The once Portuguese territory of Goa is India’s smallest state and boasts a regional cuisine famous for its incorporation of seafood, coconut milk and rice. This list of Goa’s top ten restaurants represents the best of south-western Indian cuisine.
Hotel Venite popular lunch spot serving traditional Goan vegetable vindaloo and Portuguese inspired chouricos — a spiced sausage — make this place worth a visit. The coconut-skin lamps and slightly rickety balcony tables which look out onto the light pink and pastel colored buildings across the road add to its quirky and off-kilter charm. The walls are covered with graffiti, some of which dates back to when the restaurant first opened in 1955.This restaurant is a great place to sit back and take in Panjim whilst watching the world go by.
Set up by a Goan couple who wished to preserve the traditional flavors of Goan home cooking, Mum’s Restaurant is the place to go for a taste of the old country. Suzette and her husband have researched and collected family recipes from across North Goa to serve up at their restaurant, which maintains both a homey and fine dining ambience. Techniques and flavors used reflect both the Catholic and Saraswat ways of cooking. Although Goan cuisine is not necessarily known for vegetarian dishes, Mum’s Kitchen’s vegetarian options are extensive and unusual, with dishes such as Bimbli Udamethi, a vegetable dish made with roasted coconut and spices that is a great favourite in Hindu homes.
Located on the first floor balcony of the boutique Panjim Inn Hotel, the Verandah Restaurant is a delightful restaurant which specializes in Goan cuisine. The venue’s balcony, with its beautiful marble topped tables and views out onto the old Latin quarter of Goa, is the perfect place to sip a house cocktail and watch the world go by. Focusing mainly on rich meat dishes with subtle hints of roasted coconut, the menu is extensive and the chefs are accommodating towards those with dietary requirements. If the kitchen isn’t too busy, guests are invited for a traditional Goan cooking demonstration under the supervision of one of the chefs.
Right on the banks of the Mandovi River, the A Tona bar and restaurant — which means ‘afloat’ in Portuguese’ — is a popular local spot for a relaxing drink during the day and a lively evening out once the sun has set. With specialties including Goan grilled meats, peri-peri chicken and vegetarian baked dishes, as well as a knockout location and charming atmosphere, A Tona bar and restaurant it is a must for travellers looking to escape Goa’s many tourist traps.
A family owned joint run by Mericana and Patrick D’Souza, Bhatti Village is a true taste of Goa. Without a menu, guests rely on Patrick to make recommendations for dishes which change according to the season. The restaurant is known for its gaboi (fish roe), samarachi kodi (dried prawn curry) and pickled mackerels. In addition to delicious food, the restaurant is full of curious objects collected by the family, each with a story to tell. The collection includes huge casks that were once used to store a locally brewed liquor known as feni and a giant whale rib which has been converted into a glass rack! To avoid disappointment, book in advance as the restaurant only seats 40 and is only open for dinner.
For those fortunate enough to find themselves on the sleepy Goan island of Chorao, a few miles off the coast of Panjim, LaFayette Bar and Restaurant is a must visit destination. Not only does it seem to stay open all day, but the food is freshly prepared, spicy and full of flavor. With ice cold beer, fried mackerel and hot fish curries, Fatima Fernandes the cook is extremely hospitable and will often sit down for a chat. The entrance is fairly unassuming but she assures guests that she never closes her home to hungry visitors.
Some may argue that real Goan food can only be found in beach side shacks and small restaurants. However, the owner of the Upper House is on a mission to see that Goan staples such balchao (salt-mango pickle), crab xec-xec (crab cooked in a thick, roasted coconut sauce) and vindaloo are given the recognition they deserve in a high-end environment. Many of the dishes retain the Portuguese influence common to Goan cuisine, such as the cafreal, a lightly spiced chicken in a green masala gravy that originated from Portuguese merchants from the colonies. The restaurant believes in keeping things simple, local and homemade to ensure its popularity with locals and tourists alike.
Tuscany Gardens in Candolim is a welcome break from the often heavy, coconut-rich Goan cuisine. Specialising in freshly baked thin crust pizza and homemade pastas, the restaurant gardens are a tranquil and romantic environment in which to lose oneself for an evening. Whilst the food is not strictly Indian, the menu reflects Goan specialities in the seafood department, with plenty of emphasis on prawns, tuna and calamari. Dishes are reasonably priced and the owners make every effort to pair food with locally produced Indian wines.
Serving up North Indian classics, Sher-E-Punjab is a cut above most roadside lunch cafes. As well as mildly spiced favorites like butter chicken and paneer tikka, the food is tasty and suitable for younger travelers too. There is air conditioning throughout the restaurant and a garden terrace at the back, tucked away from the traffic of Panjim. With a wide ranging menu for vegetarians and a selection of fresh juices, Sher-E-Punjab’s tandoori cuisine comes highly recommended.