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Restaurant review: A grumpy good time

Goa’s newest dining spot promises to kick the grumps out of you with good Asian tapas and innovative cocktails

(Left) The outdoor seating at Grumps; and a selection of dishes.
(Left) The outdoor seating at Grumps; and a selection of dishes.

If you’ve lived in Goa long enough, you will know that the true advertisement of a place isn’t on social media or through reviews or awards or best lists. It is word of mouth, not to be confused with the village grapevine that thrives on gossip.

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As someone deluged with emails and invites to new restaurants and bars almost every week, I rely heavily on this old-school method when choosing a place to dine. When two Goan friends spoke highly about the place, and a third happened to know the owner, I was intrigued enough to go check out Grumps.

On a Monday night, we made our way to Grumps. The restaurant sits in a part of Sangolda that isn’t developed yet but there are prevalent signs of that current scourge on the Goan landscape, villas. For now, it is absolutely dark and quiet, which is a positive sign.

Grumps is the creation of Kartik Vasudeva and his partner, Agrini Satyarthi. Both bring with them an impressive experience roster of managing and marketing restaurants like The Bombay Canteen, O Pedro, Bomras and Izumi. The duo moved to Goa in 2020, and soon began dreaming of their own space. The concept and menu were born during a four-month trip across Europe and Asia. Perseverance and a never-give-up attitude helped them find a space — “we convinced the owners we just wanted their backyard”, says Kartik; and an architect to realise their vision — Rochelle Santimano of Studio Praia, a known face in the Goan architecture space. Together, they transformed the outhouse, storage shed and backyard of the Goro House into a fun, welcoming and homely space. Grumps opened on January 6.

On the night of our meal — Grumps opens for lunch only on the weekends — there’s a buzz in the air. As Spanish and Latin music streams from the speakers, we learn it is a farewell party for their bartender, Heena Kewalramani, who returns back to Barcelona after a week-long stint.

In her honour, we try some of her favourite drinks, I Love the Dough (which Goan doesn’t, after all?). The clear whiskey drink has a strong yeasty flavour from a sweet bun syrup, and a lingering sweetness from oloroso sherry. It’s an unusual flavour, which grows on me with each sip. My companion opts for the Mo Money, More Problems, a cocktail version of wine and cheese if you may. It comes with a (tiny) slice of Eleftheria Cheese’s award-winning brunost. Mo pairs Scotch infused with brunost, and absinthe in a drink that is reminiscent of a sweet but spirit-forward boulevardier.

Grumps’ menu feeds on the couple’s love for Asian food. In the kitchen are chefs Rutwik Gadgil and Rajib Gurung, who put a new spin on Asian tapas. It’s a short menu, just one page, but with enough options to satisfy vegetarians and carnivores. Service is quick and efficient, and we barely have to wait for our food. Slow Cooked Beef Croquette, which is quite unlike the versions you find in small bakeries across Goa. A crispy coating breaks apart to reveal beef that’s sotender and soft, it melts in the mouth like fat. By the side is a meaty dipping jus, redolent with star anise and herbs. Props for giving a big bowl of jus, because it is worthy of being eaten by the spoon. Grilled Beef Tongue takes my favourite offal, and gives it an upgrade with a touch of the grill and a bright, crunchy salad. Sichuan fried Chicken is perfectly crispy with a thin batter and an abundance of burnt garlic. The Lamb Krapow Kebab is moist and meaty, with the slightest caramelised hint. Surprisingly, a highlight from the sharing plates menu is vegetarian. Portobello, king and button mushroom come together in a delicious, umami, smoky medley. There’s a runny egg yolk for ‘grease’ and an Asian chimichurri for brightness.

On a Monday night, Grumps is packed. People mill about at the bar watching Heena in action. The seating is outside, under fruiting trees, with dim lights. There are some Goan touches — laterite stone, cane backed chairs and the light fixtures. The washroom has a large mural by illustrator Saumya Shukla, showcasing a bunch of characters (human and otherwise) just chilling. At the back is a small prep bar, with a little sit-out from where you can watch the mixologists at work. We watch them drip a solution of whey, which is done in time for us to try the drink it goes into, a version of a banana colada called The Less I Know The Better. The drink sounds like sound advice, and is heavy on the whey, making us wish for more banana flavour. Meanwhile, Nimble Bastard turns out to actually be a sweet guy — a lemony drink of gin, bourbon and strawberry.

Replete on the sharing plates, we order just one of the ‘bigger plates’. Here, that thali favourite, chonak is steamed, drenched in lime and chilli and served with a side of white rice to cut down the spice. It’s a fish-curry-rice you wouldn’t expect in Goa. We skip dessert for a cocktail but Kartik insists on sending us a creamy Crème Brulee (from handmade by Namrata Pai).

In Goa’s burgeoning hospitality scene, Grumps stands out for one big reason: they haven’t done any publicity. “We are conditioned to think that PR and publicity is the way to get customers. Goa doesn’t work like that. We wanted to cater to people who live here, and have this become their neighbourhood place. They become regulars and then advocates for the place. That’s more genuine,” says Kartik.

The decision to not take themselves seriously seems to be the overarching theme of the place. The name was chosen because “we’ve both been called grumps at some point in our lives”, the food is “a fun take on Asian flavours’”, the vibe is friendly without being too focussed on a theme, and they don’t call themselves a bar or restaurant preferring “to let people come and see what they feel about the place”.

To us, Grumps feels like the ideal place to kick away the grumps or weekday blues, in the company of our favourite grumps.

House No, 58 B, Grumps St, behind Chogm Road, Sangolda; 7pm to 12am Wednesday to Monday; 12.30-3.30pm Saturday, Sunday. For reservations, contact 9226396226. 

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