Tag Archives: Casa Susegad

Lovely Loutolim and Casa Susegad

I’ve mentioned it a few times but it deserves a post all of its very own so here’s week two in Goa and our stay at Casa Susegad. 

The entrance to Casa Susegad

Beautiful ornate entry

The wino and I require very different things from our holidays – whilst he’s happy to lie on a beach or by a pool for a solid fourteen days, moving only to dip in the pool or go to sleep, I get a little bored of this after… well, usually a good 12 hours. So we agreed that week one would be beachside and week two would encompass a little more culture. What I hadn’t put into this equation was how much Goa would make me into a gigantic beach bum and as such, I was quite happy to sleep and hang out on the beach and not do much else.

We’d booked our week at Casa Susegad based on the lovely i-escape review and amazing Trip Advisor comments and thought it would give us a different pace of life from Jamboree Creek and Mandrem.

And that it did. We got a car from Mandrem to Loutolim – it’s about an hour and a half away but the vibe couldn’t be more different. It’s in a little village where there’s nothing apart from monkeys in trees and a Friday market. When you’ve been in a place where it was rare to see an Indian face and even rarer to see anyone over the age of 40, it was nice to be somewhere that felt more removed from the tourist trail.

You’re greeted by lots of dogs (and Carol and Norman, the owners) and whilst I won’t pretend to remember all their names, my two favourites (ie the ones who paid me the most attention) were Basil and Lisa – just lovely friendly dogs that hung out with the guests all day long. Don’t fall for their food begging though!

The balcao

There are only five rooms at Casa Susegad but the house itself is palatial. All the rooms are situated around the pool, with the bar close by too. We were in the pink quartz room – and very pink it was as you can see below. The floor tiles were gorgeous too – discovered when the work was being done to the house and left in their original state. Loved them.


The terrace Glorious floor Pink room

Next door to our room were the turquoise room and the sunshine room. Norman and Carol live in private quarters in the main part of the house and in the opposite wing is a full size snooker table and a large dining room, as well as a lounge where you can escape the heat and read or watch TV. We shared a terrace with our turquoise neighbours and got to know them really well – fabulous fellas.

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Having spent most of the previous week just speaking to the wino, it took a couple of hours to get used to the openness at Casa Susegad – because the rooms surround the pool, you get used to speaking to your neighbours and having drinks with them and then sitting around the dining table to eat with them. And we loved this – it was so friendly, the owners are delightful and had old friends staying (who I mentioned before) so it felt very much like you were staying with friends. I wonder if I can say ‘friend’ another time in this sentence? Terrible grammar!

The pool is bordered by jungle – literally. You can see all manner of beautiful birds and families of monkeys jump across the roof to steal figs from the tree in the front garden. I’m sure there are creepy crawlies and snakes in them there woods but we didn’t see anything so I’m going to pretend they weren’t there. Oh, apart from a flying beetle that was the size of a small bird. That wasn’t terrifying at all.

The pool

Dinners at Casa Susegad are full three course affairs, with food whims taken in the morning and cooked up by Joanita to please all the guests. Admittedly, we hadn’t realised how little there was to do in Loutolim so whilst the meals are lovely and worth every penny, it’s best to budget as though you’re going to eat there every night as there aren’t many nearby places to enjoy a more cost effective meal. It’s great sitting around the gigantic dinner table, getting to know your fellow guests and shooting the breeze. Dinners can either be served on your terrace or in the main dining room – we mostly opted for the terrace it was slightly less formal but both are lovely experiences.

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Norman and Carole know the region really well so can happily help you plan days out and arrange drivers and recommend places to eat. With our turquoise room neighbours, we went to Margao for a day of exploring including a fantastic lunch at Longuhino’s. And as previously mentioned, Helen took me out for a day to Panjim which included lunch at Hotel Vineet, the home of the Goan revolution. The nearest beach is 20 mins drive away and worth it for a day out, it’s beautiful and the food at Zeebops is amazing.

