India hasn’t always had the best rep when it comes to clean eating. Those richly ghee’d curries and delectable, oil-steeped, breads sitting heavy in our stomachs. However, with the same mindfulness that underpins the Motherland’s second biggest export — yoga — Goa now indulges our desire for gastronomical well being.
In the far south of the hazy, pocket-sized, state, a transformative shift is redefining the menu.
Set on the Patnem back road away from the buzz of the beach shack strip, Jaali is a sanctuary from the heat, the Kingfisher, and the tikka masala of Goan institution. Even the sound of the autorickshaw’s horn barely permeates the tree-shaded garden.
The angle here is a small plate fusion of Middle-East-come-Med. Stand-out veggie dishes include charred cauliflower, blackened tofu and green papaya salad. Try the chai-infused granola with Indian curd and fruit or the gluten-free pancakes, studded with strawberry and watermelon, almond butter and yoghurt. ‘Messy Eggs’ with green capsicum and spiced paneer offer solace for the less fruit inclined. And shiitake hash cakes with soft poached eggs and chipotle yoghurt dip are worth ordering a few times over.
Exquisite presentation extends beyond the plate, into the courtyard; inked in white and deep blue to calm and cool, respectively. Hours are easily whiled away here.
Submerged in tropical roadside greenery in Agonda, probably the most unhurried town you could hope to find yourself in; Zest is Balinese garden, Moroccan riad and tumbledown Indian palace. An eclectic mix of ambient music; from calypso to deep chilled house, to Indian folk, lilts through the open space. This is a place to languish when the heat gets too much, amongst outsized floor cushions, of course.
Start the day with a golden latte: coconut milk brewed with opulent masala spices and vanilla, to warm the belly if not the soul. Next, coconut chia pudding — loaded with luscious red fruits and spiced buckwheat granola — or vegan scrambled eggs. Rich texture and flavour more than compensate for a lack of egg. Return diners should sample the sushi bowl, zucchini spaghetti, pad Thai and lasagne. All raw, vegan/vegetarian and overflowing. If you have any space left they have an exceptional sugar-free dessert menu.
Punctuate lazy, stressless, days with coffee and juice.
Mandala is one if those tumble-down places. Built of wonky bamboo poles, swathes of coloured cloth and sequinned strings of elephants.
Only a year old — tucked behind the main street in Agonda — fresh salads accompany vibrant vegetarian curries and an impossibly long list of juices and smoothies. Try a chai from the table-top tea stall out front. The springy buckwheat galette, with cheese and sun-dried tomato, is perfectly thin and crisp around the edges. The best bit: its little pot of homemade “something like an olive, but not”, pickle. A one-day juice cleanse program promises to rejuvenate, balance and, above all else, let your insides rest a while. And the cherries atop this sugarless cake are exotic smoothie bowls and a specials board of raw, free-from, desserts.
It’s all psychedelic tabletops and no-frills plastic chairs, but there’s love for the food and good vibes.
The Space Goa
This is a bit of a hidden gem, sitting part-way between Palolem and Patnem in another of those dappled courtyards that feel more like the bottom of a cool blue swimming pool. The Space offers a holistic wellness retreat with attached Conscious World Cafe. Poised to nourish retreat-ees and passersby with an organically grown and, mostly, locally sourced menu. Breakfast on ‘happy’ poached eggs with garlic sautéed spinach and proper sourdough toast. Or a gluten-free millet bread, if you’re sensitive. The eggs are the product of free-range chickens whose diets are based on ancient Ayurvedic principles, in case you were wondering. Complete the experience with a smoothie — Yogi Chai or Bananarama — for a full-belly afterglow. Should you stay for lunch, or venture back later, the Chakra salad is a must. Follow with a glass of kombucha, to keep the gut biome happy.
The Space makes its own raw, refined sugar and gluten-free, desserts and has an attached deli stocking such delights as homemade amaranth, buckwheat, and millet energy bars.
Umami @ Kala Bahia
Nestled on the rocky northern shoreline of Patnem beach, you’d have to be looking for this place to find it. Perhaps that’s what lends a real serenity to Umami though — a few brightly coloured tables looking out to sea, shiny thingamajigs reflecting the light back into the space.
With a separate far-reaching breakfast menu, from chia bowls to full breakfasts, Umami explores the lighter side whilst delivering on the kind of morning potato you’d expect from a gastropub Sunday roast. Salad options include beetroot carpaccio with rocket and feta, and quinoa with avocado, feta, and dried apricot, dressed in lemon and pepper on raw zucchini noodles.
The perfect spot to drink another of those hard-to-find good coffees in the golden breeze. Watching fishermen bring in the morning catch.
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