There are few things that disrupt the absolute serendipity of seeing the clouds clear over the Himalayas than a little fight going on in the table next to yours. I couldn’t help but overhear that the rather cute guy was trying to reason with his rather tall girlfriend about the food options available to them in India.
I ignored it for a bit, but when she kept going on and on about refusing to go to Goa because she had “had it with all the chilli and naan in India”, I knew I had to tell them that in India, when we are done charming snakes and travelling by elephants, we do go to Italian and Portuguese restaurants too.
Really, if you have been in India for a longish period, and are craving some familiar food, go to Goa, and then go to some of the European restaurants I recommended to this couple. These places don’t just serve European food, they are owned by Europeans, so the quality of food is as good as it would be in your home country, even if some ingredients are local.
For your convenience, I am breaking these restaurants down by location, so no matter where you are, you will be close to at least two of these places.
- La Poisson Rouge in Baga (French)
Le Poisson Rouge is one of the only two French owned, French restaurants in Goa. The food is generally good and innovative with an emphasis on healthy and organic cooking using very good quality local ingredients.
The beetroot carpaccio is popular and so are the various fish preparations which are cooked with very little oil.
My personal favourite is the 5-course set menu, but I always make it a point to check the specials – they vary by season and depend on the catch of the day, and they are always a bit of a surprise – the Filet de Boeuf is the best you can get outside France, trust me!
$$$: Dinner for two, without wine would be Rs. 1500 (24.81 USD).
Address: Opposite Baga Bridge; +91 83232 45800; www.lepoissonrouge-goa.info
- Thalassa in Vagator (Greek)
Greek yogurt and feta cheese – that’s all I knew of Greek food before I went to Thalassa. The owner – the charismatic Mariketi, converted me, and hundreds like me, to believe in the wonders of Greek food with his marvellous restaurant in Goa.
The setting is amazing, right above the beach with a fantastic view over the sea, probably the best place in Goa to watch the sun go down with cocktail and snacks.
For dinner, this place is heaven if you, like me, are a meat lover – they use Greek spices and herbs to marinate their meat for a sublime melt-in-the-mouth softness. But yes, they do have vegetarian platters too (I order the Kolokithokeftedes because it’s fun pronouncing it!), and the profiteroles for dessert are really amazing!
$$$: Dinner for two, minus the cocktails and wines (though I do recommend a good glass of Agiorgitiko – their Greek red), would come to Rs. 1500 (24.81 USD).
Address: Little Vagator, Goa; +91 98500 33537; www.thalassagoa.com
- Ciao Bella in Assagao – Badem (Italian)
I would heavily recommend making reservations before you to Ciao Bella the hip new restaurant in town serving authentic Italian food, all home-made, super tasty and very well presented.
Simona, from Florence, cooks, while her partner Mario, from Rome, oversees the service. Both of them go to the Mapusa market every day to select the freshest fish, vegetables and herbs to which they add top-quality imported ingredients. Their most popular dish is the black tagliatelle with seafood and the most surprising one is chocolate ravioli with gorgonzola.
I almost always order Caprese, which though is a simple dish, is elevated by the best mozzarella in town. The starters are delicious and are served with complimentary home-made bread. The wine list is small but adequate and at the end of a meal, home-made liquor is offered complimentary.
$$$: Dinner for two would be Rs. 1800 (29.80 USD) if you are not drinking.
Address: 569 Assagao Baden Rd., Assagao; +91 97657 18373
- Presa di Goa in Nagoa (Mediterranean)
One of Goa’s best hidden jewels, most people would not know of Presa di Goa, unless of course, they have a foodie guide like me! It is part of a great little hotel with a beautiful setting in a garden and a surprising menu on which everything is of great quality.
There is an excellent Turkish mezze and couscous as well as very good European dishes including real Swiss fondue and raclette! My favourites here are the Smoked Salmon and Nespresso.
If you are not a fish eater, though, order their vegetarian platters served with hummus, pita and home-made yogurt. Or you could any of the lamb and beef dishes, including the Anatolian Beef Stew made in red wine and served with ayran, a traditional Turkish drink.
$$$: Dinner for two, without wine, would be Rs. 1400 (23.14 USD).
Address: 353/1 Arais Waddo, Nagoa; 240 9068; www.presadigoa.com
- Bomra’s in Candolim (Burmese)
Bomra’s might arguably be the best restaurant in Goa for non-Indian food. It offers very innovative cooking and always has the best and freshest ingredients made into fantastic, unusual flavours. It is often full so booking is recommended.
There are lots of excellent vegetarian options and there is nothing on the menu that is not somebody’s favourite (trust me, I have taken loads of guests there, and everyone loved it). The desserts are amazing and the cocktails, especially the Bomra special, delicious and surprising. On Wednesdays they have a special Burmese curry.
My typical order is a mix of vegetarian and non-vegetarian food – because everything is brilliant. I’d recommend the tea-leaf salad and Bomra’s spicy tuna larb in starters, slow cooked pork belly with a cashew nut crust and the Ohnoukawksuey (again, for the pronunciation!) in mains, and the lemon grass and ginger crème brulee in dessert.
$$$: Dinner for two would cost you Rs. 1500 (24.81 USD) and every penny would be worth it.
Address: Souza Vaddo, 247 Fort Aguada Road, Candolim, Goa; +91 97675 91056; +91 90119 47436; www.bomras.com