Restaurant Review: Chef Tarun Sibal Taupes It Up With Taste In Goa

Sitting pretty in this 150-year-old bungalow in Assagao, Goa, this contemporary Indian bar and restaurant is all about celebrating India in its various flavours.

Published On Apr 18, 2024 | Updated On Apr 18, 2024


As I sat at this café on Mandrem Beach, one I had never seen before, watching the sun dip into the horizon, a flaming ball of red, everything suddenly felt normal. Up until then, I could visualise people melting in slow motion, going back to the water multiple times just to feel human. It’s April, and Goa is hot. Considerably hot. Now does that stop the beach crawlers, the beer chuggers, the party goers and the ‘vibe seekers’ to avoid this deliciously tempting State? Not even for a moment. 

And that is probably one of the reasons why Goa is always throwing surprises at its guests. From gorgeous hotels with private beaches to luxury homestays to shacks that don’t care about your relationship status, Goa has room for all kinds of wallets, leather or faux. And that goes for its food scene too. There’s just so much happening there that you can find something new to eat, drink, do, buy every month. 


The current flavour of the season is Assagao, a village that currently has some of the State’s most delightful bars and restaurants. And the latest one to join the list is Taupe. Conceived by the team of Titlie and Barfly (Taupe is attached to Barfly) the people behind this project include Karrtik Dhingra, Tarun Sibal, Shyaam Khurana and Bipin Sibal. 

Tucked inside a 150-year-old Portuguese villa, Taupe is a lovely mix of familiar and new, a trick that chef Sibal has clearly mastered. The menu is quite café-ish where the food focuses on Indian flavours — of course Goa plays a major part here — with a smattering of what one might call ‘global’. 

Walk into Taupe and you might actually expect someone to rush over and go “gosh, hasn’t it been a while, come on in and grab a seat”. No, that’s not going to happen but yes, it’s familiar and does make one feel like you’ve walked into the living room of a quaint and yet thoughtfully maintained Goan home that your aunt moved into eons ago. Everything has a touch of vintage and old school, from the art on the wall to the furniture and the fittings. I felt as if I had been here before, but of course I hadn’t. 

Creamed Burrata Papdi Chaat

My friend and I table-crashed another fellow writer's lunch and as the three of us sat at a table for two, I shovelled spoonsful of the Creamed Burrata Papdi Chaat into my mouth. It was so simple, and then ‘poshified’ with a dollop of burrata which I thought was such a clever thing to do. The Burrata itself was a bit disappointing though, I have had better, but the whole combination of papdi, the amchur chutney, a purée of pickle, jalapeño (some more cleverness here) bit of mango and sev added so many complementing textures and flavours that I would totally eat two of these. 

Soon, plates were jostling for space on our cosy table. I could hardly resist the Microgreens Chaat. Flavoured with curd, chutney and dried berries, these microgreens were deep-fried and just so much fun to eat. I had to share, sadly. The one thing that I couldn’t care about (I had not ordered this one but rather picked from someone else’s plate) was the avocado and grape salad. It had far too much salad greens in it for my comfort.  

The OG Chicken Tikka on Japani Chutney

What followed was the mutton seekh, which was lovely, especially the meat – tender and grilled just right, and would have been perfect had they toned down the spices a little. What came close to making me melt, and not from the heat, was the OG Chicken Tikka served on a bed of what chef calls the ‘Japani Chutney’, which tastes like a combo of salad dressing and Japanese mayo. The meat again was spot on, char-grilled to add a bit of that smoky crunch (only a bit) on the outside and sweet meat on the inside. This too can be put down under the list of ‘Go for Seconds’. 

Keema Pav 

Did I mention the keema pav that had me stumped? Well in all fairness I was still thinking of the chaat and totally missed the fact that the keema is not keema but soya. Well played, chef, well played. The buttered pav was not as soft as I’d have liked but who cares, I had been scammed and Sibal had the last laugh. 

Over a quick chat with chef, he tells us that the whole idea of Taupe was to bring Indian food to the forefront but give it a more contemporary perspective. But it’s not complicated. You won’t have to question your entire existence as you bite into the various dishes here. The relaxed ambience, the efficient service and the general vibe of Taupe is so Goa that if this restaurant was anywhere else, it would still be Goa. 

Chemmeen Masala

I didn’t bother with main course; the small plates and the drinks (I’ll get to that eventually) were enough. But the one appetiser that served as my main course was the Chemmeen Masala on set dosa. Those prawns were a beauty each; not only did they look perfect, they were spiced right and cooked right and served right. I let the dosa be, the prawns were enough to make my heart happy. 

The final touch to our lunch was the Apple Mille Feuille. Again, another smart idea where layers and layers and layers of apple sheets are piled on top of each other and served with a cardamon vanilla rabdi. Brilliant idea that failed to work its magic on me. Sibal said he wanted to avoid using flour/carbs and thus no real filo sheets. Slightly inspired by the Bebinca, I reckon this dessert would work if it was half its height (it’s a bit of a tall dessert), but I can imagine apple-holics devouring this one. I should have ordered the Banana Caramel Kheer

The Swizzle

The bar too focuses quite a bit on Indian flavours and you’ll find kokum, jamun, raw mangoes, roasted cumin etc in their various avatars across the cocktails. We got the Etonica but the Campari in it might have been a bit overpowering, so I had to immediately switch to a Swizzle that comes with Bombay Sapphire, fresh passion fruit and a sweet and sour mix. It cleared my palate with its simple and refreshing taste. However, the verdict from our table was that the Jamun Kokum Highball is a must-try. Next time. 

The Jamun Kokum Highball

Zee Zest Verdict: Taupe joins a whole brigade of fun and experimental restaurants in Goa, helmed by some seriously talented chefs in India. What works for this place to start with, is its aesthetics. It is comforting and welcoming and formalities don't breathe down your neck. The menu, while fairly expansive, touches upon lots of of familiar Indian food (and some European and generic global dishes) and plays around with it without going overboard. Will the food blow your mind? It depends on how frequently do you travel and eat out. But it's good and will make you smile and enjoy your meal in Goa. And your Instagram handle will thank you later. 

Address: Taupe by Titlie, Anjuna Mapusa Road, Saunto Vaddo, Assagao, Goa 

Timing: 12.30pm-3.30pm; 7pm-11.30pm 

Meal for two: INR 2,000 (approx)

Photo: Featured Restaurant; Priyadarshini Nandy