Tag Archives: Goa

Drinking in Goa – Part 2

Day 2 was planned as a road trip, which with a visit to 6 bars and restaurants promised a state of satiation by the end of the day. What the hell, I thought to myself, I’m in Goa.

My first stop was SinQ in Candolim, a complex comprising a hotel, a nightclub and also Goa’s first brewpub, run by the enterprising and irrepressible Amit Adatia. Amit’s first attempt to market the “Beer Machine”, (a self contained device to make beer at home in India), came a cropper, but he kept at it, until he was able to get the brewpub at SinQ off the ground, which uses the beermixes supplied by the Beer Machine company. Amit told me to meet up with Vance, and I was all set to meet a 20 something young American brewer, who wanted to “do” India, when to my surprise I met a grizzled veteran of the American beer industry, who was now exploring fresh pastures in India. Vance has settled in well to Goa, and much prefers it to his earlier stint in China. Although the Beer Mixes offer him a ready-made concentrate for brewing, he’s tinkering around at a local level by adding fun ingredients. I sampled the Canadian Red Ale and the Honey Brown, and a bit of the Vienna (think it was an ale?), which was in a semi-ready state.

If you want to know what those are, you’ll have to visit SinQ. If you can’t make it Candolim, then hopefully in the near future, Amit will have more brewpubs running in Goa. A few samples down, I’d begun to feel hungry, so decided to pop in to the much-recommended Bomras, a Burmese restaurant down the road, where I made do with a prawns salad, and eschewed anything to drink.

Karan Upadhye from the Tulleeho FB group had told me that I must visit Bob’s Inn in Baga, with

Bob of Bob's Inn
Bob of Bob’s Inn

Bob having the distinction of opening independent Goa’s first bar in 1962. I’ve always been a fan of history J, so it was off to Bob’s for me. Easy to find and on the main road, it was fairly deserted, in stark contrast to most places in Goa, on a sunny winter afternoon. I settled in for a plate of prawns and a beer, and meanwhile looked around for Bob, who was easy to find. Well into my beer, I asked Bob, if he truly had begun the oldest bar in Goa, which he corroborated, and took me into a room, where it all began, strewn with hundreds of cobweb dusted bottles, some still with alcohol in them. I asked if I could have a drink from one of them, and pointed to a bottle of Old Monk, when he nodded his head. I went back to my table, and sure enough a shot of Old Monk was sent over, which seemed to have lost none of it’s potency, even after god knows how many years in the bottle. Bob however was morose, as he was the last of the generation probably to run the bar, with his daughter clearly not interested in taking over. Maybe she’ll have a change of heart, and keep a bit of Goan history alive for us!

Darius Anthony Miranda from the FB group, had recommended a visit to St. Anthony’s Shack in

St. Anthony's at Baga
St. Anthony’s at Baga

Baga, and with a surname like Miranda, that was advice I could ill afford to pass up. Baga was a mess however, a bit like Chandni Chowk on steroids, and I found St. Ant’s easily enough, and settled into a table with a view of the crowded beach. The only redeeming factor was that they could serve me a chilled bottle of King’s (although not on the menu), to accompany my plate of fish curry and rice. I beat a quick retreat from Baga, as I was off to what promised to be the high point of the evening, a visit to Thalassa in Mini Vagator, a Greek tavern, located on a cliff, and overlooking the beach. Thalassa offers 3 choices of reservations; lunch, sunset (5 to 8 pm) or dinner, and people in the know had advised me to opt for the sunset booking. Not much of a romantic, I found it difficult to understand, how one sunset could be different from the other, but I was keen on making a reasonably early trip back to my hotel, as I had one more halt to make on the return, so sunset it was. Thalassa was everything it promised to be, a glorious location, the company of friends, sinuous Greek (?) dancers, with slits as high as the eye could see, a chilled bottle of wine, and some toothsome canapés. Don’t miss it, and any time is good!

 

For those of you who remember Part 1 of my escapades, I’d met up with Sabreen and Prahlad, chef / sommelier turned gastropub owners, and I was off to meet another such entrepreneur, Shawn D’Souza, one of India’s legendary bartenders, and along with his brother, founder of Kudos, a pizzeria cum grill cum bar, and I was meeting him at the outpost in Baga.

Stuffed to the gills as I was, I still couldn’t resist a few slices of Kudos’s amazing Goan sausage pizza and a spicy Jalapeno margarita. Shawn seemed pretty content with the life of a restaurateur, and revealed to me his upcoming plans, with the next outlet, actually going to have a proper bar, a subject still close to Shawn’s heart.

Stomach sated, and feeling uplifted by all the amazing people I’d met through the day, who were helping make Goa the great place it is, I set off towards Panjim.

Vikram Achanta

 

 

Drinking in Goa – Part 1

A cry for help to the Tulleeho FB group, brought forward a flurry of suggestions, and the one and a half free days I had in Goa, before my alumni reunion took over, seemed too short to make ends meet, but you have to live with what you’ve got. My first stop was well timed as I landed in Goa just around lunch, and had kept my appetite well primed, with the temptations (or lack of them) of an Indigo in flight menu, easy to avoid.

