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Goa Ramps up For A Stellar Tourist Season

The rains are subsiding. The land is green. On the shoreline of the Arabian Sea, vialis 40mg the wild monsoon undercurrents are beginning to calm down. But many folks in Goa are doing just the opposite, buy revving up their energies to gear up for the season.

With the end of the monsoon lurking, work can safely begin on shacks and new ventures can launch and get over teething problems by the time the peak traffic hits Goa in November and beyond.

Those of us who enjoy eating out for culinary enjoyment as well as the overall experience are treated to more diverse options every year as Goa races towards becoming as much of a hot spot as the major metros, when it comes to quality cuisineering (Ok, so it’s an invented word!).

The just-launched ‘Cohiba’ Bar & Grill brings a fun, Cuban flavor to Goa with lots of live entertainment planned beginning with local band favourite A-26 on Friday October 3. The elegant restaurant on the Fort Aguada lighthouse road was inaugurated by none other than the Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar and MLA Michael Lobo this week, besides Goa’s glitterati in attendance. The menu features around-the-world creative fusion by Chef Vivek Salunkhe, whose background working with some of the world’s best chefs is evident when you taste his Lebanese-inspired Spinach Cheese Fatayar with Toum or the Slow Roasted Hot and Sour Piri-Piri. The partners at Cohiba are all seasoned experts running several other successful restaurants like Tao, L’Orange and Wok & Roll. Visitors like myself who haven’t had the opportunity to visit Havana can now enjoy a little taste of the exotic, not so far away, with a portrait of Fidel Castro hanging prominently on a wall and Cuban cigars on display.

Over in the middle of Goa’s party street Tito’s Lane, the Baker’s Studio is set to give Baga a facelift. It has opened its doors to tourists hungry for a world-class café with artisanal baked goodies, fantastic coffees and soon wine too. It’s a new brand by the owners of Delicieux Patisserie, Lucie Masson & Varun Sood, who certainly know how to deliver quality products in a stylish and pleasing environment. The outdoor wooden deck and indoor AC section provide a respite to those coming off the beach in heat-struck mode. Their motivation for launching a high-end café in the heart of Goa’s party zone is well-stated… “Because breakfast is a fun experience, good coffee has the power to make your day and freshly baked bread is always comforting.” Can’t argue with that. A little hint into what adds the special touches that customers are happy to pay a little extra for… They make an effort to deliver homemade, locally sourced, organic and preservative free, whenever possible.


Party at Cohiba

Another restaurant brand also helping to reinvent Baga is the new lounge shack called ‘Rockfish’, by entertainment promoter Lyndon Alves and partners Shefali and Vikram Singh. This venue right next to Café Del Mar on Baga beach aims to provide authentic pan-Mediterranean cuisine featuring specialties from Morocco to Italy, created by Chef Ankur Gulati who used to be with the Alila Diwa hotel. Besides great food, they will be inviting some of the best DJs from Europe as well selected by DJ Sasha of Soma fame.

Soma, the other eclectic underground club that was previously in Ashvem has now moved to Teso in Siolim and will feature a music festival on November 29-30. Given that Lyndon Alves is the promoter of both brands, Rockfish will likely attract a similar crowd of elite young hipsters from across India’s metros and a healthy dose of international tourists as well.

Another exciting beachside destination this season is Goobe or ‘Owl’ in Kannada, set to open in Anjuna in November. This nocturnal concept restaurant is unique in that it plans to serve international street food including hangover food from sunset to sunrise. Art and culture will be prominent features as well with merchandise commissioned by artists, live performances and yacht cruises in the works as well.
As it happens often in Goa, established outlets move bases as well. Over on the next beach, DJ Vijay Arora of Café La Musica in Baga will move to Vagator soon and relaunch his laidback shack and lounge there. The 20-year-old Lila Café that used to be on Baga River road has now moved to Tito’s Whitehouse on the Arpora-Anjuna road but has kept the same menu of German specialties like Roesti and wholewheat bread baked in-house.


Water Sport in Baga

Further South in Benaulim, the hugely popular ‘AJ’s’ has moved locations as well, to Benaulim. They still serve the burgers and sandwiches that people travel all the way from north Goa for. The success story of Ashley Gregory and partner Juhi is inspiring since they don’t come from a hospitality background. Sheer hard work in the multipronged areas of menu quality, portions, pricing, décor, music and service, has done the trick.

Off the beaten path, one might try ‘Fish Tail’ for good Goan food, recently opened by brothers Tony and Sylvester Fernandes, in the lane behind Fisherman’s Cove in Candolim. Both brothers have run shacks ‘Fisherman’s Paradise’ and ‘Buddha Bar’ on Calangute Beach, respectively, for several years. In Panjim, the delightful Black Sheep Bistro has launched the Soma wine club featuring a set dinner and six wines that are tasted and discussed with a view to bring people together around wine and good food.

From great food to a growing lineup of festivals, Goa seems to be developing more to offer domestic and international tourists, despite the impression of stagnation that some may feel. Probably the most exciting addition this year is the New Wave indie and punk music festival featuring creative, original bands from Japan to Burma. Organised by Art Escape’s Vinesh Iyer and Darryl Noronha and curated by Ennui Dot Bomb, a Mumbai-based indie music label, the festival will be the first time that over 50 of the freshest, edgiest bands from across India and Asia come together at Verna’s go-karting track on November 15-16.

Art Escape will also host an international jazz festival later on the 28-30th of the same month featuring bands from France, Canada, Switzerland and Brazil, besides Goa and the rest of India. The three-day festival at Art Escape’s home in Baywatch Resort on Sernabatim beach will also feature young talent like Mohini Dey from Mumbai. Both festivals are being promoted through pre-gigs in many cities around the country, so one can expect big crowds coming in for the festivals.

Of course another major crowd-puller for Goa every year is the International Film Festival of Goa, which is also in November. Delegate registration has started and rumours are that the geographic focus is on China this year. As government officials are hard at work planning the festival, details are not yet available but watch this space for more information soon.


Other interesting festivals that have been heard of through the grapevine are the Russian-Indian rock music festival that was to take place in Baga last year, is now being planned again soon. And up sooner, the Northeast Festival at Tito’s Courtyard on 20 October features a band called Aspirant from Dimapur, legendary soloist Reuben and others.

Goa Tourism has also added interesting tours to attract more visitors to Goa, and not just to the beach belt. The recently launched backwater boat trip is a luxurious experience and takes guests sailing on the Cumbarjua river and to the 100-year-old Savoi plantation over two days. Mobile toilets, a tourist parking lot, aggressive beach cleaning campaigns and a new jetty are some of the other infrastructure improvements that Goan authorities are undertaking to attract visitors.

The season is upon us. Hopes are high. Spirits are up. Life in Goa is good.?