Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Lavish breakfasts, late lunches, whimsical dinners and more at Taj Fort Aguada Resort & Spa, Goa

I, along with my best friend Isha, spent a long weekend at Taj Fort Aguada Resort & Spa in Sinquerim and soaked in the Taj hospitality from Friday to Sunday. During my stay there I happened to visit a lot of their in house restaurants, ordered in-room dining and experienced the food from the Taj kitchen. From lavish breakfasts to lunch with a view to dinner under the starry night – it was one amazing weekend! Here’s everything about my food experience at Taj Fort Aguada Resort & Spa.

The welcome drink, table of surprises and other goodies

When you enter, you are greeted by the warm staff and offered a hand towel and a welcome drink. After your journey to the hotel, being seated and offered water and juice is totally appreciated since it takes a while for the check-in formalities to get done.

Once we entered our villa and looked around, we were greeted by a hand written note, bottle of wine, a basket of fresh seasonal fruits, cookies and chocolates, which we could indulge in. That was such a grand welcome! We were super excited for the culinary journey at Taj!

On exploring a little more of the villa, we stumbled upon the mini bar which was full of drinks – both, alcoholic and non-alcoholic, chocolates, snacks and savouries including locally produced nuts, crackers, Dairy Milk Silk and cookies – perhaps to satiate your midnight hunger pangs or your sudden cravings. And the best part about it was, it was refilled every day and you could pay directly during check-out.

Late lunch at Morisco

Once we settled in, we headed for lunch at their inhouse restaurant Morisco. Morisco has fresh written all over it! This elegant grill, overlooking the Candolim-Calangute-Baga beach stretch, serves fresh seafood. Their chefs offer the finest preparations from continental and Goan cuisine. The live interactive kitchen works wonders with the freshest seafood.

Morisco is also open to walk-in guests. Walk-in guests can avoid walking through the main entrance and lobby, and walk directly in from the Sinquerim beach via the gate that leads to Morisco. The adjoining speciality bar – Martini Bar, serves a large selection of wines, spirits, beers, cocktails and snacks. Since it is attached to Morisco, it enjoys a view of the sea and the pool.

We soaked in the vibe and relaxed at this beautiful seaside restaurant and sipped on our cocktails as we waited for our food to be served. We tried the peach iced tea (which wasn’t so great) and Surfer’s Paradise (which was insanely refreshing). The fizzy drink was made of lemon squash, lime juice, lemonade and angostura bitter.

We decided to try their signature Heritage Goan Thali’s and opted for the Goan Seafood Thali and the Goan Meat Thali each. The seafood thali comprised of Goan specialities like the Goan prawn curry, crab xec  sex, rawa fried king fish, dry shrimp kismoor, tendli sukhem, salad, steamed rice, balchao naan, sol kodi, papad and dessert – coconut pancake with chocolate sauce.

Though many of the items remained same in the meat thali, the seafood items were replaced by mutton sukha masala, mutton xacuti, chicken cafreal and chicken jirem mirem – all of which was tender and cooked to perfection. I enjoyed the meat thali over the seafood thali because finding a good meat thali in Goa is a task.

What I found really interesting about the thali’s is – the balchao naan and the dessert. I’ve had hundreds of thalis and this unusual innovation came as a surprise. The balchao naan brings together the best of Indian and Goan food. We love our cheese garlic naan, so this one’s replaced by our favourite balchao masala, and it’s delicious.

The dessert was an unusual pick too. I’m used to restaurants serving bebinca, dodol, gulab jamun or seradurra for desserts with Goan food. But the Morisco take on the traditional Goan pancakes – ale bele, which is stuffed with coconut and jaggery was amazing. The chocolate sauce added the goey sweetness to the coconut stuffing and made for a perfect dessert!

Cocktails at SFX Lounge Bar

I walked past SFX in the evening and found it so pretty. So we headed there for cocktails late in the evening. I did regret not having taken pictures earlier, because the place looks insanely pretty with its quirky decor, colour blocked recliner couches and easy lounge chairs. SFX is more like a five star version of a beach shack – this one overlooking the Sinquerim beach.

The lounge bar by the sea serves a variety of snacks and fast food, besides a range of cocktails and mocktails similar to Martini Bar. We decided to sip on a couple of beach themed mocktails – the Aguada Punch and Kiss the Sand.

