For most of us living in Mumbai, Goa is like our second home, our go-to destination for all things life. We go to Goa to celebrate a milestone, we go to Goa to get over a break-up, we go to Goa with the girls, and we go to Goa when we feel the need to be alone. While over the years, South Goa with its pristine white sand beaches, beautiful resorts, and relative quiet have begun to seem more appealing, I must admit, there have been times when I have missed the buzz that is North Goa. So, this time, I consciously picked the Le Meridien Calangute situated on the bustling Calangute-Candolim road in the North, for my solo trip.
Upon arrival at the hotel, the first thing that catches my eye is the hotel’s chic design, inspired by Goa’s first settlement–the Kunbi Tribe and the arrival of the Portuguese into the state, adding a touch of local authenticity that is intrinsic to the brand, and runs through the hotel. The hotel features the iconic Le Méridien Hub, a concept that reinterprets the hotel lobby into a social gathering space meant for guests to convene and converse. The 146 rooms (including Family Studio Rooms and Suites) are cute and just as appealing, with a common thread of authenticity in the form of little artefacts present across. My room overlooks the pool and the plunge bar, and looks inviting with the signature Le Méridien Discovery Bed, a 43-inch LED TV and designer bath amenities.
A little jazz
I was not in the mood to step out that evening, but since I could do with a drink or two, I decided to check out the hotel’s specialty
restaurant, Jazz & Grills, which exuded glamour and opulence at the same time. As I settle down with a glass of smoked whiskey complete with some thyme and rosemary, with some papaya salad on the side, I am told the restaurant is also Goa’s first whiskey bar (complete with a selection of premium cigars), and hosts live performances by local musicians every evening. As the local band took stage, I knew I was in for a good time.
Break the fast
The other dining options are just as great. The breakfast at the Latest Recipe, the all-day dining restauarant is a sure pick-me-up with a lavish buffet spread. In the care of Chef Deeksha Bansal, I, however give the traditional buffet a miss, to try some authentic Goan flavours. She got me an Egg Xacuti that came with Goan bread, followed soon after by a Chorizo Omelette, both of which are part of the Signature Breakfast menu, and the hotel’s attempt at keeping the experience as local as possible. Prepared with traditional Goan spices, the dishes were high on flavour, and I must admit made for a fiery start to my Goan day out in the sun and sand.
Lunch and munch
That the hotel is situated within less than 1 km distance from the main Calangute beach, makes it easy to hop in and out simply to change, grab a meal, a little nap, or whatever you may fancy. After a couple of hours at a local shack, when I get back to the hotel,
happy and hungry, I am in for a real surprise. A huge Goan thali (with almost 13 items on the menu) was waiting for me at the Latest Recipe, ready to be savoured. Soon after Executive Chef Nishesh Seth is done introducing the dishes, I dig in and find them finger-licking good. The hotel’s General Manager, Victor Chen, informs me that the hotel has a local shack guy specially cooking up the thali, in a bid to keep the flavours as authentic as possible. I must admit that lunch was the best meal for me throughout the course of my stay, and after the sumptuous meal, all my tummy allowed me that evening was some sparkling wine (kokum-flavoured) and some canapés, at Longitude 73°, the brand’s signature bar.
Full-up, I rounded off the day with a dip in the pool, to wake up in time for the Saligao church visit the next day, that is part of the very
thoughtfully put-together ‘Destination Unlocked’ programme, a unique characteristic of Meridien hotels across the world. As I stood witness to the Sunday mass with a host of other locals, I could not thank the Almighty enough for the privileges I sometimes unknowingly enjoy.