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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?