If you are still undecided on a destination for this year’s summer holidays, try Goa. As summer sets in, the tourist season ends. But there’s still time to join the fun, because most of Goa’s restaurants and nightspots will be open for some more time. It’s a wonderful opportunity to reclaim your place on all those beaches which had recently become unspeakably crowded. It has been a good few months though, with a small decline in numbers (less than 10% overall), offset by an appreciable increase in demand for the many establishments offering real value for money.
Goa’s brilliant restaurant scene has now become a draw in itself, and the state’s gorgeous villas-for-rent and boutique hotels are still good value for global travellers. We recommend good old Baga, now accessible again as the throngs thin. Follow signs from the Calangute Beach Road.
More great beaches
• For lazing around: Once deserted, most of Palolem is now firmly on the beaten track. But its smaller adjunct Patnem is a good place to get a taste of the idyllic experience that put Goa on the tourism map.
• For following the hippie trail: The legendary paradise of the 1970s hippie scene, Arambol retains an edgy countercultural atmosphere.
• For getting back to nature: Morjim and Ashvem are a half-hour drive from the tourist hub of north Goa, but a world away in atmosphere. A few protected Olive Ridley turtles come here every year to lay eggs, fending off most major construction work.
• For an escape from tourists: The last undeveloped beach in north Goa, Keri, remains a long and almost empty stretch of sand where you can sit blissfully alone in the shadow of casuarina trees.
• For watching locals at play: Miramar beach in Panjim isn’t safe for swimming but it is impressively broad and well situated, at the mouth of the Mandovi. Crowds of Indian tourists and Panjim residents watch the sunset in a pleasant, convivial atmosphere.
Where to eat
At the end of this season, there is no doubt that this year’s success story is Thalassa, the Greek restaurant on a cliff above Vagator beach in north Goa. Owner Mariketty, a native of Corfu who has relocated permanently to India with her young son, does a remarkably complete job of recreating Greek fare for her customers. Try the deep-fried home-made feta cheese (Rs100). We also recommend the Kleftiko, a traditional Greek stew of lamb, chicken, beef or vegetables (Rs200). The Souvlaki, skewered meats or vegetables, is available in wraps of home-made pita bread filled with Tzatziki (Rs130).
4pm-midnight, daily. Small Vagator beach, near Nine Bar. No credit cards. Meal for two, Rs800. Call 9850033537 or visit www.myspace.com/thalassagoa
Bocado de Cardenales
Globalization is good for foodies. Knowing this, we were still amazed to find the first-rate Bocado de Cardenales hidden away on a tiny bay past Palolem in the extreme south of Goa. It has a real tapas menu, presented by an impeccably mustachioed Catalonian. After a plateful of Patatas Bravas (Rs65), we felt transported to Barcelona, and the tiny platefuls kept coming: Abondigas, meatballs in gravy (Rs110), garlic prawns (Rs130), and a superb spinach gratinata (Rs85). There are also generous main courses such as the calamari negros, black squid cooked in its own ink (Rs240). One of Goa’s most unique culinary experiences.
1-10pm, Tuesday closed. 251, Colomb, Canacona (9921037069). No credit cards. Meal for two with drinks, Rs800.
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