Goan cuisine is an interesting fusion of indigenous Hindu cookery with 450 years of Catholic Portuguese influences and a smattering of Muslim cookery for good measure. It’s most famous dish for Brits is probably Vindaloo, a staple on many a curry house menu in the UK. Indeed it’s hard to imagine what any Indian cuisine would be like without the chillis the Portuguese introduced.
Here are a few good places to eat. You’ll find all of them and more on my Panaji map. Please see my previous post for things to do in Panaji.
Delhi Darbar (High Intermediate A-), Nuerekar House, MG Road, opposite Azad Maidan
This is excellent north Indian restaurant is generally considered to be the best restaurant in town.
It was first recommended to me by a local back in 2006 in my pre-blogging days and I remember the food was very good back then.
On this occasion I’d just come in to take advantage of their AC and cool down with a cold beer but while I was there I had the delicious Paneer Shashlik; big cubes of paneer with onion, green peppers and tomatoes marinated in Mughal paste and grilled on a skewer in a clay over (B+). Their breads are great as well. I really enjoyed the Butter Kulcha (B+).
The downside of good AC is of course that your food goes cold quickly, so don’t let it hang about. My only other gripe (hence the A-) is due to what I call Indian over service. It’s when your meal and conversation is constantly interrupted by the waiter continually spooning unrquested food onto your plate and generally fussing around you in the hope of a big tip. This time I made it clear that I’d serve myself and eventually they got the message. Great food though.
Joseph Bar (Elementary A), Pereira Road, Fontainhas, Altinho, www.instagram.com
My next favourite place is this very basic hole-in-the-wall bar down a quiet back street in Fontainhas. While it doesn’t look like much in the day time, it has oodles of atmosphere at night. It’s popular with locals and tourists because you can sit outside on the street chatting.
Local craft beers are on offer, as well as a basic range of international spirits, but I went for their popular Feni cocktail, which is only 100 RS. You can choose between cashew, my choice (C), or coconut flavour which is known as Maad, mixed with lemon soda. It’s not a sophisticated drink by any means but it makes for an interesting change. I don’t recommend having more than two though if you want a clear head the next day.
A few snacks are sold on the bar but the intriguing cold egg croquetta I tried only scored a C with me. There are a few other items in buns but I it might be better to eat elsewhere unless you’re really hungry.
Mum’s Kitchen (Intermediate B), Martins Building, 854 Miramar Road, mumskitchengoa.com
This restaurant is very handy for the Hotel Fortune Miramar as it’s just a few buildings down on the same street. I was attracted by the prospect of trying rare dishes from different parts of Goa. The philosophy of the Goan couple who own it is to try and preserve traditional cuisine which is now sadly starting to disappear. Their menu is quite extensive and it was hard to know what to choose so I went with the classic suggestions on their website. I was helped by a very nice waiter who was attentive without being overbearing.
Unfortunately as I was there on a Sunday and they were out of lobsters, which meant I couldn’t try the Shivodache Kodi (lobster cooked in a mildly-spiced coconut gravy). Instead I had a very interesting dish called Xec Xec which combined clams with roasted coconut and spices (B). It sounds like it shouldn’t work, but somehow it did (B). To drink I had a bottle of Sula Brut, India’s finest fizz (B-), and an old friend from the time when I lived in India.
Viva Panjim (Intermediate C+), 178 Rua 31 de Janerio, behind Mary Immaculate High School
This was #9 and the third most reviewed restaurant in Panjim on Trip Advisor in February 2019. The location in an old Portuguese house on an atmospheric little side-street in Fontinhas is what swung it for me. The best tables are outside but you’ll need to reserve to get one.
The menu offers Goan classics at reasonable prices but unfortunately my uninformed choices weren’t great. The Chicken Xacuti, cooked in a red coconut gravy, was unimpressive (C+), and the Vegetable Vindalho was so boring I couldn’t finish it (C). Strange the food was so nondescript as it has won a lot of awards in its time. Maybe just go for a snack and a drink…
Black Sheep Bistro (Intermediate A?), Swami Vivekanand Road, www.blacksheepbistro.in
On my visit in February 2019, this boutique restaurant was #1 on TripAdvisor and was the second most reviewed. It also won the Travellers Choice award in 2018. It’s a modern restaurant in an old building selling mainly European tapas-style dishes.
I didn’t eat but I did try ‘Beach Shack’ a Goan IPA, which was pretty good (B).
So, some hits, some misses. I love Panaji though and can’t wait go back.
Just briefly on the beach, in 2006 I went with a friend to Palolem beach which was popular but more chilled and less touristy than most of the others. From there we went on day trips to neighbouring beaches, some of which were virtually deserted. My Goa map here.
In Palolem we stayed at the far north end of the beach, at Ordosounsar (now closed) which was basic but pleasant. At the other end of the beach Bhakti Kutir www.bhaktikutir.com is more upmarket but really beautiful. You can do yoga classes and get ayurvedic massage there too. Damn, why am I even here!
Heading south to Kerala for some more coconut curries next…