the menu was the Pork Vindaloo Calzone – traditional pork vindaloo and mozzarella, stuffed in pizza dough and baked. Primarily at this fusion restaurant, the amalgamation of ingredients, textures and techniques is particularly reflected in this dish. We found that the calzones baked with mozzarella went surprisingly well with the delicately charred Goan sausage.
We were then presented with the Smoked Beet Carpaccio – that was a nice play on regular carpaccio, where instead of say, beef or tuna, beetroot was sliced thin and served with herbs, mustard aioli, rocket lettuce, pine nuts, and parmesan croutes. Like most salads, the plate was light and refreshing. We then moved on to the next dish – Tandoori Murgh Pizza. Another fusion dish, the thin-crust pizza served as a perfect fusion of robust Indian spices and classic Italian flavours. I love all things tandoori, so this dish particularly stood out to me. The caramelised onion added a sweet hint to the dish that perfectly juxtaposed with the spicy tandoori.
Our next course started with the Grilled Tiger Prawns, served with caponata and lemon couscous. I am not the biggest fan of prawn, mostly because of the amount of effort it takes to eat one – you have to admit, it’s messy and quite a hassle to peel each shrimp. So, I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to de-shell them. The prawns were juicy, succulent and perfectly absorbed the flavours of the curry. We both agreed that the couscous was light, fluffy and just the right amount of sweet and savoury. Next up was the Mint Pesto Chicken Tikka Mezzelune. Definitely, definitely a must-try, the dish was a perfect marriage between the two cuisines – the tikka masala was just the right amount of zesty, but not too much that it overpowered the Italian authenticity of the pasta. The melt-in-your-mouth, tender-goodness of the homemade stuffed pasta served with parsley cream and avocado shaving left our taste buds zinging for joy. This was followed by the Dum ka Gosht – succulent tender chunks of lamb swathed in a flavoursome blend of Indian traditional spices and a taste that lingered on.
At this point you’re probably thinking, this has to be the end of the meal, right? Wrong. Our next serving was the Kothambari Naarlu Chicken Biryani – basmati rice cooked with chicken, traditional Goan spices, coriander and coconut. The chicken was juicy, and the dish well seasoned – the coconut shavings, in particular, added a nice touch and texture to the traditional dish. If we weren’t nearly as stuffed by then we would definitely have asked for seconds.
For our final course, Chef Prasad curated a menu of three sensational desserts. We were started off with The Park Banoffee Pie – an interpretation of the English dessert pie made from bananas, cream and caramelized milk. For our first time tasting a Banoffee pie, we were in for a treat. It was pure gastronomical ecstacy from start to finish – from the cream to the bananalicious purée to the spongy toffee base to the caramelized milk that added an extra level of crunch. Next up was the Bebinca Flambé, which was basically the 7-layered Goan delicacy with an innovative twist – it was flambéed with dark rum and served with vanilla ice cream. Finally, we had the Blueberry Baked Cheesecake. As the name suggests, this dessert consisted of a slice of baked cheesecake served with a classic blueberry copote. A treat to the eyes as to the tongue – the blueberry cheesecake was the perfect way to cap off a delicious meal.
As a chicken nuggets and fries kinda gal, the fine dining scene is not something I usually indulge in. However, dining at ‘Love’ at The Park Calangute has definitely set the stage on an excellent note, for any future fine-dining experiences. For anyone sampling the place for the first time, we fully recommend the tasting menu with its perfectly sized portions that will leave you, as my friend Caralise said at the end of our meal, “not full, just pleasantly stuffed.”
“Our aim is to have a restaurant which caters to the residents as well as non-residents. We try to incorporate different cuisines and cultures in our dishes – a little bit of Indian, a touch of the Mediterranean, a hint of the Goan essence – something for everyone”
With an enchanting view of the Arabian sea, at this restaurant, the ambience may be relaxed but what the menu offers, is luxury at its finest. With ample options for vegetarians as well as non-vegetarians, the perfectly crafted menu, with its innovative twists to classic dishes, will have any foodie’s seal of approval. So, the next time you’re in the area, dine at ‘Love’ at The Park Calangute. Trust us, you will love it! No pun intended