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Got the munchies in Goa? Where the experts eat
Goa chef Shilarna Vaze’s recommendations for bakery breakfasts, beach brunches, sunset suppers and flea market food
For the past five years I have been cooking for a living in Goa during the six-month “season” which starts late October and ends in early April.
Stricter visa rules, the police closing down raves at 10 p.m. and other issues have evolved Goa’s avatar from international trance mecca to global food destination. Now, where to go for dinner is one of the most crucial decisions you can make.
Here’s my ideal eating itinerary for hippy hipsters, which includes where to swim, walk and shop to work up an appetite.
Breakfast at Baba Au Rhum
My perfect Goa day starts with being swept off for breakfast on “Terror,” my Swiss boyfriend Christophe Perrin’s name for his Indian motorbike, a black modified Enfield Bullet.
We’re heading to Baba Au Rhum, the best bakery in Goa for pain au chocolat, croissants and all things sweet.
Leo Michaud runs this cute, little bakery and pizzeria in Arpora with his wife Dayini Michaud.
Baba Au Rhum serves frozen croissants and pain au chocolat which Goans pop into their ovens. Like we used to at our restaurant Gaia in Aswem, which Christophe and I ran for one season last year.
Must-try at Baba Au Rhum: Chocolate passion fruit tart, the strawberry tart, the tangy lemon tart and the bakery’s beautiful mille-feuille pastry.
Breakfast for two approximately Rs 500 (US$10).
Baba Au Rhum, opposite Uttam Resorts, near Club Cubana, Bardez, Arpora; +91 98220 78759
Beach brunches and late lunches
Late mornings and afternoons are made for beach bumming and the best beach in North Goa is calm, clean Aswem beach. Hop over to Jade Jagger’s accessories store there, in between swims.
Head to Gopal’s for a juice or a beer, then stop by the French-run beach restaurant La Plage to make a quick reservation. They are one of the busiest restaurants in Goa so place your order for a beef carpaccio, soy sesame tuna and the original fondant au chocolat.
Gopal’s, Aswem beach, next to La Plage, Aswem beach; +91 98226 86585
Meal for two approximately Rs 1,500 (US$30) at La Plage, on Aswem beach; +91 98221 21712
While you’re waiting for a table walk down to the ocean for a dip, tan on Aswem’s sunbeds-for-rent and slip into a pre-lunch snooze.
Or if you are too hungry to wait, drive 10 minutes down to Mandrem beach to Chris aka Saleem Agha Bee’s Café Nu, which serves Saleem’s special brand of heartfelt eclectic cooking. Saleem is also the chef and owner of restaurant Sublime. Try the Malabari prawn curry and mustard fish.
Meal for two approximately Rs 1,000 (US$20) at Café Nu, Mandrem beach; +91 9011277281, 9822484051
Arambol banyan tree walk
Since we’re already in Mandrem, might as well go for the most beautiful, enchanted walk in Goa which leads to the Arambol banyan tree.
Start from Arambol beach (a 20-minute drive from Mandrem); look for a right that takes you along the edge of the cliff till you reach the beach with the salt water lake.
Follow the lake around the left side, go up the mud bath springs and you will eventually reach the most beautiful, psychedelic banyan tree. Beware of mosquitoes and fake babas (wandering ascetics).
Arambol is populated by the real hippies of Goa, that is, barefoot, kohl-eyed, feather-adorned beautiful people who sell shoes for US$200 at the Saturday flea market.
Sunset and supper
The walking and swimming will leave you hungry for sure. Time for a slice of pizza at Fellini's, an old Italian restaurant on Arambol main street that serves what I think is the best pizza (starts at Rs 250) in India.
Fellini’s Pizzeria, main Arambol beach road, Arambol, Pernem; +91 97648 93896
Sunsets at Marbela Beach on Morjim beach are pretty stunning, but it’s getting late so we had better head back to Anjuna, where the party is about to get started.
Marbela Beach Resort, Morjim beach; +91 91588 81180, 91588 81185; www.marbelabeach.com
Curlies beach shack might not be what it used to be, but there is a still a vibe of Goa of the good old days, except for when desperate gangs of young Bombay boys are wondering where all the girls are.
In the old days, sunset at Curlies was where everyone used to meet, discuss lineups and scorpion bites, trade guitars and other stuff, hook up and head out into the UV lights.
But before the party starts, it’s time for what Goa is renowned for now that the three-day raves are over, and that is food.
Got romance on your mind? Go to Sublime in Arpora for dinner and order the clams and Goan sausage in marinara sauce.
Meal for two approximately Rs 1,500 (US$30) at Sublime, House No 1/9-A, Grande Morod, Saligao; +91 98224 84051
For the best pork chops and authentic Goan wild boar Xacuti-style, head to Lloyd's in Calangute where Lloyd himself presides over the barbecue.
Meal for two approximately Rs 1,500 (US$30) at Lloyd’s, House of Lloyds, Siapem, Candolim; +91 98230 32273
Posh, experimental food can be found at A Reverie in Calangute where chef Aakriti Sinh gets all molecular gastronome on us with her basil essential oil and foams.
Meal for two approximately Rs 2,000 (US$40) at A Reverie, Main Street, Calangute; +91 98231 74927, 98235 05550
Bomra’s restaurant in Candolim has the most divine pork belly and khao suey on Wednesdays.
Meal for two approximately Rs 1,500 (US$30) at Bomra’s, 247 Fort Aquada Road, Candolim; +91 97675 91056, 90119 47436; www.bomras.com
Republic of Noodles in Candolim satisfies that Asian food urge which, after a week of prawn curry, pizzas, souvlakis and fondants, is what all Indians are ready for. It’s slightly over-priced for Goa but the seafood Laksa and the Asian barbecue spare ribs may be worth it.
Meal for two approximately Rs 2,000 (US$40) at Republic of Noodles, Lemontree Hotel, Candolim; +91 9960 669231
Saturday Night Flea Market
Assuming it’s a Saturday, and the authorities have not decided to shut down one of the most fun shopping experiences in Goa, then dive into the Saturday Night Flea Market in Arpora.
Hit India Project for wearable, cool shorts and pants; Mermaids and Miriam Strehlau for the prettiest dresses; Waow, the Japanese guy for Ninja boots; Uggagula for psychedelic jackets and hoodies; Spacegoat for those awesome Goa style belts and pouches; Cosmos Tribe for fur-lined jackets and funky clothes.
The best food at the flea market includes the chicken roasted by the French guy, and restaurant Thalassa’s souvlaki station and the Belgian chocolate waffles.
Find Nico Fadell (the ex-manager of Baba Au Rhum) who makes superb gelato and sorbets, at the top section of the Saturday Night Flea Market. In the summer Fadell drives a custom-made truck with an inbuilt wood-fired oven around Europe, selling pizza at trance festivals.
Shopping and eating done, we’re ready for some deep Goa action down at Chapora Street.
Here you can buy a T-shirt that says “Good girls go to heaven, bad girls go to Chapora,” and have a few beers.
Ears to the ground, find out which party organizer has "arranged things" to let the scene go on beyond midnight.
Plans fixed, jump on to Terror and rave unto the light fantastic until it’s time to go back to Baba Au Rhum.