Friday, May 30, 2003


Curry king Mendonca served with $40,000 fine


Curry king Larry Mendonca's crusty chutneys and mouldy chillies yesterday cost the connoisseur and his company almost $40,000 in fines.

Mendonca's celebrated restaurant, the Rajah Sahib Tavern and Tandoori Grill, had earned a reputation as a favourite for touring cricket teams (It would be exceptionally cheap to make any comment about cricket teams and "runs". I am turning over a new leaf and shall cease and desist ... God, it hurts!) and showbiz stars.
But the Melbourne Magistrates' Court heard that business had plunged since publicity about the discovery of mouldy chicken and rotting tomatoes at the eatery.

Sharon Cure, for Mendonca, told the court that the once celebrated Indian restaurant now had virtually no income.

She said her client had been stressed by the whole case.

Earlier, the court heard that council health officials had shut down the restaurant after they had found mouldy food during an inspection in March last year.

When it re-opened a month later another inspection uncovered a bowl of chopped chillies topped with mould.

The restaurant has been closed since December when Melbourne City Council refused to renew the Queen St restaurant's registration.

Magistrate Julian Fitz-Gerald found Mendonca guilty on eight charges including handling food in a way to render it unsuitable and failing to keep premises clean and free from pests.

But Mr Fitz-Gerald dismissed charges relating to food said to be up to eight years past its expiry date. He also said it was not claimed that Mendonca ever planned to serve the dodgy food.

Yesterday Mr Fitz-Gerald said he had a feeling of sadness about the case.

"If it is true that this was at one stage a highly recognised and profitable restaurant and in the course of that Mr Mendonca gained some celebrity . . . then it is a sad day," he said.

Mr Fitz-Gerald said Mendonca may need to face that he was no longer capable of running the business.

"The reality may be that he's just not capable of running it properly as food legislation requires him to," he said.

Mr Fitz-Gerald said there was no bad intent in what Mendonca did, but said it smacked of carelessness.