Tag Archives: Mandrem

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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Private beaches and hammocks by the pool…

In the week we’ve been home, it’s snowed and I have been struck down with a terrible virus from which I may never recover. Well, OK, I’ve got flu and I’ll be fine in a couple of days I’m sure but right now I’m feeling utterly sorry for myself and the warm sandy beaches of Goa seem like a lifetime ago.

I’m hoping, however, that writing about it and looking over photos will bring back the warmth to my bones and a song in my heart. Or at least help stop the runny nose for a few minutes

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Because I love a good chronological timeline, I’m going to start with week one in North Goa.

The thing with Goa is that you can spend a lifetime looking at hotels on TripAdvisor and Hotels.com and i-escape and everywhere else and you can never be sure what you’re going to get. There’s a lot of truly awful looking places and lots of truly amazing looking places and a huge amount of places in between. So I set parameters…

  1. We’re not teenagers so Anjuna and the clubbing bits of Goa were no go(a)
  2. I wanted air conditioning (because I’m a big wimp)
  3. Marcel wanted a pool AND proximity to a beach (because he’s demanding)
  4. A maximum of one 1-star and two 2-star reviews on Trip Advisor (the three, four, five star reviews could be as many as possible)

So we looked. The hotel I loved the most was way out of budget.Turns out Brangelina stayed there. We are not Brangelina.

From there it was a hop, skip and a jump to Instagram to see if there were other nice places near Elsewhere. I searched for Mandrem + Pool and found two places that fit our needs – Lazy Dog and Jamboree Creek. And to be honest, because Jamboree Creek responded first, we booked it. And I’m so very glad we did.

The entrance to Jamboree CreekOur hut

Close up of outdoor shower

Jamboree Creek is equidistance between Ashvem and Mandrem beaches but far enough removed that you’re not disturbed by clubbing and traffic and other people. The hotel is made up of 11 thatched beach huts with incredible outdoor showers and cute little terraces. The rooms are basic but clean – don’t book here if you’re looking for ultimate luxury (for that, book Elsewhere and tell me how it is!) The creek is right at the end of the property, just past the pool. Turns out creeks are tidal (I’m guessing cleverer people than me already knew that) so whilst it’s interesting when the tide is out, it’s stunning when the tide is in – you can watch birds and fish and butterflies and all sorts of nature just being all nature-y and stuff (I’m not particularly outdoorsy, can you tell?)

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There are hammocks and cushioned benches by the pool so you can while away hours, sipping on a hibiscus juice from the organic garden. So we did that a lot for our first couple of days, then we went to the beach.

jamboree creek pool hammock

Jamboree Creek shares a bridge to a private beach with Elsewhere so rather than having to negotiate busy roads and other people (ugh) we could walk to the bridge, cross the creek and arrive at a beautiful, quiet stretch of beach all to ourselves.

The beautiful bridge to the private beach Boats

We headed to Ashvem on our first trip which was a bit of a culture shock – banging techno or terrible trance which gave me significant flashbacks to my clubbing youth and had to leave after a very mediocre lunch (I’m not going to give up eating opportunities).

On our next visit to the beach, we headed right up towards Mandrem and this was a much more pleasant experience – we’d been recommended traditional Goan food at a beach shack called End of the World and whilst it didn’t end up being the best food we ate, it was definitely the best we’d eaten at that stage. I’ll do a whole separate post on the food in Goa because the thing we discovered is that food in Goa can be very hit and miss but when it’s good, it’s fantastic.

Sunset at Mandrem

This bridge was my nemesis. In that I fell off it into waist height water. It didn't come after me and try to kill me.
This bridge was my nemesis. In that I fell off it into waist height water. It didn’t come after me and try to kill me.

This was only the second season for Jamboree Creek but Priyanka (the owner who is only 25) and Vishnu (the manager) were both so incredibly helpful and good that it felt much more established. Couple of tiny niggles. It’s a lovely little boutique experience so we would have liked to see a menu that reflected that. Whilst the food was absolutely fine at Jamboree Creek, it would have been nice to see a little more flexibility, variety and local dishes – Russian salads are quite boring after a while. Our room had a TV and a four poster bed. Both great, but realised that when you lie back in bed, unless you’re both in the top most right hand corner, you can’t see the screen! But that’s about it – if you’re not a nature lover, you are very close to it (in that we had a lizard in our sink and a frog in our toilet on separate occasions) so it may not be the place for you. I am truly terrible with nature and insects and this was all fine for me.

