We entered the humble Highway Gomantak through its quaint thick rural doors and were instantly greeted with the aroma of monumental flavours we had heard so much about. As we sat down for lunch, Vishal Potnis, son of Ramesh Potnis, the owner took us through the legacy of this seafood heaven.
“The restaurant started in 1991 with 16 chairs. Now we have gone up to 160. We’ve also opened a new branch called Chala Gomantak in Dadar. We’re born and brought up in Bandra My father worked in Glaxo for 35 years at Worli and was the first person in Glaxo to take VRS.”
“Everybody who ate mom’s cooking loved it. So we thought, why not start a tiffin service? But if we were planning to start a service why not directly open an eatery? Since we’re pure goans, we’ve always preferred Non-veg. We only serve veg thali and no Punjabi items. What we do serve though is all the fish that you get in the market except squid and lobster because they both require vinegar which we don’t use in our cooking.”
“My father wanted a source of income post retirement and he was interested in a business. He also had a philosophy that since he had worked for 35 year, his 2 daughters wouldn’t need to work. I have a big brother, Prabhal and he holds a B.Tech Mechanical degree. Even he worked for just 2 years with Mahindra Jeep. I’m 48 and haven’t had a job ever! There was a time when I wanted to work abroad on the big rigs but a job was not in my life story, hahaha!”
“I had the passion to start my own restaurant and with encouragement from my parents, I opened Highway Gomantak. Back then, we had very small menu. A veg thali would go for Rs. 12, a fish thali for Rs. 25 and a chicken thali for Rs. 20. We also served prawns masala and shells. Now we have 52 different gravies while the fish fries are different dishes.”
“The people who come here prefer fish. In fact our legacy dish is the Pomfret yellow curry. It was the first curry we served. The Pomfret thali is also our fastest moving dish. Now we also serve Surmai, Halva, Bhangda, Oysters, Crab, Baby Shark, Prawns and even Gaboli Koshimbir (spicy fish egg salad)!”
“The name Highway Gomantak was decided by our whole family! My mamas were active participants in the naming process. Finally, my chota mama, whose name is Nitin suggested the name Highway Gomantak since we are close to the highway and we are of the Goan community. When we started, we didn’t plan any vaastu, but now our patrons come and say that the vaastu is very good!”
“We are a joint family and we run the business together along with my wife and bhabhi. Each of us has a part to play in the restaurant. My father has been manning the counter for the last 27 years without pay! You could say, he’s addicted to the counter, haha! My wife comes in at 7 and manages the kitchen. I take care of the orders and the grocery shopping. I go to Crawford market twice a week at 5 AM. There are at least 10,000 people in the market at that time. I’ve been here for 27 years now and I can say that it’s Mumbai’s biggest fish market. You can buy 1 or 100kg. It’s all by the kilo. Even our staffs have been working with us for around 20 years. They are like family now.”
“All the credit for Gomantak’s success goes to mom. The dishes are totally home-made and mom makes the masalas and that’s a secret!” he says as he bursts out laughing! “Now I don’t want to change anything about the setup or the menu. The people already love it!”
“Everyone comes to our restaurant from VIPs to rickshaw wallas. However, since we are near a corporate area, about 80% of our clients are corporate. Since we don’t have veg varieties, our main business days are Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Mondays and Tuesdays the business is 50% less.”
“Pramod Mahajan came to eat here once with his family. And by a strange coincidence, the fan stopped working the moment he sat down. We requested him to move but he was quite adamant and said he would eat only on that table. After the meal, when we asked for a review, he wrote in Marathi: Aswargiya anubhav (out-of-the-world experience)! We still can’t forget this compliment! It was May when he came to eat, and in that heat he ate with sweat pouring and gave a compliment like that. Such a gentleman!“
“Our first customer, Mr. Pednekar still comes to us! He’s 80 now. I still remember we had served him the veg thali. In the end, if you are a fish lover and a Goan food fan, you will love our food. I’m very happy with how things are running. Let’s see what the next generation will do.”
With our bellies full of Goan style heaven, we happily headed to our homes for a much needed siesta!
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