-By Odette Mascarenhas
History engulfs you in Mandovi Hotel named after the majestic river, in which Adil Shah, the sultan of Bijapur, had crocodiles so huge that they could upset a big boat or swallow a big bull, to keep intruders at bay. Rio Rico, a restaurant in this hotel, is thus a tradition and legacy of the past. And with the spread it serves, one can imagine what the crocodiles felt - ravenous. The restaurant is designed in the Art Deco concept, the baby grand piano on the stage still a legacy since the hotel's inception. The kitchens of this hotel have been catering to celebrities galore. The waiter walks softly across the wooden floor. The marble around it originated from Italy. Old favourites are Chicken Cafreal, Prawn Curry/Rice with Kishmur, and Pork Vindaloo. Your mind drifts back in time to the diners who would vend their way up the red carpeted staircase, hand over their hats and cloaks to the hat check room on the landing, and straighten their ties before the large ornate mirror before entering the restaurant. There used to be a strict dress code in those days, and from 1952 to 1961, the guests, at a princely sum of Rs. 600 a month, could have all the meals in the house absolutely free, and were even free to invite their guests to tea. Even in 1954, when there was an economic blockade imposed by the Government of India, the steaks were got from South Africa and Argentina, oranges from Israel, potatoes from Holland and apples from Japan. Since 1952, the restaurant has stood as a beacon for every boat entering the river with tourists galore, and its legacy in terms of Goan atmosphere, grandeur, ambience, food, tradition and culture will linger on for many more years to come.
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