Goa-bound for this Christmas and New Year’s Eve? We narrowed down the best places to eat and drink in the city — from old favourites to newbies, you have it all here. Go armed with this list of the best bars in Goa, along with the most popular restaurants, and make the last few days of this decade count.
One of the best fine dining options in Goa, A Reverie is all about molecular gastronomy, while their cocktails come infused with ingredients like herbs, flowers, roots, spices and fruits, many of them sourced locally (this range of cocktails, interestingly named ‘The Art of Intoxicology’, is a mix of old and new flavours). The Lightbulb Moment is a classic G&T with herbed infused gin, served in a Lightbulb; Fire & Ice is another interesting one with a smoked whiskey base; while Chai Prioska is watermelon caprioska with hibiscus, ginger, and lemongrass tea. The bar nibbles are just as innovative.
Where: Holiday Street, Gauravaddo, Calangute
Contact: +91 98231 74927
Blue and white benches, loungers (reach early to grab one), an enviable cliff top location, sundowners, and some really good cocktails–if this isn’t enough to bring you here, we don’t know what is. No prizes for guessing that Purple Martini is their signature cocktail. Even the Saarthak Special LIIT is a potent mix of passion fruit, mulled wine, orange juice, vodka, gin, triple sec with a Sambuca flamed shot. They have Saxophone evenings each Saturday.
Where: St. Anthony, Praise Vaddo, North Anjuna Gumal Vaddo, Anjuna
Contact: +91 98719 00995
A bucket full of blue flip flops saying ‘kick off your heels’ welcomes you to this chic space done up in blue and white. The drinks menu has hangover cures, signature cocktails, and even milkshakes (but who wants this). Most of the cocktails pay an ode to Goa by using locals ingredients. Olive’s Coconut Cooler, spiked with vodka, is a must for coconut water lovers. If you have a strong stomach for alcohol, then opt for the potent Goa Trance, which comes with gin, vodka, tequila, feni, white and dark rum, orange liqueur, cranberry and apple juice. Don’t blame us for the hangover.
Where: Unit 1, Vagator Helipad Big Vagator, Anjuna
Contact: +91 78880 37772
We love that the cocktail menu is divided into tropical and fruity cocktails, which are perfect for the beach, strong and classic, bartender’s favourites, and wine cocktails. Some drinks you must try are Kokum Margarita, Apple Pie on the Rocks, and the Pear Chili Martini. These go perfectly with a side of calamari, Panko Fried Chicken or the Cheese Croquettes.
Where: Small Vagator Beach, Ozran, Vagator
Contact: +91 73500 11528
What we love about this chic bistro – apart from the exceptional food – is that they take their cocktails seriously. So seriously that they do not use artificial mixers or syrups. April Phool is a concoction made of vodka, gin, elderflower and citrus while the Paan cocktail is betel nut leaf, star anise gin, vodka, sugar, and lime. They also serve up some feni-based cocktails. At cocktail hour each evening from 4:00 -7:00 pm, these are available for just Rs 199. The dishes are made from ingredients that are locally sourced and delicious.
Where: Swami Vivekanand Road, Panaji
Contact: +91 832 22 22901
Abhishek George of Singapore’s Spiffy Dapper has come up with some innovative concoctions that combine regional favourites along with classics. In fact, he’s even brought some classics from Spiffy Dapper such as Sheikh on the Level — a mix of black tea gin, cardamom, fresh lemon, brown sugar and egg whites makes this a no-brainer. If you like feni, they have three drinks from the regional menu. Wash all this down with dishes that pay a tribute to India’s western coastline. Mahe is tucked away in a 19th century charming home in Anjuna.
Where: 1111, Near Orchard Stores, Mazal Waddo, Calangute Arpora Road, Anjuna
Contact: +91 97658 74858
Sweeping views of the Vagator beach can never be complete without slowly sipping a cocktail to heighten your mood. They offer more than 50 varieties so you’ll be spoilt for choice. We like the ones with a lemon twist: There is Moto Gussie where the brandy has been softened with honey and squashed lemon wedges, and Perfect Harmony where Bacardi comes with a dash of black pepper, sugar and lemon juice. The Truffle Fries and Balsamic Mushrooms provide the perfect accompaniment.
Where: Small Vagator, Ozran, Near Antares, Vagator
Contact: +91 96076 73663
While food connoisseurs head to this restaurant in an old Portuguese home in Assagao village for its delicious fiery fare from the West and south of India, it is also in the must-visit list of those who relish an unusual cocktail. The Goan Mule combines turmeric infused vodka with ginger foam, kumquat, and lime, or opt for the Fire-Fly Fire, where green chillis along with lime cordial and lemonade spice up coconut feni. There are many others, and while the classic cocktails are restricted to two, we counted 13 in the not-so-usual category.
