Gone are the days when the Goan experience meant holding a chilled beer or attending a sundowner with some nibbles at a shack after a stroll along the beach. Now, Goa is replete with gourmet dining options as big names from Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, and Pune open swanky new places or are set to launch in the next few months.
Some years ago, Goa’s restaurant scene was limited to a handful of places like La Plage, Fat Fish, Bomras, and Martin’s Corner. Then Thalassa arrived to make things a little fancier with Mediterranean food, sundowners and fire dancers; it was followed by Masterchef Australia finalist Sarah Todd’s Antares in 2015. But it was only after the successful opening of Olive Goa in 2018 that restaurateurs saw this beach destination as a new and emerging market ready to take gourmet food seriously.
Pandemic exodus to Goa
One of the main reasons fuelling the race is that during the pandemic a lot of people from Delhi and Mumbai relocated to Goa, opening up a whole new clientele. They were fussy, wanted new experiences, and were willing to open their wallets.
Little surprise then that over the past couple of years, many of the new cafes and restaurants have come up in Assagao. This swanky area with sprawling bungalows in North Goa that is home to many who left Delhi has been nicknamed ‘The GK 5 of Goa’—referring to the upmarket Greater Kailash colony in the capital.
Vagator, Anjuna, Assagoa, and Morjim are where all the action is taking place. This is where Mumbai’s popular Japanese restaurant Izumi, Zorawar Kalra’s Bo Tai, and Pune’s famous pub Elephant & Co have opened—and this is just the start.
Among those who have made a mark is the happening Titlie Culinary Bar that opened in 2019. “Goa is very dear to me, and when Titlie was conceived, it needed a beachfront so Goa was the obvious choice. Since people travel from various parts of the country here, it’s a cosmopolitan crowd,” says co-owner and Chef Tarun Sibal who hails from Delhi.
Sibal feels that the domestic tourist who’s coming to Goa has the spending capacity and is a high net-worth individual. He plans to launch yet another interesting venture this year in Goa.
Affordable real estate
Affordable rentals and real estate, as well as the spectacular scenery, are definitely another big draw. Setting up a restaurant in Goa is far cheaper than in Mumbai or Delhi; keeping with its ethos, many have relaxed settings and easy vibes.
Radhika Khandelwal, who is set to open Fig & Maple from Delhi by the end of June or early July in Assagao, says, “I always wanted to open in Goa because of the setting. For me, a green space is a must, so opening at another market in Delhi was out of the question.”
From tourists who flock to the sunshine state year-round, its new residents and locals, Goa’s diverse customer base is ready to delve into dining experiences.
“The people here are ready to experiment and are more versatile so I can play around with my menu,” according to Khandelwal. “My restaurant here is going to be different from the one in Delhi and I will use a lot of seasonal ingredients.”
Yazu Goa was one of the first standalone pan-Asian restaurants to open in Goa at a stunning location by the sea at Marquis Beach Resort in Candolim. “We were the first ones to introduce the concept of sushi by the sea. It’s a different feel we offer from the one in Mumbai, which is more inclined towards fine dining,” says Columbus Marquis, partner at Yazu Goa and founder of Marquis Beach Resorts. Here you can dig your toes in the sand and sip cocktails while you enjoy the sushi.
Veteran restaurateur Zorawar Kalra, who opened Bo Tai in December last year at a stunning location in Vagator overlooking the sea, feels Goa is a very robust market and is only going to get stronger from here on. “There is no season left in Goa anymore—people come to vacation all-year round, and so it is a great time to be here.” By the end of this year, he plans to open three more of his iconic brands—Farzi Cafe, Younion, and Pa Pa Ya. At Bo Tai, people savour everything from wood-fired pizzas to Thai curries along with sushi, sashimi, and dimsums.
Pune’s popular gastropub Elephant & Co. opened a few weeks back in Anjuna—and it’s not by the beach. “When I open in Goa, I cater to travellers and tourists from across the country, which works better than opening in any other metro because it gives me a wider clientele,” says Karan Khilnani, founder of Elephant & Co, Goa & Pune. “Nowadays the people coming here really take food seriously—they may skip a visit to the beach, but they come armed with a list of restaurants and bars to visit,” he adds.
Famous chefs such as Hemant Oberoi have also set up shop recently. Oberoi's 48-seater restaurant, Amuz, is located in a boutique hotel Ivy and offers a range of cuisines—from North Indian tiffin, sushi tacos, a Goan bento box to a naan bar, where you can order a naan with different toppings. The idea: to cater to all palates and all age groups.
So pack your bags for Goa next time you want a holiday with gourmet experiences. Here's the list of 12 restaurants in Goa to check out:
1. Fig & Maple: A popular Delhi restaurant by Radhika Khandelwal is going to open in Assagao by end of June or early July.
2. Bo Tai: Zorawar Kalra’s modern Thai restaurant from Delhi has opened in Vagator overlooking the sea.
3. Elephant & Co: One of the most popular bars in Pune has opened in Anjuna.
4. Yazu Goa: This pan-Asian restaurant from Mumbai has a stunning location by the beach in Candolim.
5. Izumi: The famous Japanese restaurant from Mumbai is now in Assagao.
6. Saz on the beach: This place opened recently in Mumbai and now has a stunning beach location in Morjim.
7. Uno Mas Tapas & Cocktail Bar: Initially opened in Mumbai, but then shut, it is now in Vagator in Goa and serves Spanish food.
8. Amuz by Hemant Oberoi: Located in Ivy Hotel at Anjuna, this is chef Hemant Oberoi’s first restaurant in Goa and it offers multiple cuisines.
9. Mamagoto: This popular pan-Asian restaurant has branches across the country including Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai and now it has opened in Panjim.
10. Soul Fry: This seafood restaurant from Mumbai which is famous for its Karaoke nights has opened in Baga.
11. Tereza Beach House by Sly Granny: First in Bengaluru, then Delhi, and now in Goa at Coco Beach in Nerul.
12. Kofuku: This much-loved Japanese restaurant from Mumbai is now in Parra in North Goa.