Food: Mcleod Ganj eatery's wood-fired pizzas now make it to Goa
Prateik Babbar and R Bala Murugan's Morgan's Pizza, McLeod Ganj's must-visit eatery specialising in wood-fired pizzas, makes it to North Goa's scenic village
Mcleod ganj in Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh is known for a couple of things — the Dalai Lama, its spiritual vibe, the gorgeous weather, momos and Morgan's Pizza, not necessarily in that order. Morgan's tops almost every must-visit list, and if you speak to locals, "have you eaten at Morgan's?" is a common refrain. Nestled in the hills of Dharmkot, a 20-minute walk from McLeod's main square, Morgan's specialises in wood-fired pizzas, which you enjoy while taking in the stunning view of the valley below.
Morgan's Place in Goa
Co-owner R Bala Murugan (Murugan became Morgan) says theirs is the only restaurant that's open all year round. "The crowd never stops coming," says the 42-year-old, who ran away from his home in Kanyakumari at 13, worked at a tea-stall in Mumbai at 14, travelled to Rajasthan and worked there as a dishwasher, before ending up in Dharamshala, where he opened the eatery. In 2002, he shifted to Andaman, to open another restaurant but fate had something else in store. "I opened the doors of my restaurant on December 25, 2004, and by morning, the tsunami had swept everything away. My life's savings were gone."
R Murugan and Prateik Babbar with the Dalai Lama
He returned to Dharamshala and opened a shack called Out of the Blue, from where he hawked pizza. It was a friendship with actor Prateik Babbar that turned the fate of the restaurant around. "I met Muru in Goa a few years ago. He was friends with all my friends. He was the biggest star," Babbar tells us. The actor, battling drug addiction was going through a low phase, and visited Dharamshala to find a spot of peace. "Muru and I became good friends. He needed money to spruce up Morgan's and I believed in the food coming out of there. He fed me a lot of pizza!" says the actor, who gradually became co-owner. One thing led to another and the restaurant was re-launched as Morgan's in 2013. Babbar is modest about his involvement in the venture, especially when we tell him we had no idea he had turned restaurateur. "I didn't want to make a big deal. It happened so organically," he shrugs. But Murugan insists credit be given where due. "It was like a jhuggi before Prateik came on board," says Murugan, "Also, people should know that Prateik wasn't just wasting his time when he wasn't doing movies. He used his break well."
The interiors of Morgan's in Sangolda
Now, four years later, they, have opened an outpost in Sangolda. Their pizza/barbecue/seafood fine dine is housed in a Portuguese villa and designed by Nisha and Tarun Sahani, who worked on the Mcleod Ganj restaurant too. "We want it to be a continuation [in theme]," says Babbar, to which Murugan adds, "The same chef oversees this outpost too. He has been with us for years. I think he owns the place more than us." Aiming to draw the chill crowd rather than the partygoers, Morgan's Goa, Babbar says, is all about pursuing their passion for feeding people. "I love food, but I have realised I love feeding people too. And our hearts belong to Goa. So come to Morgan's, have a pizza or just a coffee. We are open and we are serving."
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