Almost all of us have a go-to place, a place that never gets things wrong. Like a long lasting affair of the heart, it's pleasing and secure.
For me, that place has to be Boca Grande. Yes, I'm a foodie and I love experimenting with different food from various pockets of the world, but whenever i seek good, filling food I make a beeline for Boca.
Boca sits pretty in a converted house. Walk in, and you'll see wooden benches standing on pebbles and cobblestones. One wall is dominated by a water feature, and placed between the gentle trickles are, rather quirkily, rear view mirrors.
Push open the door adjoining this semi al fresco area and you step into the ground floor of this eatery. If you're guilty of indulging your sweet tooth a tad too often, your eyes will be magnetically drawn to the dessert display at the counter. Mousse cake, cheese cake, chocolate sprinkles.... mmmm! And all this before you've even taken a single bite!
The ground floor has comfortable chairs and futons to sink into, with lighting that's not too bright and retro posters that perk up the ambience. It's the non-smoking section of the place - a tongue-in-cheek poster declares 'We Kick Butt!'
Climb the stairs and you'll find yourself in smoky fields. Yes, you can light up here. This floor is open on the sides, and I always try to bag one of the seats on the edges, cos who doesn't enjoy some fresh air, albeit tinged with tobacco, during a meal? The seating pretty much mirrors what's on the floor below, and a charming touch are the antiquey lamps hanging from the wooden rafters.
The service here is somewhat iffy. Sometimes they're spot on, serving food, water and taking orders with the efficiency of a Fortune 500 company. At other times, they just don't care, cloaked in a general air of tardiness. And guys, don't depend on them for recommendations. The colourful, elaborate menu has detailed descriptions of every dish, so trust your judgment, whisper a prayer and chances are very good that what they place before you will be delicious. :)
And now for the food. I'm rather proud to say that I've sampled almost everything it offers (50 visits and counting!) and here are some of my personal favourites.
The BBQ Chicken Wings are quite pleasing, slathered in a sauce that's tangy and not tongue-scorchingly hot. The Fish Fingers and Chicken Nuggets taste somewhat similar, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Crumb-fried and non greasy on the outside, with soft, tender meat on the inside, they are a good start to the meal. The salads are fresh and zesty, and I love their classic Caesar Salad, and the Egg Salad - egg whites stuffed with pesto, which is simple and delicious.
The crepes here are fabulous. The Smoked Chicken Crepe is a sure shot - the slightly sweet flavour of the pancake perfectly complements the creamy, smoky flavour of the chicken filling.
If you love a good, meaty burger, then the Cock a Doodle Doo won't let you down. The fried chicken inside is a bit similar to the way a certain Colonel makes it, but this, paired with a thick slice of salami between two fresh buns makes for one really nice burger! The Steak burger is good too, a generous amount of meat flavoured with a peppery sauce that finds itself on the fries as well.
If the whole burger-sandwich routine is really not your thing, opt for one of the dishes in the main course section. The Chicken Lasagna is cheesy, tomatoey (when in need, invent a word, just like Will Shakespeare!) and served with crunchy garlic bread. The Grilled Chicken Saltimbocca is chicken in a creamy white sauce, served with a potato pancake and steamed greens. I love this dish! If you like red meat, try the Chef's Lamb Special. A delicious lamb gravy served on buttered rice and topped off with melted cheese, it might be a weight watcher's worst nightmare, but a few extra minutes at the gym the next day is a small price to pay for a dish that balances a melange of flavours so effortlessly.
If you want to make like the Romans and order pastas and pizzas, go right ahead, you wont regret it. The pizzas here are superbly baked - with thin crusts, fresh toppings and gooey, stretchy cheese. The Chik Fungi is a good option and Boca does a basic Margherita very well too.
When you need a sugar rush to end the meal on a high, look no further than the Oozy Goozy, a semi-molten chocolate cake served with snowy vanilla ice cream. Perfect and well-worth the half hour's wait for it.
What's the damage? A meal for two, with starters, main course and dessert would be anywhere from Rs. 500-700. Not a very princely sum when you take into account the portions and the quality of food.
Whenever I'm here, I always see a few familiar faces, other Boca fans like me. That's it's charm. Once you like it, it'll become one of the fixtures on your culinary map.