4 years since the last time we visited, and yet, though the family was eager to do a quick trip to Goa, I’d been a little ambivalent. Don’t get me wrong, it was only because it was for 3 nights, which seemed too short to be gastronomically satisfying for what has now become one of India’s great food destinations!
Anyhow, the trip happened, and we went in armed with an itinerary of restaurants that would have needed 5 meals a day to get through. Although much of the list remained un-tasted, we were able to eat well at almost all the meals – managing a fair melange of cuisines in a (mostly) tight radius around Candolim. Here’s how the fare fared, over a quick beach-shack stop and 6 meals.
Fish Hut (Sinquerim Beach) – a run of the mill beach shack where we turned up on the first evening. We ordered a round of fish & chips, and prawn in butter garlic sauce, and settled down with a Konig’s beer as the sun set about retiring for the day. The prawns were in a whitish buttery gloop, but were fresh and flavourful. The fish and chips had the fish fried in Bengali ‘fish fry’ style – flat, breaded and deep fried. The first taste of sea, fresh palates, a mild early evening sun, and ravenous appetites (having taken a lunchtime Indigo flight) brought it all together rather well – almost anything would have gone down well with the Konig’s – the rebranded version of the iconic King’s beer (bought over by Sachin Joshi – our waiter helpfully informed – whose other claim to fame is being the current owner of the erstwhile Mallya mansion, now renamed from Kingfisher Villa to King’s Mansion).
3.1/5 – May have rated less if the circumstances had been different (especially after some of the meals later!)
Calamari Bathe & Binge (Candolim Beach) – dinner on the first night was on the beach again, at this oddly named restaurant. CB&B is set well in from the sea, although there’s sand underfoot in the al fresco area. A sprawling place with a touristy multi-cuisine menu, and classic hits being belted out mostly off-key – our table away from the speakers allowed the music to provide atmosphere, without ruining the evening! The service was unexpectedly prompt and attentive – despite our table being in the twilight zone at one edge of the restaurant.
We started with some excellent fried calamari, and a terrific prawn butter garlic – much better than the lazy sauce served at the shack earlier. A couple of big bowls of chicken xacuti and Goan prawn curry along with rice and poi (the native Goan bread) followed, resulting in us feeling like Indian travel luggage after the meal – you know, where you have to tag team to close the lid, one person sits on it, while another tugs away at the unwilling zipper.
3.9/5 – A surprisingly good meal after starting off with low expectations.
Tuscany Gardens (Candolim) – It was a warm afternoon, and we wandered over for a late lunch after extended seaside exertions. The outdoor area was nearly empty, and with a fairly standard looking Italian menu, it felt a bit unpromising, albeit with a good rating on Zomato. We went for a frutti di mare pizza, seafood tagliatelle, and spaghetti carbonara with bacon. We were blown away by the pasta – seafood tagliatelle cooked perfectly and generous flavourful seafood of all sorts, the spaghetti beautifully al dente with mince meat and bursting with bacon flavour. The spectacular pizza rounded off a memorable meal. I guess it was just down to the quality of ingredients and the honest simplicity of the cooking. And how did they serve it all so quickly?
4.4/5 – Unanimous choice among the family to rank this one at the top, or almost!
The Lazy Goose (Nerul)– This buzzing little restaurant, set on the banks of the Nerul river at the foot of a bridge, delivered the best feast for the senses. So close to the water that it seemed that the dining area would surely be submerged come the monsoons, The Lazy Goose was brimming with a lively dinner crowd and music when we arrived. Next to the bar, a musician was putting on some of the best live music I’ve heard at a restaurant / bar in a long time. Playing rhythm guitar while the rest of the music played on -1 (karaoke), he smoothly sang through a range of Knopfler, Springsteen, U2, Bryan Adams, among others. It surely helped that all of the music was to my taste as well!
It took a while to choose what we wanted to eat, as most of the menu looked so delectable – we finally settled on fried calamari with sauce marie rose, Vietnamese crispy rolls with pork, crab, glass noodles and mushroom, baby baked stuffed mud crabs, and a lobster in butter garlic sauce. The crabmeat was baked beautifully with a sweet and spicy hit, the rolls dense with taste but light and flavoursome on the palate, and the crisp calamari was accompanied by a heavenly sauce that there was too little of. The lobster was the most eagerly awaited dish – but it turned out to be like Chris Morris at the IPL – highly rated and expensive, occasionally good, mostly flat. On this trip to Goa we managed excellent meals almost everywhere, but if I had to choose one place to go back to, it would be this one. The range of choices on the menu needs a few visits with a big group just to sample it all properly.
