Goa. The word conjures up images and experiences of beaches, sand, saltwater, cheap booze, seafood, partying, lots of seafood, Goan pao, coconut trees, serene landscapes, and lots and lots of seafood. The first time I visited this small state nestled between Maharastra and Karnataka on the Konkan Coast was 2010 with a couple of friends, and it was the time of my life. We spent a week there and explored a number of places — mostly touristy. By the time I completed my third trip, I was done with anything touristy and wanted to explore the real Goa — the tiny beaches, the undiscovered coves, the small villages — and I did. Along with that I would continuously look out for new food haunts, constantly asking fellow Goa lovers for their suggestions. Some are commonly known and others are new discoveries. Here, I’m going to tell you about the ones I’ve been to and have loved eating at every time I’ve been to Goa.
Sunset at Colva
All restaurants in Goa serve authentic fare along with Indian, Chinese and what we call ‘Continental’ food. While some places are well-known for serving local cuisine, at others, you’d rather have other cuisines. I personally love sampling the local cuisine of any place, so a lot of these restaurants would possibly concentrate more on that.
Panjim or Panaji is a lovely combination of the Indian and Portuguese settlements. The architecture is so quaintly European, the colours are vibrant and even the naala that runs across the capital of Goa is picturesque. Viva Panjim, located behind Mary Immaculate Girls High School at Fontainhas, is a family run restaurant that has won the Times Food Award for the Best Goan Food almost every year consecutively — and this year, too. The restaurant is known for its authentic Goan food. One of the best dishes I ever had here was on my first trip — Calamari in Recheado masala, Chilli Prawns and the best Chicken Vindaloo with Goan Pao. You can also go for the Kingfish fried in Recheado masala and the butter garlic prawns. Viva Panjim has always been full of people every time I’ve gone, but there’s always place for more. The price is reasonable and service is okay — but then the general service in Goa is nothing to rave about really.
One of the northern most beaches in Goa is Anjuna, where the Wednesday flea market takes place every week. Just near the location for the flea market is an extended part of the beach where you can find the ever popular shack Curlies. Famous for its parties, Curlies is a more serene space in the day, which is what I love about it. The upper portion of the shack has floor seating with long tables overlooking the beach and the sea – simply idyllic. One of the best things there is the barbecue pizza and the tempura prawns with a sweet chilli sauce. Other stuff you can try is the lasagne (looks a bit weird, but tasty nonetheless), the fish fingers and chilli prawns.
Both these places are known for their live music and authentic Goan fare. While Souza’s is more reasonably priced, Martin’s is quite expensive but worth the experience.
Souza Lobo is located at the edge of Calangute beach, which is the most crowded and tourist infested beach in Goa along with Baga and Anjuna. The food is good, and the music in the evenings is even better. Go there for a glimpse into the locals’ life, where they love to drink and take to the dance floor with their loved ones. Here, I’d suggest the authentic fare — either the fish curry and rice, the gassi, chicken xacuti/cafreal, etc.
Martin’s is located at Benaulim in South Goa. The interiors are beautiful. As you enter the space, you can’t help but notice the freezer with colourful lobster, fish and prawns proudly put on display. Dishes to note are the Tandoori Tiger Prawns (priced at a whopping Rs 800) and the tender coconut pudding (not too sweet and melt-in-your-mouth). The butter garlic prawns are good, too. A one-time-visit is a must.
I love South Goa more than the North simply because its more untouched, there are fewer tourists and the beaches are cleaner. During my third trip to Goa, we stayed at Palolem beach, which has the most sophisticated restaurants and shacks. There were many that we wanted to try out and Cafe Del Mar was one of them. Turns out, it had received the Times Food Award for the Best Nightlife Place a year or so ago. The continental food over here is delicious. I’d recommend the Roasted Chicken Pizza, Pasta Alfredo, Onion Rings, Calamari in Butter Garlic, and definitely, the Mint and Lemon Coolade. The prices are quite reasonable and the view is breathtaking. Cafe Del Mar also offers rooms to stay in. I think, I’m going to stay there the next time I visit Goa.
There are many other places to visit here — Infantaria on Calangute-Baga Road, Brittos on Baga Beach, Thallasaria on Anjuna, Fipleys in Madgaon, Hotel Mandovi and Mum’s Kitchen in Panaji. I’ll be reviewing Mum’s Kitchen in my next post. Till then, I’ll leave you with a few of my prized photos of Goa. Hope you enjoy them and do give me a lowdown on the eateries you like to visit in Goa.