Chanachur at Mocambo

Mocambo is more of a Kolkata Heritage Site than an eatery, to me. My childhood, and parts of my adulthood, was spent dissecting and eating the Devilled Crab and the Prawn Cocktail (damn the allergies), and it was one of the first places where I tasted alcohol (and yes, I was not old enough, and they did not want to see my ID card). Right after India gained independence, Mocambo started off, and was more popular as a nightclub (complete with musical performances like its compatriot, Moulin Rouge, Kolkata) till the late 1970s, when the music died. But, although the music came to an end, patrons flocked in for the food, and the old world charm.

Bloody Mary at Mocambo

Mocambo offers to you the charms of British Colonial cuisine, modified according to the taste and ingredient availability. Naturally, a number of the dishes they serve up are an Indian version of popular British dishes, and most of the recipes have remained unchanged over the decades, with additions made here and there. They do make a series of common, and well-mixed cocktails, and my Bloody Mary, with bottled tomato juice and vodka, came with a rim of salt which I licked off completely by the time I had finished it. A bowl of chanachur stood on one side – salty, crunchy sticks and shapes of deep fried gram flour tossed with spices and fried peanuts. We opted out of the appetizers, and ordered our mains straight away.

Chicken Chipolata at Mocambo

M’s Chicken Chipolata was a disappointing affair with overcooked macaroni, peas, store-bought tomato-sauce gravy, and a slice of caramelized onions, soaked in a brown… thing. The chicken and the sausages could not save it.

Chateaubriand Steak with Pepper Sauce at Mocambo

C’s Chateaubriand Steak was served with a pepper sauce and mash, carrots and peas, and there was an option to make it into a sizzler which C wisely declined. I have always felt that putting a steak on a sizzler plate takes it from medium-rare to well-done in no time, and although the steak was slightly cold by the time C got to it, it was still really tender (I tasted!) and the pepper sauce was mild and thankfully not too spicy.

Fish Steak at Mocambo

IK had, at this point, ordered a fish steak after a considerable amount of contemplation. I was not too fond of it, because the fish seemed not too fresh, and had a fairly strong fishy smell about it, but the mushroom sauce was nice.

Ham Steak at Mocambo

SK had ordered a Ham Steak, after the server ruefully told him that there was no pork available, especially pork with fat. The Ham Steak is not really my thing – too much sweetness and too little ham. I stuck to my standard order, therefore.

Chicken Supreme at Mocambo

And here it is! My Standard Order at Mocambo (apart from those times when I want the beefsteak) – Chicken Supreme – A layer of blistered creamy cheese covers a slice of chicken breast topped with ham, floating in a thick white sauce, with some mash in the bottom, and some blanched carrots and cooked peas on top. Although the dish was underseasoned, the cheese, ham, and the chicken combination worked, and I was supremely full by the time the last pea was consumed.

Baked Alaska at Mocambo

SK was quite keen on ordering dessert, and well, I have always been charmed by the visual beauty of a burning Baked Alaska brought to the table, blue flame charring the outer layer into a dark color. A veritable mountain of unsweetened meringue, however, was not the best sign for me, and the fact that my first spoonful ended up with me swallowing a slice of banana (my personal Kryptonite, I am alternately terrified by and disgusted with banana), sort of made me put down my spoon.

Orange Soufflé at Mocambo

The orange soufflé was actually much better, and although we all longed for it to contain real orange instead of artificial flavorings, the soufflé itself was one of those dishes which took me back to my childhood, looking at my aunt while she spoon fed me cold soufflé. Unlike a regular baked soufflé, this has to be made by whipping eggs and cream continually over a double boiler for the better part of an hour, and the result is fluffy cream touched mildly with orange.

Mocambo to me would always remind me of growing old. It is the posh place my father would take me to as a child because we wanted beefsteak and not tell ma, it is the place I took my best friend to after getting my first job, and it is the place where I go when I want food with no surprised attached to it. But when the standards and service falls, that’s when I feel sad and linger on the memories of days gone by.

Written by Poorna Banerjee

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