Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Dinner @ Ma Goa

I'm an idiot. Now I know this isn't news to those who know me, but really I am. Since moving to London, many moons ago, I have never lived more than thirty minutes away from Ma Goa. Yet over the years, I've only eaten at this superior Indian restaurant on a handful of occasions. This despite really enjoying every meal I've ever eaten there. Yes, I'm an idiot.

This Putney veteran has been churning out Goan treats since 1993, long before regional Indian cuisine became fashionable. As the name, Ma Goa, suggests, the family matriarch is in charge of the kitchen with her son taking care of front-of-house. And like all good family restaurants, there is pride and passion in their food that is conveyed through genuinely warm and helpful service.

The Starters
Joining me for dinner was Mr Wine, and to kick off we shared a couple of starters. Our favourite was sorpotel (£5.50), a traditional Goan dish of lambs' liver and kidney with pork belly in a roasted spice masala. Given the inclement weather, this dish really hit the spot with its comforting but not overpowering kick. It's also available as a main but given its richness, I think it's better suited as a starter.

Kingfish special
Less successful was a special of kingfish steak (£5.95), marinated with lime and garlic then topped with a coconut and coriander salsa. There was nothing wrong with the generously sized pan-fried kingfish steak but we felt the salsa lacked a certain zing. I guess we might have been better predisposed to this starter but for the excellence of the sorpotel.

The Mains
I was torn between several options for my main, including an authentic pork vindaloo, but in the end I went for Goa chorizo amot-tik (£11), home-made pork chorizo with potato, palm vinegar, red chilli and garlic in a hot Goan sauce. This dish was proper spicy with a double-whammy of heat coming from the chorizo and the zesty piquant sauce. The home-made chorizo deserves a special mention, as it would give many an Iberian sausage, a run for its money.

Chorizo amot-tik, chickpeas, coconut rice and sanna
Mr Wine plumped for Ma's fish caldin (£11.25), swordfish in a fine coconut, mustard and fenugreek sauce. I had a small taste and when I did I realised my faux pas in sampling this more subtle dish having already started on my own fiery main. If I was being churlish, there could've been more swordfish but like many of the dishes, it was quite rich. Mr Wine enjoyed it but with hindsight, he might've tried something else, as he was a bit fished out.

'Ma Fish' Caldin
We also shared a side of chick peas in roasted ground spices, red chilli and tamarind (£4.25), which was a fine accompaniment to our mains. Also worthy of mention was the exceptional quality of the basmati rice with onion seeds, coconut and curry leaves. I'd be lying if I said either of us were over-enamoured by the sanna (Goan steamed coconut bread) but that doesn't mean it was bad, it just wasn't our cup of tea.

The Desserts
We were full but we took one for the blog and squeezed in some dessert in the form of kulfi (£4.75) and bibique (£4.75). There's not much to say about kulfi but I really enjoyed the bibique, a layered coconut cake that was home-made by a family friend. I hope for his sake that he negotiated a good deal, as this traditional Goan pudding was a real winner.

Other Details
If you're looking for the 'tikka masala' school of curry then you will be disappointed, as Ma Goa's relatively brief menu consists largely of Goan specialities. This is a good thing, not just because the food is authentic, but more importantly because it's tasty and freshly made. Some of the portions may appear to be slightly on the small side but I didn't find this a problem given the richness of the food.

The dining room is tastefully decorated and has a warm atmosphere. Sadly the low lighting combined with my reluctance to use flash meant that my photos didn't come out very well. With a bottle of Marlborough Pinot Noir and 12.5% service, the bill came to £90 or £45/head. Our mains and wine were amongst the most expensive and you could probably get away with spending £35/head with a more modest order.

The Verdict
Ma Goa serves top quality food in a warm setting combined with excellent service. In short, everything I look for when eating out. Highly recommended.

If you like the look of...
...Ma Goa then you might want to try Gourmet Garden or Imperial China. Whilst neither of these are Indian restaurants, they do have one thing in common with Ma Goa, they're both superior neighbourhood eateries.

Ma Goa on Urbanspoon

Ma Goa, 242-244 Upper Richmond Road, Putney, London, SW15 6TG
(Tel 020-8780-1767) Nearest stations: East Putney (Tube), Putney (Rail)


  1. This looks pretty good. I'm coming to realise that good Indian (and Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Sri Lankan)restaurants have been in London a lot longer than many (including me) gave them credit for. It's just that they were dotted around neighbourhoods, who often guarded their find jealously. I'm only now starting to find them, but what a treat they are when I have.

  2. It's always a bonus when you find one little gem. My old haunt in Hammersmith has since closed down and I am still pretty gutted about it.
    I Need another mainstay to keep me going.

  3. Gworm - you're spot on. It's definitely a case of being in the know when it comes to South Asian, or for that matter ethnic cuisine. Sadly I think Ma Goa may be a schlepp too far for you but if you ever find yourself in the area then you should definitely pay a visit.

    Mzungu - agreed. That's the thing with places like these, you don't always realise how good they are until they close or you move to a new part of town.

  4. The restaurant has some unusual sounding dishes - chorizo and dishes having innards for example. But it all sounds delicious.

  5. Three-cookies - the dishes are a bit unusual, as the Portuguese colonial influences come to the fore at Ma Goa. But most importantly, it's all very tasty!!

  6. I have never eaten Goan food, looks/sounds really tasty and quite different from the Indians I usually go to. Putney is quite a journey, but I am really curious to try...

  7. Ute - Putney might not be close to where you are but it's easier to get to than Goa! If you venture SW then you should definitely try Ma Goa.