As author of the Love Travel series of savvy guides to India, Fiona Caulfield has laid bare the best of Mumbai, Delhi, Jaipur, and Bangalore, where she is based for much of the year. In November, she will add India’s smallest state to her list with the publication of Love Goa. While the book will look at everything from Goa’s famed beaches to its lush hinterland, Caulfield says that it is Panjim (a.k.a. Panaji), the historic state capital, that most beguiles her. Here, she reveals a quartet of the town’s top offerings.
This is my favorite of the three heritage inns owned and run by Jack and Sukhija, all located in the old Latin quarter of Fontainhas. A member of the Goa Heritage Action Group, Jack is passionate about local history, and leads insightful walks around the neighborhood. The nine-room Panjim Pousada inhabits an old Hindu house, which is rare in this predominantly Catholic area. There’s a charming courtyard and an upstairs veranda that overlooks an ancient breadfruit tree. It’s extremely atmospheric (31st January Rd., Fontainhas; 91-832/222-6523; panjiminn.com; doubles from US$52).
Brothers Vasquito and Ernesto Alvares own this much-loved bistro in Fontainhas. With a robust Goan menu and some international favorites, the place has a reputation for serving the best burgers and pork ribs in state. But as I don’t eat meat, I can only vouch for the vegetarian offerings, which are terrific, as are the desserts. It’s also very romantic, set in a century-old colonial home with a lovely leafy terrace (49 Mala, Fontainhas; 91-832/325-6213).
This delightful store is owned by fashion stylish and journalist Sacha Mendes, and occupies the ground floor of a house built by her grandfather in 1934. She stocks an eclectic collection of beautiful things that she describes as “priceless, even if not extravagantly priced.” These range from organic soaps and antique plates, to postcards and clothes by outstanding local designers like Savio Jon, who lives and works in nearby Siolim (Casa Mendes, 526 Swami Vivekananda Rd.; 91-832/222-2035).
Rony and Suzette Martins are the talented duo behind Mum’s Kitchen, another of Goa’s favorite restaurants. Rony’s other passion in life is sailing, and he has an 11-meter catamaran that is available for three-hour sunset cruises down the Mandovi River to Old Goa. It’s a stunning way to see the sights; kayaks and rowboats can also be arranged for paddling into the river’s small, quiet backwaters (contact Rony Martins at 91/ 982-217-5556 or mumskitchengoa.com).
Originally appeared in the October/November 2011 print issue of DestinAsian magazine (“A Penchant for Panaji”)