A Dose Of Vitamin Sea: Anahata Retreat

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Image courtesy of Anahata Retreat

Named after the heart chakra, Anahata is associated with balance, calmness and serenity: three things you’ll definitely find here. Ensconced by swaying palms to the east, the Arabian Sea to the west, and Mandrem and Morjim beaches to the north and south, it’s a hidden gem within walking distance of Goa’s most popular coastlines. But don’t be fooled by the rustic exteriors and laid-back vibe; owners Rishal and Angela play host to a list of chic clientele, from holidaying Londoners to weekenders from Mumbai.

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Sunset Views: Image courtesy of Anahata Retreat

The 17 beach cottages and suites are concealed amidst an acre of palm grove, the prime spot an Ibiza-style lounge area with perfect sunset views. Ideal for those wanting to connect with people rather than the internet, Anahata hosts a variety of classes and workshops from power yoga to tai chi; 5-rhythms dance to Qigong; as well as offering authentic Ayurvedic massages. Healthy living and eating is encouraged (though happily not enforced), and the L’Atelier restaurant serves fresh salads and delicious European flavours… along with potent cocktails. Everything in perfect balance!

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Sunset deck: Image courtesy of Anahata Retreat

The Rooms

The accommodation is split between various categories of cottage and suite, each with different views. The cottages have a luxurious desert-island feel, with exposed bamboo, thatched roofs, hanging lanterns and mirrors made from flotsam and jetsam. Light and airy, they open onto a private terrace area – book a Beachfront Cottage for uninterrupted sea views. Kingsize or twin beds have beautiful carved wooden headboards, and fans keep things cool. Walk-in wardrobes and open-plan shower bathrooms make good use of the curved space. If you value function over form, the suites, set in colourful Portuguese-style houses, are more practical. Air-conditioned and closest to the restaurant, they have charming terraces and simple white-on-white interiors.

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Sea View Cottage Interior: Image courtesy of Anahata Retreat
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Garden Suite Interior: Image courtesy of Anahata Retreat

The Food

The L’Atelier fusion restaurant is the heart of Anahata. Whitewashed tables are dotted around a sandy dining area, covered by the shade of palm trees by day and lit by twinkling lanterns by night. Insisting on an open-plan kitchen, Angela is pedantic about the food. Everything, from the sauces to the pickles, is made from scratch, and the meat and fish are sourced from the best local suppliers.

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Image courtesy of Anahata Retreat

Over cocktails as the sun went down, we chose from a dinner menu of simple, hearty dishes. My peri-peri kingfish was a succulent homage to Goa’s traditional Portuguese flavours. Breakfast showcases Anahata’s ethos of ‘balance’. I chose the healthy option – a tangy Bircher muesli with spirulina and toasted cashew nuts – but they’re just as happy to serve a Full English with all the trimmings.

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Image courtesy of Anahata Retreat

Best time to go: For the best weather, visit between November and February. The Christmas-New Year period can get very busy, but things quieten down a lot from mid-January to February. In keeping with the seasons, Anahata is closed from May through to October, during the monsoon.

Top tips: Goa’s northern coastline has a growing design scene. Just a 5-minute walk away, Morjim Beach is home to some great little independent shops, including Jade Jagger’s boutique and charming local offerings.

For direct bookings click here:

Casa Da Graca: Out With The New And In With The Old

As published in Travel + Leisure:
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Image courtesy of Casa da Graca 
 I’ve barely left the airport and we’ve already taken the sharp right turn, down a dusty side road obscured from vision. As the wrought iron gates that lie before me creak open to reveal a definitively Portuguese edifice, I feel a sense of nostalgia for the future: I’d rather like to own a house like this too.

 

Matieu greets me with the effortless charm that only the French can muster. How was my flight? Anything for lunch? How about the Caprese salad? Bon appetite. An air of tranquility sweeps its way through the inner courtyard, welcome as an afternoon zephyr. As I sat out on a breezy terrace, watching the Zuari River ebb and flow away, so too does the babble of modern day life. This, I realise, is what they mean by susegad.

 

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Image courtesy of Casa da Graca 

Formerly known as Villa Morgado, Casa da Graça is a passion project between owner and dreamer, Simran Kaur, architectural visionary Alex Von Moltke, and the indispensible contractor Abbas Sheikh. Working tirelessly together, it took almost three years for this inexorable triumvate to transform the unloved former home of the de Siqueira Nazare family, back to its current splendour. Over a century old, there are hints to the property’s grand past: the family crest greets guests as they enter, traditional blue and white Portuguese murals in the bathroom. An oasis like swimming pool in the courtyard is a welcome modern addition.

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Image courtesy of Casa da Graca 
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Image courtesy of Casa da Graca 

 

Far from the maddening crowds of Goa’s northern beaches, Casa da Graça is located in the fabled ‘real’ Goa. That’s right it’s not lost, it’s just hiding. Just a short drive from colourfully tiled Latin Quarter of Fontainhas, with its independent boutiques and local cafes, and the church lined streets of Old Goa, few travellers bother to visit this corner of India’s smallest state. And that’s exactly why you should go here.

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Image courtesy of Casa da Graca 

Much like Goa herself, Casa da Graça is an exotic mix of different cultures and styles. The forget-me-not blue Moroccan pool house is the only place you will want to spend languid afternoon, whilst you let Malu massage away your aches and pains. Its Indo-French interiors and Art-Deco furnishing create an eclectic yet stylish aesthetic. Peace, small but perfectly formed, is the only room with views of the Zuari River, from its own private garden terrace; whilst Compassion and Devotion overlook the pool. My room, The Creation Suite, was palatial. Not misinformed travel-website “palatial”. No, getting something from the other side is to embark on your very own Camino de Santiago, palatial. Whilst in the bathroom there was a bathtub so enormous it probably warranted an on duty lifeguard. Goodness, I thought, deciding phone battery was not essential and I’d probably be safer with a shower; they must have had staff for this in those days.

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Image courtesy of Casa da Graca 

And they do. Matieu runs a small team like a family unit. In fact the property retains the feel of a well-run family home: like you’re staying with that wealthy, eccentric aunt you don’t have. He admits to not being a chef by profession, but he shouldn’t, because the food is superb. Kingfish steamed in banana leaf with fragrant jasmine, or their seafood linguine are their signature dishes. Romancing couples coo across candle-lit tables overlooking the pool whilst even the most ardent epicure with feast their eyes on the breakfast. Fresh yoghurt set the night before accompanied by homemade granola and crêpe Suzettes so delicate they could have been flambéed by Henri Charpentier himself. As much as possible is either made in house or locally sourced and everything is fresh and of the best possible quality. Mon dieu I’m glad the French are such snobs about their food.

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Image courtesy of Casa da Graca 

Casa da Graça’s mélange of styles and flavours is an immaculate reflection of the influence of Goa’s colonies over the years; executed with all the attention to detail of a labour of love. Its very walls whisper the message susegad where guests are lulled into a sense of blissful indolence, often garnered with proximity to the sea. And is that not, after all, what we are all in search of in the sunshine state?

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Image courtesy of Casa da Graca 
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Image courtesy of Casa da Graca 
For direct bookings click here.