Olive Bar and Kitchen
Unit 1, Vagator Helipad, Big Vagator, Anjuna
A little sun-kissed, a little windblown and decidedly lazy, perched on a cliff overlooking the Arabian Sea. Candlelit with an intimate setting, soft music, and gourmet café food with a view of the sea for company. Oh, so romantic...Chef Manu Chandra and Chef Evan Gwynne have put together a yummy menu to welcome you back to this haven on the cliff. Recommendations go all out for the mushroom tortellini, prawn and chorizo pil pil, baked sardines on toasted ciabatta and a Snickers Bar to satiate your sweet tooth, from the delightful epicurean café menu populated with indigenous ingredients, fresh seafood and the spirit of Goa. The vibe is right, the crowd is cool, the food is decadent without the fuss, and it's hard to think of a better date night spot in Goa right now (or ever).
The Black Sheep Bistro
1st Floor, Villa Braganca, Dr Braganza Pereira Road, Panaji
The Black Sheep Bistro is a comfortable, cosmopolitan space where one feels one could be anywhere in the world. This is a place with personality, but it’s not all display—these guys can truly cook, and their dishes are a victory of wary alignment and texture. Recommendations go all out for the Malwani mushroom stroganoff, the paan cocktail and the arancini. The house-made burgers, where the bread and sauces used are all made in-house daily, are a must try.
Taj Hotel Road, Near Joecons Beach Resort, Benaulim
As a Goan of Indo-Portuguese heritage, Chef-Owner Avinash Martins had a specific vision in mind: a restaurant that shows off his food philosophy of combining unexpected ingredients. The kitchen is not so large, and he often brings the food to your table. He seems to be a friend or soon to be friend of almost everyone in the room. Food to him has always been about sumptuous elements coming together to create a balanced plate that stays on one’s mind long after it has been eaten. So be prepared to see your steak come with a side of ‘tendli’ or cheesecake made with coconut jaggery.
Zbf Ziggy’s by Fame
Opposite All Diwa Goa, Pacheco Vaddo, Majorda
You wouldn’t expect to find such an amazing restaurant on a little street in Marjorda, but that’s part of Goa’s fun. The menu features crowd-pleasers like peri-peri fish fingers, Tangda chilli chicken and Punjabi-style shepherd’s pie, but the real treats here include the pan-fried herb-crusted crab cake with feni mayo, the pork vindaloo, the chorizo-stuffed squid and, in fact, every single Goan dish on the menu. If you are unsure where to start, the seafood thali, which consists of six or seven dishes showcasing the Goan menu’s range, is a good choice. No pretence—just good food. Do say hello to Chef Richard, he’s a rockstar!
Ping’s Bia Hoi
House 78, Mae De Deus Vaddo, Chogm Road, Sangolda
For a come as you are, Goa’s much-loved local neighbourhood Vietnamese-themed beer garden, nestled in the heart of the quaint streets of Sangolda, has an assuredly un-cool approach—so much so that it becomes cool. See the quirky tees hanging outside, vintage barbershop, Vietnamese hats as lamps and potted plants. To top it off, it serves up the best of Asian street food, delicious cocktails and freshly brewed beer. The menu blends expertise and guilty pleasures perfectly: the dimsum is given a new level of complexity by its Philadelphia cream cheese filling. The hand-pounded pork and sugarcane skewers are so savoury and rich that you just want to chuckle like a school kid who just got away with something. The sticky pork ribs feature gooey, rich meat and are topped with the most opulent sauce you’ll ever try. The standout, however, is the Goan Nasi Goreng.
190, Mazal Vaddo, Assagao
Located in the heart of Assagao, this restaurant revels in the rich ethnic legacy of Indian cuisine based on recipes from venerable homes across the country. Menu standouts include chakundar & amaranth galouti, beef chapli with alsi ki chutney and the Goan pork chilli fry with chorizo. Save room for dessert, if possible; the jamun sorbet and caramel custard are sublime. Pop in for a glass of Jamun or Cochin from the bar or come with friends to linger over a meal in the backyard. Those who don’t want to fly to Goa can still try the pop-up menu at Jamun in Lodhi Colony Market, Delhi. Some highlights from the Goa menu were served all of March.
Chogm Road, Pequeno, Mood, Saligao
This small eatery has an incredibly strong brand identity. It’s pretty minimalistic in design but they know how to make the cafreal like no one else. Ingredients are unfussy and the flavours shine—from fried fish to local vegetables with a medley of condiments. And, of course, there’s a menu of other Goan dishes, including caramel custard. Good luck resisting eating more than one. A literal bite of happiness.
The Chikoo Tree Project
Dr Miguel Miranda Road, Pajifond, Margao
A neighbourhood restaurant that still manages to be elegant. And although the menu is small, all of the dishes are thoughtful, flavourful, and unpretentious. The setting is fancy and spacious, with high ceilings, panoramic windows and a counter for watching the chef while you eat. Portions are petite, but at least that gives you an excuse to sample as much as you can eat. The kal dosas are yummy and so are the thukpas and the cakes and bakes. Do not miss the homemade ginger ale.
Small Vagator, Ozran Beach, Vagator
It’s not possible to have a bad time at Antares. Sure, you will perhaps have to queue up, but even that is tolerable, because then you get to feast on Australian MasterChef finalist Sarah Todd’s menu and catch the best sunsets in Goa from the spectacular Vagator cliffs. The bar has a variety of specials from classics like kiwi mojito to drinks like the exotic spicy mango martini, bestselling kokum margarita or the plum berry martini. The fresh and fruity cocktails leave one asking for more and are great to go with small bites. Other excellent choices are fresh-off-the-sea grills or a mix of small plates and snacks, like fish and chips and garlic prawns.
Bhatti Vaddo, Nerul
The owners of this home joint want us all to ‘make friends with Goan food’—and I am certainly sold on the place, with its low-key backstreet vibe, pretty plants in pots and nutritionally balanced home cooking. Top marks for the desserts and basic fresh lime soda too. Some of Goa’s favourite ingredients are still here, but the style is more rustic, from an incredible salad of tomato, chorizo with pao to a two-part dish involving stuffed squid alongside a piece of breaded fish with sauce. Also pray that they are serving their drool-inducing xacuti with red rice the day you are there. It’s all ridiculously good value, and then there’s the service—affable, clued-up and flawlessly patrolled to make you feel at one with the world.