Living abroad long term offers certain challenges, and for me, access to the food I love from back home is probably the biggest. When feeling a bit down, I inevitably descend into a maudlin reverie about such things as Pot Noodles, Cheddar cheese, Admiral's Pies, Kingsmill Bread, and of course, the UK's favourite, Curry.
It took almost two years for us to venture out to Goa indian restaurant - the word of mouth was good, but the suspicion held that it simply wouldn't cut it against what we were used to back home. That fear of disappointment kept us away, especially having had our fears confirmed at the Taj in Brno centre. What could this little place offer?
Well, I'm delighted to report that the Goa has crossed 'Curry' off my list of must-eats when I next get back to England.
Situated on a quiet street away in Zidenice, Goa is situated in a small but modern brick cellar. Decor is minimal, and the expected Indian music in the background tends toward modern and subtle compared to the Raj's harem themed Curry Houses back home.
While the atmosphere was initially quite hushed, to the point where you feel everyone is keeping their voices down in case the next table overhears, it was encouraging to see the place pretty full for 4pm on a Saturday afternoon. And what we saw on other people's plates gave us something rare in Brno - tantalised tastebuds tingling with anticipation.
Poppadums came out appropriately as an appetiser, with a cool mint dip and an extremely hot chilli dip. The heat of the chilli also gave encouragement - this could be the real deal.
No disappointment when the main course arrived - the chicken madras was not hot, but beautifully spiced, and the pieces of chicken just fell apart with the slightest coaxing of knife and fork, wonderfully tender. The naans were big, fluffy and crispy, the rice soft and fragrant.
Service was courteous, English is spoken, and the only slight downside was the beer was a little flat and on the warm side - when I'm eating a curry, I like to have an ice cold beer to hand.
This is an excellent spot for an Indian, and I'd almost go so far as to say it's one of the best Indians I've had, if I wasn't viewing it through a filter of nostalgia, memory and flavour-starvation since my time in Brno. I can categorically state that Goa offered me the most enjoyable meal I've ever had in the Czech Republic, including high end restaurants in Prague.
"Goa" also offer a lunch special, with a different selection each week day, from 75czk - 113czk, depending on options.
Favorite Dish: The chicken madras, which is my usual, wasn't as hot as I'm used to, but better for it. I'm unusually conservative when ordering Indian - while I usually like to experiment, I love what I love so much at the curry house, I don't want to deviate and be disappointed.
However, Goa's food was so good, and the confidence I have in their ability is such that I am prepared to spend the next few months systematically going through every dish on their menu!
Satyam Pension & Indian Restaurant makes it's home just across the road from the main entrance of the BVV Exhibition Center, and the prime location for capturing the trade of visiting business men is reflected in the price of their food - their main dishes are on average 50czk more expensive than the less-conveniently situated "Goa".
The cash-in vibe continues, as it is also conveniently situated 10m along the path from a "House of Ill Repute", and while the restaurant and bar are newly refurbished, clean, and have notional touches to create an "Indian Restaurant"-style atmosphere, the general ambiance more closely resembles a bar & restaurant in a Travel Lodge.
Once seated, the usual awkwardness of being in a room quiet enough to hear other's conversations set in, and unfortunately that never quite went away throughout the meal, unlike "Goa", which is more cosy and usually packed.
The meal left me with mixed feelings; I ordered my usual, Chicken Madras, and waited with anticipation - fully 40czk more expensive than it's counterpart at "Goa", surely it would be something special?
The first disappointment was the poppadoms - they came out before the meal, but without anything to dip them in. I love a poppadom, but they do tend to get a bit samey without anything to scoop up with them.
The Madras was a mixed bag - it was certainly hotter than Goa's, but the spicing wasn't as subtle, and the chicken was nowhere near as tender. It would certainly be a better curry for staggering out of the pub, because when I'm lashed I like a hot dirty one, but overall for a meal "Goa" beats it hands down, price, food and atmosphere-wise.
The service was courteous and the waiters spoke English; they also have daily lunch specials, and there is a pension in the building, with prices varying wildly depending which visiting circus is currently in town. If you're visiting and staying anywhere near the center, and fancy making a little trek for a curry, head in the direction of "Goa" instead.
Favorite Dish: Chicken Madras - If I'm in the area and just fall out of a pub, I'd probably head back again for a dirty hot curry. Despite my disappointment, I'll head back again to try some of the other dishes.