The entrance to Westin sneaks up on you as you drive through the quiet backroads roads of Anjuna. Unlike many five star properties in idyllic areas, this isn’t an imposing structure sticking out of an otherwise beautiful landscape. Instead, the entrance blends in seamlessly with its surroundings. A driveway leads to the entrance, a large open doorway with no gates lending it an airy, tropical vibe. It is a glorious retreat perfect for beach strolls and walks along the winding, tree-lined roads of Anjuna.
We have had a long journey - hence after the welcome drink, a quick check-in and a refreshing soak in the bathtub, I hit the in-house gym for a much overdue workout. Amongst the many things that differentiate the Westin chain of hotels from its contemporaries is its array of well-being focused services. In accordance with the Westin’s new Let's Rise Campaign, that ensures guests are moving, eating and sleeping well during their stay, the gym here is well equipped with a healthy mix of functional and machine equipment to suit every traveller’s needs. The trainer, Venkatesh, listens to my brief and carefully tailors a 30-minute workout for my needs. As I leave, he informs me that he’ll be waiting for me next morning for my workout. That's motivation101. After the workout, I cool off in the pool as the warm amber lights light up the poolside. Guest who prefer a more indulgent way to unwind can opt for a massage or therapy bath amongst other services at the Westin Heavenly spa.
I head back to the room after for a siesta, or susegad as the Goans call it. Our standard size rooms are spacious and calming, have excellent WiFi, coffee machine, contemporary sofas to lounge on, a work table, and a 50-inch TV to take care of all entertainment needs. Westin Goa also has rooms with adjacent pool patios which are larger than the standard ones.
That night, we dine at the flagship restaurant, Thyme and Ash, which caters to those who seek a high end, fine dining option over their mutli-cuisine restaurants. The food here is innovative and unashamedly indulgent. In keeping with their design philosophy, the restaurant interiors are understated and elegant. The walls have been given a fresh white coat of paint, with white linen tables, comfy white chairs and large glass windows looking out into the game room next door. The dishes here are truly magnificent. My colleague and I are served a warm and comforting thyme and chamomile tea paired with a watermelon amuse-bouche as the executive chef Ravish Mishra and director of food Sharad Singh graciously explain the inspiration behind the specially curated menu for the night. The entrée, marinated apple and beet with rosemary diplomat cream, is served on a bed of olive ash, with thinly sliced shavings of apple and beet, lined on top of each other creating a dome, with a rosemary diplomat and mango cinnamon cream filling in the rolled-up shavings. There is an intense orchestra of texture and flavour that comes with every bite. The saltiness of the cream cheese and sourness of the beet is replaced with a completely different flavour profile, when I bite into the apple shavings with mango cinnamon filling which is delicately sweet and tangy. The two contrasting flavour profiles in one dish is not something you’d think would work, but it does. And faultlessly so.
The batter-fried prawns come with a marmalade base, and have a big dollop of wasabi to counter the sweetness of the marmalade. Paired with the prawns is a breakfast-themed cocktail made of vodka with a dash of orange marmalade served with bread sticks and sliced oranges. The vodka, strong with a hint of zest from the orange, pairs wonderfully with the entre of prawns. For mains we get a Sofrito chicken, marinated in chilli and coriander, with black rice pappadams and a butternut puree. The dish is an interesting fusion of Indian and Spanish flavours. The earthy flavour of the chicken marinated in coriander and a red chilli spice mix, pairs wonderfully with the European flavours of the sweetened butternut puree. The dishes that come and go are each more special than the other - tortellinis with wild mushroom in a truffle emulsion, plated like a forest floor, rustic and earthy; macerated beef paired with a 30-day barrel-aged negroni and Neapolitan gluten-free pizza, served with a mulled wine, layered with tequila, peach puree, smoked and served in a bell jar. And more. What made this memorable repast even more special is the warmth and hospitality shown by the chefs and staff as they took time out of their busy schedule to explain the global and regional inspirations behind the beautifully crafted dishes.
That night I can hear the sea, summer-calm and soothing.
The next morning, I decided to go running on a 5-kilometre trail curated by Westin, to burn off the lavish dinner. With the brand’s global focus on wellness, every Westin hotel features a unique “move well” component for its guests. The Goa branch has charted out a running trail that takes you through the heart of Anjuna all the way to Vagator and back. Summer was just beginning to set in and so it was bright and sunny outside without being too hot. The trail took me through a web of lanes in Anjuna lined with the requisite shacks selling beachwear and jewellery, passing chapels and old Portuguese villas painted in bright shades of yellow, blue or white and converted into cafes or homestays. The digital map then led me down a tiny back road and I found myself alone, with paddy fields on both sides.
I circle back to the hotel feeling tired, but content with my morning run and headed straight for the all-day multicuisine restaurantm The Market to fuel up. There’s a muted hum of voices as people linger over their dishes, waiters smile over trays laden with chilled beer. The 'new normal' means tables are widely spaced, and the space is not crowded yet. The Goan thali here showcased the best of local cuisine - prawn balchao, fish cafreal, fish rava fry, Goan fish curry and the freshest grilled prawns I have ever had, paired with solkadhi to wash it all down.
Afterwards we walk down to the deep sandy beach of Anjuna – perennially popular with the alternative crowds. It is about 10 minutes from the hotel.
This visit is just what we need after months of the pandemic and lockdown. We can mingle with the people on the beach, or escape to our room. I ain't antisocial, but I do want to choose my proximity to strangers right now, and that’s easier in a place like Westin Goa which manages to uphold the luxury standards expected of a global five-star chain while also seamlessly delivering the comforting experience of a laidback Goan holiday, by not being imposing, or far removed from the local landscape and culture. And it makes for a great base to explore this lovely part of the country.
Address: The Westin Goa, Survey No 204/1 Sub Division 1, Dmello Vaddo, Anjuna Bardez, Goa, India, 403509.
Tel: +91 832-663-6600
Nearest airport: Goa International Airport, Dabolim.
Check the website for more details.