Latin Quarter, Panjim Panjim Church DSC_0517

I’d happily go back to Casa Susegad – it’s a great location for chilling out, reading by the pool and enjoying some delicious cocktails and dinners. The staff are super friendly and on hand to help with anything you need. It’s also a small hop skip and a jump to the airport so even if you don’t want to spend a whole week in the jungle village, consider spending a couple of nights there before you fly, it’ll leave you feeling ever so zen. Particularly if you indulge in one of the massages, so very good.

And that’s my last Goa post. Sorry for being so indulgent but there was so much to share. Cannot wait for our next trip!

Chowing down in Goa

Finding an ‘authentic’ Goan meal is probably much the same as trying to find authentic tapas on the Costa del whatever – because the economy is so dependent on tourism, the beach side shacks and hotel restaurants are simply catering for the tourist trade, so feature chips, burgers and Russian salads extensively. And I’m not complaining too much – there isn’t actually anything better than a plate of salty chips and a Kingfisher whilst sitting by the pool. However, after a few days, all I wanted was a well spiced (ie not watered down for the tourists) curry or just something a bit different. And maybe a menu that wasn’t just in English and Russian.

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So we spent a lot of time looking at Trip Advisor for the best restaurants in Mandrem – and found that the place across the road from Jamboree Creek was voted sixth best in the area – and given that we’re hugely lazy, 6th best was OK by us.

Rotisserie at Fritchy

So when you look at Fritchy on Trip Advisor, the dishes look a bit like this.

http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Restaurant_Review-g1010240-d5966356-Reviews-Frichty-Mandrem_Goa.html
http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Restaurant_Review-g1010240-d5966356-Reviews-Frichty-Mandrem_Goa.html

When we arrived, however, there was one gigantic table stretched out across an open courtyard with a chalkwritten menu that suggested that there was only one thing on offer – rotisserie chicken with roasted corn and bread. And booze, obviously.

I love nothing more than a simply spiced roasted chicken so we decided to stay. Long story short, the owners decided to try something new and this new Fritchy had only opened three days prior to our visit. And my god, it was good – really simple, well cooked, lovely bread and even a passable Indian wine (Sula, should you be looking for a wine when you’re in India). And to be honest, whilst the fancy pants fine dining experience would have been nice, this felt more in keeping with our Goan vibe – much more chilled, a great way to meet new people on the shared dining table.

You have to get there early as once the chickens are cooked and sold, that’s it. The owner/chef was only making three a day because of the quiet season so if you’re there after 7.30ish, you may not get fed.

It’s also incredibly good value – at 600rupees per chicken dinner with booze on top of that, you’re eating out for less than £4 per head.

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A sublime dinner at Sublime

Having missed out on fine dining at Fritchy (in favour of roast chicken- no great loss), we asked Priyanka for her recommendations of places to eat locally. What we were actually looking for was beach shack type authentic Goan cuisine of curries and fish and stuff, but we were convinced by her to try out Sublime in nearby Morjim – a fusion restaurant combining the best of Goa, France, Japan and lord knows where else but all deliciously tasty. Given that the final bill came to about £20 per head, including a lot of cocktails and three courses, it was fantastic value for money. If you’re in North Goa, it’s definitely worth a trip there – we arrived too late to see sunset but imagine it would be glorious from one of the beach tables. The restaurant itself is small – probably only 40 covers but beautifully decorated with a boat hanging from the centre of the room (by way of lighting I think!) and what looks like a raised platform with a mattress and mosquito nets where you could have an intimate cocktail or two with a loved one. My memory is rubbish but the one thing you have to try is the Paan Martini – my god, that cocktail. I dream about that cocktail. Also the ginger battered calamari starter was insanely good and the banana leaf fish. And according to the wino, the prawn starter with risotto was amazing but clearly I couldn’t try that. We shared a dessert platter which is basically three of the four desserts, full size, to share. Mon dieu. Delicious.