4.5/5 – Great food but additional points for the overall experience
Burger Factory (Anjuna) – This was the farthest we drove for a meal and boy, was it worth it. We rolled up here for lunch – touted as ‘the best burgers in Goa’- after a longish drive, and were given a wait time of 40 minutes. After a short drive away for a quick gelato, we were finally seated – hot, hungry, and hoping the burgers lived up to the hype. The place is about as unadorned as it gets – just long benches and tables packed together in the open, with plastic sheets (the ones used to keep out the rain) around the sides to ensure the heat and humidity finds little escape. Sharing tables with strangers like Covid never happened, the place would have seated 16 with social distancing, but had about 40 people squeezed in.
It is very much a burger factory though, serving little else, and the burgers all offered different, unusual fillings – and we ordered a beef burger with feta, cheddar, olive oil, and rucula; a chicken burger with green chilli, cheddar and bacon; and a chicken burger with double cheddar, bacon and bbq sauce. All the burgers are also packed with some veggies, including a slice of beetroot in each. I do not exaggerate when I say that every filling of each burger was distinguishable, and along with the excellence of the patty, the bun, and the sauce, the other ingredients in each burger provided the quirks and the flavour hits. Crunchy, juicy satisfaction in each mouthful, all our complaints melted away. Our younger one and I had taken out the beetroot slices from our burgers when they came, but the burgers were good enough for us to eat up the beetroot as well! For those who know me, you’ll know that that’s really something.
4.2/5 – Might have scored more if the burgers hadn’t had to do all the scoring
Wok & Roll (Sinquerim) – The winding road darkened as it turned past Fort Aguada, quickly leaving behind the buzz of the Baga-Calangute-Candolim stretch, as we drove past Cohiba (earlier called Sweet Chilli, a place of lovely sepia-tinted memories from ages ago), and reached Wok & Roll just where the Nerul river turned to run alongside, on its way to the sea. The place gave off a spacious, relaxed vibe, although it was suspiciously empty. Our excellent server enthusiastically explained the dishes and his recommendations through a mask, and a slightly difficult to discern accent.
It was inadvertent, but this ended up being one meal where we didn’t have any seafood. Dinner comprised chicken satay, chicken dimsum, diced beef with ginger chilli basil and crushed peanut, a pho with chicken, and chilli basil fried rice. The server placed an interesting looking ‘paan’ type amuse-bouche while we waited for the food. The satay and the dimsum hit the mark, and the pho had a wonderful light broth, supplemented by adding a mix of sauces and oils. The beef was one of the best beef dishes I’ve had (disclaimer – it’s a relatively small sample size). The tender, succulent beef diced up in a spicy, gingery sauce with the chilli basil rice, glowing with basil flavour, hit it out of the park.
4/5 – The relaxed ambience, complementing the food, was just what we needed
Viva Panjim (Fontainhas, Panjim) – We drove into steaming Panaji for lunch and shopping on the last day. The idea was to do a proper Goan meal after the mixed and varied cuisines of the previous days, and after some deliberation we’d decided on Viva Panjim. Goan cuisine, heritage home, located in Fontainhas, Panaji’s Latin quarter, and a good rating online – Viva ticked many boxes. It’s located in a small house in a narrow alley off one of Fontainhas’s main streets. The seating was rather cramped – as a heritage home, the appeal was limited.
We spread our options wide across the menu, starting with a manchow soup (I know, but one of us had a bad throat!), prawns red masala fry and a calamari batter fry. The calamari was crisp and fresh, and the prawns delivered an excellent flavour and spice assault on the senses. This was followed by a chicken cafreal, prawn balchao, a Goan prawn pulao and some poi. The cafreal gravy was rich with flavour, but the chicken had clearly been cooked from mixed batches, and most of it was sadly rubbery. The prawn balchao was justly spicy and vinegary, and a first-rate pulao helped the meal recover from the cafreal cock-up. The flavour levels in the seafood, not just here but every meal, were of a different order, enough to put you off eating seafood once back home!
3.9/5 – Heritage, but not comfortable seating, and that chicken…
Too few days, too few meals, and no chance to visit The Lazy Goose a second time. But some lovely meal memories, and a stellar list to work through whenever we go back!