I should, and will, start by telling you that Estado da India is a Portuguese Indian restaurant. This does not mean that your balti can be ordered in six levels of heat, from lemon and herb to “fuck me, pass the milk”, nor does it entail them having a lovely pichana tikka masala, though both are great ideas worthy of Dragons Den. It means that it’s the food of Goa; the place where the hairy-arsed Brits go to say they completed India by burning to a crisp on a beach and the Portuguese once ruled, bringing cheeky Christianity with them. Goa can be an odd place to travel, four hours drive from Arambol in the north where the hippies go to take drugs, to Palolem in the south where the young kids use their chiselled bodies to chip notches on to their bedposts. The middle bit is where the fat Brits go to drink with the fat Russians. Been to all three and happy to confirm I like the south the most, but felt more at home in the middle. It’s the birthplace of the vindaloo, the place to go for Xacutti, and the only holiday I’ve ever had where a traffic jam was caused by a driver waiting for a snake to cross a road. When it comes to Goa I’ve got the t-shirt and shat the bed.
We are told that it’s two-to-three dishes per person with the idea to share, so we order four each. We are also told that the kitchen will send the dishes as they are ready. All eight arrive at the same time. A beef vindaloo, spiked with vinegar and with warming heat was hugely enjoyable and big enough to share, as was a lacklustre dhaal, and masala fries with a vibrant chutney that sit between the orange and red on the heat scale. A solitary skewer of fiery chicken with some great herby rice – yours for £6.75 – was not. I bring up the portion size to be told that they only use the finest ingredients, which is interesting because up the road, at one of the best restaurants in the city they used to do three skewers on the bar menu for 25p less. The same applies to the £11 cod, smaller than a fag packet. The flavour is delicate and well-judged, but you can’t share this between two people. There’d be murder if you came here as a group.
I speak to the GM about the portion sizes. Surely you can’t share dishes of this size, and even if you could, two or three of the wrong dishes each and you would leave starving. He tells me that the idea is that you order that amount and then go back to order more if you are hungry. That goes against recommended portion size at the beginning I tell him, is misleading, and has potential to have an intended spend doubled. The remaining dishes on our order; a chorizo ring skewer the diameter of a beer mat, a bowl of peas, and a mince lamb pastry bun as tasty as four mouthfuls get, wouldn’t feed anyone to a satisfactory level. It has to be looked at.
We go on the last night of a soft launch and have a bill of just under £40 with 50% off. You can expect a bill of £40-60 per head with booze. I was still hungry.The best bits are punchy and packed with flavour, the rest is pretty standard fare, but then this isn’t the problem. The Indian culture is based on generosity; feed others before you feed yourself; of charity and kindness. This feels meagre. My gut reaction is that it could do well in a very affluent part of town if they address the issues. Until then I’ll be spending similar amounts at Dishoom and Zindiya and leaving far more content.
- estado da India,
- food blog,
- meat and one veg,
- small plates,