Where: No. 6, Anjuna Mapusa Road, Saunto Vaddo, Assagao
Contact: +91 832 22 68083
The vast expanse of the sea is a given at most places in Goa but the ambience at Toy Beach Club is a notch above the usual – it is hip and young and party mode is on every evening. If you are in an experimental mood, opt for the Cheese Cake cocktail that blends a medley of all-time favourite flavours–Irish whiskey with a dash of cheese cake and vanilla syrup, fresh cream and coffee. Sounds decadent but it is a winner. If you are craving for vodka, then try the Toy Spicy Guava which comes with a dash of chat masala, red pepper, and lime juice.
Where: Candolim Beach Road, Candolim
Contact: +91 96079 83472
Chai and Biscuit–no we are not telling you to go to this hip shack and order these. We are urging you to play with two lovely golden labradors named after the Indian snack-time ritual, who will steal your heart. Tucked away from the crowd in a quiet lane, the music here is just the sound of the waves and there is no WiFi either, so you can cut off from the world. Even Nick and Priyanka hung around here. The menu is mostly tilted towards seafood and Goan dishes with a European touch. Think vindaloo, xacutti, sorpotel, and Goan pork chorizo. Coming here at sunset only makes things prettier.
Where: Holiday Street, Gaura Vaddo Calangute
Contact: +91 98236 85020
Leaving Thalassa out of this list would be a sin. It has become a crowd puller over the years because its Greek food is worth the hype. Fortunately, nothing much has changed at its new location in Siolim. The sunsets from here are just as good, the menu and the fun quotient of the evening entertainment remain intact. If you are a veteran you already know what to order, but first timers should not get confused with the huge menu. We suggest you go for traditional Greek dishes like Moussaka, lamb meatballs, Thalassa special burger (where you can choose between a beef patty or lamb), and Sofrito (beef steak).
Where: Plot No. 301, 1, Vaddy, Siolim
Contact: +91 98500 33537
This newbie in Vagator is already winning hearts with its ‘collaborative cuisine’, brilliant cocktails, and of course the location (take your pick between epic sunsets by the sea on one side and a view of the green hills of Vagator on the other). The vibrant bistro by day changes into a tapas bar by night. Well known mixologist Yangdup Lama uses local liquor to create some innovative cocktails. Order Saligao Straight, a Goan mahua cocktail and Cocktail De Ponas, that’s made with coconut feni. Even the classic cocktails have been tweaked so whether you try the Bloodiest Mary, Smoky Scotch Sour or a classic G&T, it will come with a twist. That twist continued into the cuisine, which marries Indian and international flavours–think dishes like Curry Leaf Chicken Schnitzel, Rose and Harissa tandoori chicken, and Chicken Tikka with Parmesan. It is an interesting mix that you must try.
Where: 592/5 Bardez Goa, Mapusa, Small Vagator
Contact: +91 98997 71020
This South Goa institution has been a favourite, even drawing in a string of celebrities from time to time. Seafood and traditional Goan dishes is what you need to focus on. Go for the sorpotel, vindaloo, King Crab (Sachin Tendulkar’s favourite we are told), Goan sausage chilly fry. Seafood lovers can even try the Martin’s Special Seafood Platter that comes with every possible delicacy that you can imagine. The live music gives a happy note to the evening. It’s best to make reservations since it is often packed.
Where: Binwaddo, Betalbatim Salcette
Contact: +91 832 288 0413
Burmese food may be the last thing that will come to your mind when you are in Goa, but you will thank us for sending you to this popular restaurant in Candolim. There are many takers for the crackling pork, pomelo and pomegranate salad, so definitely book in advance and arrive in time–the open-air restaurant fills up quickly. Their plating is good and cocktails are also quite famous. Don’t miss the Tamarind Margarita and Bomras Special cocktail. Chef Bawmra Jap sources the freshest seafood, gives it his special Burmese touch and presents it in the most beautiful way. Every Sunday they do a Khow Suey.
Where: 247 Fort Aquada Road, Candolim
Contact: +91 976759 1056
Delicious French cuisine by the sea on the secluded Ashvem Beach is bound to give your holiday that memorable edge. The vibe is easy with hammocks and deck chairs providing the quintessential seaside experience while the food is a great change from Goan staples. Try the grilled mussels with garlic butter, grilled calamari with olives, wasabi mashed potatoes and spend hours just lazing around. Do not miss the Chocolate Thali that has earned a name for itself over the years. Served like a typical Gujarati thali, it has chocolates in all forms–from mousse, ice cream, ganache pie, molten cake, and more. Ending the year on a chocolatey note can never be a bad thing.
Where: H. No. 209, Ashvem Beach, Katte Wada Road, Mandrem
Contact: +91 98221 21712
All images: Courtesy bars & restaurants