Tiny frog in toilet Sink lizard

If you’re looking for a place that’s a little off the beaten track, with great service, a lovely pool and proximity to one of the most beautiful beaches in the world (probably), then go here. I’d happily go back. Please, someone, send me back. Now. Please?

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Introducing Goa

Given the year of monstrosities that was 2014, we decided that we needed to start 2015 with a bang – and so we agreed to escape grey January in London and head to sunnier climes. Initially we were talking about taking a month off, heading on a tour of the southern hemisphere, ending with being hobbits in NZ, but then reality kicked in and responsibilities reared their ugly heads so we agreed upon a 15 night tour of Goa. I know, hardship, right?

I’ve been to India a few times before – when I was a kid, we did the Delhi-Agra-Jaipur tour, my cousin lived in Bangalore for a bit, we’ve family and friends in Chennai (Madras) and I had a fantastic girls holiday to Kerala in 2007 (despite the gigantic cockroach inside my mosquito net on the first night that made me want to run back home screaming). We wanted heat, we wanted a chill out and so, making like we’re crusty hippies in the early 90s, we packed our backpacks with our finest tie dye (read: matching suitcases filled with subtle shades of white and grey linens) and off we went.

So, Goa. According to many people, it’s well past it’s heyday of the 1960s and the 1990s put paid to any semblance of culture, with dirty beaches and angry locals and bad tourists. And whilst I’m sure parts of Goa are like that, I literally spent weeks before departure researching where to go, where to stay, what to do and, most importantly, where to eat so we loved every bleeding minute of it (even the bit when we had a row in our less than soundproof hut in our first location that ended with the wino sleeping on a hammock by the pool! Again, poor us, fights in hotels, hammocks by pools. Tough break.)

The one thing I didn’t do, was really think about were the stopovers in Mumbai (on the way there) and Delhi (on the way back). Bejesus, hanging out in an airport for 8 hours (Mumbai) and 11 hours (Delhi) can really make you lose your will to live. Particularly if every time you try and walk outside to get some fresh air, there’s a machine gun armed security guard checking your tickets and passport.On the way back home through Delhi airport, we had to go through 12 different security checks before we got on the plane, from the entry into departures to actual boarding. And queues. So. Many. Queues. And Indians have a very different queuing sensibility to Brits.

That’s all I’m going to say about that. Although it’s probably worth noting that I did put on my best 1950s teacher voice on many occasions to explain ‘THE QUEUE STARTS HERE YOU KNOW’. Which I’m sure was hugely appreciated.

We’d planned a two location tour, the first week between Ashvem and Mandrem on our own private beach (sort of) and then our second week was slightly further inland and south in Loutolim.

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Overall, we loved our Indian experience. If you’re going, ignore all the haterz (innit) and do your research. Decide what you want from your trip and you’re sure to find it. Our only ‘must-haves’ were not too expensive but with a pool, not in clubland and near good food and beaches. And we found it.

Goa is like the rest of India – it’s busy. The traffic is insane, people drive like lunatics but it’s rare to see a car with a dent, going with the flow seem to work. Obviously, there are cows everywhere, monkeys can be spotted in the trees, goats on roundabouts and water buffalo in the fields. Oh, and frogs in toilets and lizards in sinks. It’s all good.

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The people are as nice as you could find anywhere –helpful, friendly, not put off by the rude tourists who appear in the peak of the season.

The food can be a bit hit and miss – and is probably worth a blog post all of its own. Our main issues in the North were trying to find a good Goan curry, more difficult than you’d expect. No problems finding chicken nuggets and burgers though. Not that we tried any of those though.

There’s some beautiful architecture but you have to go a little further inland to find it.

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So overall, don’t write off Goa – it’s an easy entry into experiencing India and will leave you wanting to see much more of this beautiful country.

More to come… I’ll try not to be too boring.

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