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The End of the World

We finally got our beach side authentic vibe on Mandrem beach at The End of the World. The wino ordered prawns, I had chicken xacuti, both were fabulous and best eaten watching the sunset whilst enjoying a beer. However, this was the place that had removed the fish eyes when they brought out the plate from which to entice you to choose, so I’m not sure how fresh they were. However, the chicken xacuti was amazing and would have been a trip highlight, if we hadn’t had better at Casa Susegad, made by the lovely Joanita.

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Zeebop at Urtoda beach

Our final beachside lunch was at Zeebops at Urtoda beach. Recommended by the lovely chaps at Casa Susegad, Zeebops was probably the best seafood we had all trip – beautifully cooked fish that the four of us shared, a lovely quiet beach and great company – as well as a sighting of Bollywood star, Karina Kapoor, having a photoshoot on the beach that day. Lovely.

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Fun with hawkers and other top Goan shopping tips

Whilst it’s only been a fortnight since we got home, it feels like a lifetime ago already. Don’t you hate that? When you’re away, you promise yourself that you’ll keep that holiday chill and not let the small shit get you down then a mere 14 days later, you’re freaking out about… well, stuff.

I’ve spent a lot of time over the last two weeks arranging the lovely things we bought around our home and I thought that my Goan shopping experiences may be useful to other people so here are some top tips.

The Markets….

Also known as the haven for a lot of tourist tat and a significant amount of MC Hammer trousers in elephant prints

We arrived after our long journey on a Thursday afternoon and were still finding our feet by Saturday so we missed Arpora night market which everyone raves about. Mostly because I hear it’s like shopping at a nightclub in the 1990s, lots of music, drumming, people wearing too much tie dye and looking slightly beatific. Not gutted we missed it as we went to Anjuna Market on Wednesday instead which is basically the same but you go in the day time so rather than dancing to crazy beats, you sweat and sweat and sweat and still end up buying a lot of MC Hammer pants.

The wino wouldn't let me bring one of these home
The wino wouldn’t let me bring one of these home

Anjuna

Because what you really want to buy in 36C heat is thick woollen socks.
Because what you really want to buy in 36C heat is thick woollen socks.


Anjuna

Anjuna Market is a lot of fun. Honestly. I generally hate big crowds and being forced to visit a “lovely shop that sells bangles, even big sizes for you lady”, but as the season has been so quiet due to the collapsing Russian economy, the crowds weren’t that bad so you could simply drift around and not make eye contact with anyone so you don’t get hassled. Amusingly, the ladies hawking their wares have picked up amazing British accents so they go from speaking in Hindi to each other to sounding like traders at Billingsgate Market. “A’righ’ love, come and check out my stall, lovely fings for you and your fella”. They could also hawk in Russian, which shows how dependent on tourism from there Goa has become.

Ice cream trucks at Anjuna

Kids MC hammer pant suit

One of my absolute favourite moments at the market was when a woman, trying to hawk her wares said “alright love, where are you from?” to which I replied, “Sri Lanka” (having bored of telling people London) to which she replied, “oooh, it’s cold there, innit”. So whilst it’s incredibly impressive that they can hawk in many languages, don’t go off script unless you want them to look at you like you’ve lost your mind when you laugh for a good 15 minutes after that.

We made it out of Anjuna after a couple of hours with only three shirts (wino) and one shirt and two pairs of hippy dippy pants (me). Everything is much of the same on every stall but worth looking out for Shoop Doop, which has great shirts in a variety of styles in interesting fabrics. The guy who runs it also has a shop in Ashvem so if you don’t make it to Anjuna, find him there.

You’ll need to get your bargaining hat on though – my MC Hammer trousers started at 700 rupees – I walked away with two pairs for 200.

