For travel enthusiasts who love food, the gastronomic indulgence is just as much a highlight of a trip as exploring a destination. When the destination is Goa – the land of pork, beef, seafood and an exotic cuisine with rich cultural influences of its eclectic heritage – the food becomes an experience unto itself. From certain local varieties of pork sausages that were too strongly fermented for my taste to delish delights like the Bebinca, Recheado and Chicken Xacuti, the place turned out to be a goldmine of delicacies to gorge on.
Though even the most humble beachside shacks in Goa are capable of whipping up a mean meal, you have to look in the right places to find lip-smacking local flavours that will stay with you long after your departure. Here is my pick of four hidden gems to sample such scrumptious food in Goa:
Avozin Goan Cuisine
After hours of exploring the nooks and crannies of North Goa, we were famished and looking forward to some sumptuous Goan food. A bit of research and enquires from the locals led us to Avozin, a Goan cuisine restaurant, opposite Hotel Taj Village. A modest place with opulent food – the place sums up the ethos of the Goan way of life perfectly. From Chicken Vindaloo to Veg Xacuti, Fish Recheado, Prawn Rice and Chilly Pork, everything was cooked to perfection and absolutely unputdownable. We ate to our hearts’ content, happily ordering away refills of beers and food until we were stuffed to the brim. If you want a taste of authentic Goan flavours, Avozin is the place to be.
The Fisherman’s Wharf in Cavelossim is one of the best places to treat yourself to some great food and ambience. Done up in wood and adorned with an old-world charm, Fisherman’s Wharf captivates you the moment you step foot on the premises. The restaurant is located by the River Sal and all tables have been arranged on the deck by the river to offer meals with a view. The food matches the affluence of place in taste and presentation. Just about everything we ordered struck the right notes of flavour, but their pork chops, Bebinca and Tiramisu served with a twist particularly stood out for me. While you wait for your meal to arrive, you can also try your hand at jet skiing, which the restaurant arranges at an additional cost.
This blink-and-miss place in a narrow cobbled street across the Panaji Jetty is a destination full of character and has earned itself the reputation of being one of the most atmospheric places in the state’s capital. The rickety balconies, ancient table fans, colourful tiles, wooden staircase and walls slathered with handwritten messages and notes make Venite an impactful destination. Despite its obscure location, you’ll find this place brimming with people, mostly locals and a few stray travellers who succeed in locating this restaurant after several failed attempts. The menu is a mix of Portuguese and local Goa cuisine. All in all, the food is just about above average, but their stuffed crabs, Bombay Roast Duck and Banana in Rum Caramel Sauce are a must try.
Mayfair Hideaway Spa Resort
True to its name, Mayfair Hideaway is a quintessential hidden gem that’s not on the radar of the mainstream tourists. Set on the banks of River Sal, this resort is characterised by a warm, rich ambience. If you are travelling to Goa to celebrate a special occasion, I strongly recommended touching base with these guys for arranging a memorable evening. They were happy to organise a pool-side dinner for us on a wooden deck dotted with cabanas and loungers. The blue waters of the infinity pool that seem to flow right into the river waters make for a breathtaking sight. The staff is exceptionally polite and attentive, and the food is excellent too. Their Singapore prawn fritters, in particular, were to die for! I’d go back to this place just for a plate of those steaming, melt-in-your-mouth prawns coated in a crunchy batter. Greek Salak, Fisherman’s Stew and Prawn in Panang Sauce are some other must-try dishes on their menu.