Rajah Sahib Tavern and Tandoori GrillCurry 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 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 rejected Mendonca's claim that some of the food was for his personal use.
He 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.
Mendonca, 61, was fined $3750 and Candolim, the family company, was fined $35,000 and ordered to pay court costs of almost $13,000.
As a company director Mendonca's 83-year-old mother Deonisia Mendonca was also convicted on seven food handling charges and fined $700.
Melbourne City Council said it welcomed the decision.
Food inspectors close high-profile restaurant
By Lyall Johnson
April 1 2002
A well-known Indian restaurant that was selling insect-infested food has been closed by the Department of Human Services - the first such forced closure in the City of Melbourne for 13 years.
Rajah-Sahib Tavern and Tandoori Grill in Queen Street was also found by inspectors to have mould on more than 50 food items, a large quantity of liquid leaking through the roof of the kitchen, mouse droppings, and "open food containers. . stored in unsealed and inappropriate areas".
City of Melbourne environment committee chairwoman Kate Redwood said the council did not have the power to close the restaurant and went through the Department of Human Services, on the grounds that the restaurant was a "serious and immediate danger to public health".
The council intends prosecuting Rajah-Sahib's management for breaches of the Food Act.
Manager Larry Mendonca, 51, and the family company, Candolim Pty Ltd, were last year convicted of 12 offences under the Food Act, including preparing food not fit for human consumption.
The council was alerted by a member of the public.
By KATIE LAPTHORNE
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