My elephant print trousers
I am not putting my face to these trousers. But these are the trousers in their natural habitat. If you see me wearing them in London, please feel free to judge me.

Much more interesting and, I guess authentic, is Mapusa Market. This is on every day and is a local market (for local people) but with some tourist tat thrown in for good measure. Mapusa (pronounced Mapsa) is where you can find amazing spices, vegetables, fruit, homewares and all sorts of other things that you never knew you needed. And piles of clothing sky high. It was amazing to watch women making flower garlands from gigantic bags of heads of carnations and roses and other flowers I didn’t recognise. Mr Wino was at the height of his holiday illness so couldn’t smell anything but the scents and aromas – oh my. you go from overpowering dried fish to beautiful fresh flowers to pungent spices and herbs within a few steps. Utterly incredible.

Bangles at Mapusa Making garlands at Mapusa Dried fish at Mapusa market Flower garlands at Mapusa

These bottles were for sale. We couldn't work out why anyone would buy them, any ideas?
These bottles were for sale. We couldn’t work out why anyone would buy them, any ideas?

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Other shopping experiences

During our stay at Casa Susegad, we met the lovely Helen and Colin, friends of the owners and part-time locals, spending a significant portion of the year in Goa and the rest in the UK. Helen has a shop in the UK and spends a lot of her time in India sourcing products to sell there (and the proceeds from which goes back to projects in India). As such, if you ever need a shopping tour guide, she’s your woman. We spent a day out in Panjim visiting many beautiful independent retailers and I spent a small fortune in Fab India on cushions and blankets and lovely trinkets. If Helen’s in residence at Casa Susegad, ask her for her tips.

Fab India

For me, Fab India was my stand out shop – it’s laid out beautifully with homewares, clothing and furniture that’s beautifully curated.I had my heart set on bringing home a Rajasthani blanket – I brought one in Kerala seven years ago but two house moves and getting a cat in that period of time has left it looking a little threadbare. The husband and I had agreed that no mirrorwork or embroidery would enter our suitcase (mostly because my 1990s clubbing flashbacks would be constant and never ending should I have that sort of thing in my house) and all we wanted were those simple printed cotton thin duvets. Helen recommended Fab India so off we went – and I somehow came home with four blankets, five cushion covers and a table cloth. Well done Vinnie. That was fun packing, let me tell you. Blankets do not crush down easily. FYI, looking on Fab India site, they ship internationally. Do not tell the wino.

Another newish Panjim shop worth a visit is White Brick Wall – this sells modern clothing with an Indian twist, as well as homewares.  I fell in love with the jumpsuit with the tuk tuk print, but sadly not in my size. Although, to be fair, the owner said she’d get it made for me in my size but I didn’t have time to do that. Sad.

And if you get a chance the paper shop, Chimanlals, is gorgeous if you’re a stationery fiend like me.

To end on a foodie tip, in Loutolim there’s a bakery called Jila, voted the best bakery in the whole of India by the Times of India. If you decide to stroll down there from the town or from Casa Susegad, take water – it’s a good 30 minute walk. You’ll get lost, you’ll pass a dilapidated house that’s been taken over by monkeys, locals under umbrellas to protect themselves from the heat wil laugh at the the tourists, you’ll think you’re never going to find it and indeed, you’ll walk right on by till you reach what feels like a motorway. And then, if you’re like me, you’ll blame the husband for getting you lost and you’ll have a little argument so you turn back to tackle the long walk home… and there’s the sign. On a house. That looks like a house, not a bakery. So you ring the bell, and you’re taken into the lounge and you are brought a plate of cakes for you to choose from. And it makes the long trek so worth while and you forget about the heat and you elegantly fight over who gets the last mouthful of eclair*.

Jila bakery Loutolim

Clearly, I did not take a photo of the cakes themselves because I was too busy a) drooling and b) scoffing. Sorry.

*Me, obviously.