Sheela Bar
Sheela Bar

A deal was struck with my Panjim bound taxi, for a lunch stop over at Sheela’s bar and restaurant, which came highly recommended from Elvis Dias, who said “Please don’t analyse the name. Be careful u can miss it. No prominent signboard. However he has the usual bottled beers including Kings but some of the best authentic food in the whole of Goa. Simply awesome. Ask for Sylvester the owner. Interesting philosophy. The bar has no menu card. He says you got to know what we are famous for.”

My driver however was well aware of Sheela. A single story building with the restaurant on an open balcony overlooking the bay, I was there in a trice, and settled at a table. To my dismay, however they had no Kings beer, so I settled for a regular brand of lager and decided to satisfy myself with a hearty (and heavy lunch), comprising of a platter of prawns followed by a plate of fish curry rice. Spotting a man walking around with a proprietary air, and whose belly indicated the good life to an extreme, I asked him if he was Sylvester, which he confirmed. I told him about Elvis’s comment that you had to know what to ask for and he laughed it off, by saying I’d already ordered two of their specialties, but he would recommend if I came in a group to try their Goan sausage pulao.

On to Panjim and after checking into my hotel situated right next to the Panjim church, one of my first calls was to Desmond Nazareth, one of the most innovative entrepreneurs working in the alcobev space in India, who calls Panjim his home. Des’s house was situated in Altinho, and about a 15-minute walk from where I was, mostly up a hill, so after a brief rest, I braved the fading sun in Goa, and walked up to his house, in an attempt to digest my lunch. Des has a wide and varied bar, including some excellent Feni made by a friend of his, purely for the consumption of a small group of friends, who buy it by the caseload. I decide to start with some Urak, which is the first distillate of Feni, and Des mixes this up with some lime and soda, and we retire to his balcony to chat about matters alcoholic. As the owner of the eponymous Desmondji, Des has been responsible for some amazing products, and you can read about their origins here.

My experiences with Feni in the past have not been great to say the least, and I often wonder why someone can’t make a Feni, which is less pungent, and fortunately Des’s friend’s Urak does the job, and in fact makes for a very pleasant sundowner, which I down in short order. The term “skunkworks” refers to ongoing development projects being run by companies, some of which might see the light of day, and the joy of visiting Des’s house is being exposed to products he’s tinkering with. He pours one such drink for me, and swears me to secrecy. All I can reveal is that it has a taste, which quite resembles Cognac or Armagnac. Des is awaiting sanction to start producing the same at his distillery and is going stir crazy in anticipation, because the product has considerable potential. I also pick up a bottle of Kings from his fridge, which I drink side by side, as this is a rite of passage I enjoy, when I visit Goa.

Des gives me a couple of bottles to take back, a bottle of the Desmondji cane rum to take back to Delhi and a bottle of his 51% Oak finish agave spirit to enjoy at my alumni reunion party. I drift back down the hill in a mildly alcoholic stupor, and hope that a speeding scooter doesn’t put paid to my Goan adventure. On the way back I stop off at Casa Baretto, run by Milton Baretto, an excellent liquor retail shop, and pick up a bottle of the Paul John Edited, a single malt made by John Distillers, and available sparingly. Paul John has two variants, and Milton recommends the Edited, which at 46% promises to be a flavourful treat.

Prahlad and Sabreen Sukthankar, are both hospitality professionals who have spent large parts of their professional life overseas. On their return to Goa, they found something lacking in Goan nightlife. What resulted is Black Sheep Bistro located at a 10 minutes walk from my hotel. On my walk there, I stop off, at but naturally, another liquor shop, where I pick up 2 bottles of Cazulo’s cashew feni. BSB is a lovely little gastro pub, with a great layout. Upfront is a welcoming bar, with bar stools lined up by the bar, and by the window, tables to seat 2, just perfect for a couple. A room on the side and one at the back, make up the main body of the restaurant.

The menu is minimalistic, with as you’d expect from Prahlad’s sommelier background, a well put together wine list, and a short but interesting cocktail list, including the interestingly titled Pecore Negrino, or the Black Negrino, a signature cocktail for BSB, where the Cazulo Feni replaces the gin. The food menu has a series of small plates, and I tuck into a couple of selections, as Prahlad whips up a Pecore Negrino for me. It’s fascinating as a trend to see an increasing number of restaurants being opened by people with an intimate knowledge of food and beverage service like Chefs / Bartenders / Sommeliers. It counts a great deal for the atmosphere generated by the place and the people who work there, and BSB radiates this.

I chat with Prahlad a while and Sabreen also joins us. A friendly couple, they’re keen on promoting local produce, which includes drinks, which accounts for Cazulo Feni and Desmondji featuring in their cocktails. Day One is done, and I’m looking forward to tomorrow, cause new Goan drinking adventures beckon.

Vikram Achanta