A Dose Of Vitamin Sea: Anahata Retreat

39375748
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.

102284807
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!

102284814
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.

102284766
Sea View Cottage Interior: Image courtesy of Anahata Retreat
102284811
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.

102284803
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.

102284763
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:

Secret Lair Seclusion in Sleepy South Goa

The Cape Goa Beach
The virtually deserted beach. Image courtesy of The Cape Goa

As reviewed for i-escape.

Perched above a pristine curve of golden sand, there’s an air of Bond villain’s lair about The Cape Goa. Built into the side of a rocky cliff are 4 guest cottages, all with teak walls and rustic thatched roofs that blend into the surrounding palms. But step inside and you’ll find things are rather more indulgent: huge beds, spectacular indoor-outdoor bathrooms fronted by walls of glass, and private sun decks with alfresco hot tubs that gaze out over open ocean.

186561
Image courtesy of The Cape Goa

Brand-new in 2017 and designed squarely for romance and relaxation, The Cape offers a change in tempo from modern life. Think barefoot strolls along the beach, Ayurvedic massages on your deck, and evenings spent lingering over cocktails, seafood and spectacular sunsets in the open-sided restaurant. The town of Agonda is only 30 minutes away if you fancy boat trips and a bit of nightlife (scooters and taxis can be arranged), and some of Goa’s loveliest beaches are nearby, but really there’s little incentive to leave. We can think of few better places to steal away with someone special – and what’s more, it doesn’t cost the earth.

186550
It could be you! Image courtesy of The Cape Goa.

Rooms

Balinese in style, with thatched roofs and cavernous beamed ceilings, the four cottages are quietly luxurious. The furniture mostly consists of antique-style pieces in polished teak, but colour-pop walls, tiled floors and sliding glass doors prevent the interiors from feeling too dark. Beds are enormous, and you also get a sofa and daybed to lounge on; there’s even a TV with Netflix, though we doubt you’d choose this over the view. Bathrooms are huge, with swathes of exposed rock, pebble inlays, trailing plants, floor-to-ceiling windows (there are blinds to pull down if you want privacy!), rain showers, and sections open to the sky. But the star feature lies outside: a private sun deck, complete with loungers, a parasol, a sitting area and a sunken Jacuzzi tub.

186531
Image courtesy of The Cape Goa

The cottages are identical in looks and layout, but for ultimate seclusion and the best views I’d recommend 3 and 4, which are closest to the beach. Cottage 1 is nearer the restaurant, and noise from the kitchen can travel.

186543
Image courtesy of The Cape Goa

Eating

The breezy, open-sided restaurant is a lovely spot to while away the golden hours as afternoon slips into evening. The menu covers an extensive selection of southern and northern Indian cuisine, and there’s plenty of fresh seafood on offer. My Goan fish curry was a highlight, and the smoky vegetable tikkas were simple yet perfectly executed. There are also salads and sandwiches if you want something lighter for lunch – we liked the look of tofu and sesame, and blue cheese with rocket and onion marmalade. Service can be slow, but that just provides an excuse to work your way through the lengthy cocktail list while you wait.

186560
Image courtesy of The Cape Goa

 

Best time to go: October to March is the best time to visit Goa, with the most pleasant weather in December and January. This is also when the region is at its busiest, but The Cape, located in the sleepy south, isn’t affected by the crowds. June to September is the monsoon season, with high humidity and sudden downpours, but the resort stays open year-round and prices tend to be much lower during these months.

186551
Image courtesy of The Cape Goa

Top Tips: This is the perfect place to unwind and do very little, so bring plenty of books to work your way through on your lounger. We’d also recommend packing something a little sturdier than flip-flops for the descent down the steps to the beach, though the sand is powder-soft once you get there.

186663
Image courtesy of The Cape Goa

For direct bookings click here.

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

As published in Travel + Leisure:
98023019
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.

 

98005946
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.

97885348
Image courtesy of Casa da Graca 
97895831
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.

98022983
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.

98019996
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.

98005231
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?

98001653
Image courtesy of Casa da Graca 
98019896
Image courtesy of Casa da Graca 
For direct bookings click here.