What to eat in Goa when you’re allergic to prawns…

About four years ago, I was at home, the wino was out and I decided to indulge myself with an old favourite dinner – salad with garlic and chilli prawns. About 30 mins after eating, my face started to feel a little funny so I headed to a mirror and was surprised to see that my face had swollen up to the size of a very large beachball. Given my face is quite round at the best of times, the fact that I’d noticed meant that it was quite an impressive swelling.

I called NHS Direct in a bit of a panic, they suggested I get my ass to hospital, so I did. An anti-histamine shot later, I was fine. A few weeks later, I went to a lovely Thai restaurant and ate a prawn cracker. Et voila, beachball face. Who knew prawn crackers had actual prawn in them?

Back to the doctor, referred to allergy clinic, long story short, I had managed to develop an allergy to prawns. One of the most heartbreaking things that’s ever happened to me – I truly love seafood. Whilst I’ve not been officially diagnosed with a full shellfish allergy, I haven’t eaten any shellfish since the diagnosis, apart from squid which I hadn’t really thought about being a shellfish, but it is (just the shell is on the inside).

So whilst I was super excited about going to Goa, I knew that I’d suffer insane amounts of jealousy watching the husband chow down on freshly caught prawns the size of rolling pins whilst I enjoyed yet another Russian salad. Yes, I could eat fish but prawns. I LOVE PRAWNS.

The wino's prawns.

Turns out, I had nothing to worry about – Goan food with its Portuguese and Indian heritage is wide ranging and diverse and there are a lot of delicious meat and veg based curries I could enjoy for those times when the ‘fresh’ fish plate they waft under your nose to choose your fish contains only fish with their eyes removed so you can’t see how not-fresh they are.

Whilst there were some terrible meals we ate, there were a few that were completely stand out and I’m still dreaming about them now.

Casa Susegad, where we spent our second week, has an amazing chef called Joanita who creates dishes based on your personal whim for dinner each evening. One evening, we asked for something traditionally Goan and were presented with Chicken Cafreal curry, a rich, unctuous dish of coriander, chilli and garlic all perfectly balanced and not hot, just beautifully spiced. As I recovered from illness this weekend, I decided to try and recreate this dish at home, with a little help from Google and my own little twist (based on missing ingredients).

Below is my attempt. Clearly not as a good – if you want it at it’s best, go to Casa Susegad!

Chicken Cafreal ingredients

Goan Chicken Cafreal – serves four

  • 8-10 bone-in skinned chicken legs and thighs (depending on how greedy your dinner companions are)
  • Marinade ingredients
  • A large bunch of fresh coriander (cilantro for my Yank buddies)
  • 8 green chillies – I used finger chillies but you can probably soften the heat by using larger chillies
  • 1 bulb of garlic, peeled
  • 2.5cm of peeled ginger
  • 1 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp cloves
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp sesame seeds (in Goa they use a seed called khus khus but I couldn’t find this and was told that sesame seeds are the closest match)
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Other ingredients
  • Oil
  • Butter

Method

  • Take all the marinade ingredients and put into a blender
  • Blend till you get a rich green sauce –  I had to add oil at this stage as my blender is rubbish but a tablespoon brought it all together
  • Pour this over the chicken pieces, cover and leave to marinade in the fridge for at least two hours – or ideally, overnight
  • Heat the butter in a large pan (that has a lid) with a little oil to stop it burning over a medium heat
  • Add the chicken pieces and cook for 5 minutes till lightly browned
  • Add the rest of the marinade to the pan and add a little water (150ml) to stop the sauce sticking
  • Cover and cook for 30-40 mins until the chicken is cooked through
  • Serve with vegetables of your choice and rice

Personally, next time I make this I’ll probably increase the chilli as we like things a bit spicier but this was a good, mild curry. Also, you’ll think you’re adding far too much coriander but keep going – you want that coriandery warmth to be the lead flavour, not anything else.

Enjoy!

Chicken Cafreal