Aguada Punch was a medley of flavours since it was made of juices of seasonal fruits. However, the fizzy Kiss The Sand was made of orange squash, ginger, khus syrup topped with Cola. You can grab a beer or sip on some signature cocktails and watch (or listen, in the night) the waves hit the rocks on the beach below! This is what a vacation should look like, right?

The food menu at SFX is limited, but serves a variety of seafood and finger food. We tried their signature fish and chips with tartar sauce – thesucculent crumb fried  modso was delicious. The crunchy Semolina Crusted Prawns served with peri peri dip made for a crunchy and spicy accompaniment to our drinks.

Italian dinner at Il Camino 

Il Camino means The Chimney in Italian and the chimney at the centre of the restaurant tells you why it’s called that. The illumination, the paintings on the wall and the chimney add to the rustic charm. The circular shape of the restaurant gives it an easy flowing feel.

Adding to the latest innovations is the open show kitchen where a large pizza oven bakes delightful thin crust pizzas. The Italian spread at Il Camino features an array of antipasti, soups and mains. The restaurant has large French windows overlooking the Arabian Sea. You can even reserve a celebration table near the poolside once the rain recedes.

You’re greeted by warm and friendly staff who gets you seated and serves you a delicious Italian appetizer (name of which I’ve forgotten) and an assorted homemade artisan bread platter. The safest bet at an Itlian restaurant is the pasta and we asked for the Chicken Penne Pasta with cheese sauce, and sprinkled with freshly group pepper, it was delicious.

A lavish breakfast in bed

The next morning, we woke up to the birds chirping in our garden villa and quickly made tea, before we headed to our yoga session. Once back, we ordered for breakfast. I love five star stays for this very reason. You don’t really need to dress up to get out and get food. Good food comes to you! What can be better?

Our food soon arrived and we polished it of. We asked for eggs made sunny side up, which was served with butter and toast, jams, grilled sausages, hash brown, sautéed spinach in olive oil and grilled tomato. Every bit of it was yumm! The croissants, breads and sweets were the cherry on the cake. The service was swift and they wasted no time in clearing the table! I loved every bit of my breakfast and got ready for a fun day at Taj Fort Aguada.

Lunch at Kokum Kitchen

Kokum Kitchen – the multi-cuisine all day dining restaurant at Taj Fort Aguada spoils you for choice by offering you a fascinating range of continental, oriental, Goan and North Indian cuisine. The restaurant is chic, the vibe informal, splashes of colour, trendy furnishings and artistic food presentations set the tone as soon as you enter. This trendy restaurant is built with elements of the sea.

There’s a vibrant interactive kitchen and an elaborate buffet spread to create a special dining experience at Kokum Kitchen. The horseshoe-shaped wooden deck seating is delightful. With the eclectic Kokum Kitchen on one side and the pool overlooking the Arabian Sea on the other side, this is just perfect to sit back and relax!

We found a cool window-side table overlooking the pool and were set to relish the Kokum Kitchen experience. Though it was lunch time, we asked for Chamomile Tea. The aromatic herbal tea was everything we needed at that point because we were feeling a little unwell (slight cough and cold)!

The food menu is so vast, that one is spoilt for choice. We had to take a pick and decided on Grilled Lobster Tail in peri peri sauce, served with herb tossed veggies and cheesy mashed potato. The lobster was as good as it could be, I’m definitely going back for another one. The Tandoori Murg – chicken marinated in Indian spices and roasted in clay over was succulent and delicious!

That was all the food we ate, but we indulged in some desserts. We were told that Kokum Kitchen tries to incorporate the Goan flavour and kokum in many of their dishes. So I jumped at the idea of ordering Kokum Panna Cotta. There was also another reason for ordering it. I wanted to try the Panna Cotta after my Italian lunch the previous night, but couldn’t. So well, kokum panna cotta post lunch!

We also tried the Vanilla Creme Brulee which was delicious. It’s essentially a rich creamy custard with a layer of hardened caramel on top. I absolutely loved both the desserts and found the kokum panna cotta really innovative. Even for the crème brulee, they had their own twist of making the caramel sugar free.

Afternoon Tea Ritual at the lobby

The afternoon tea while perched on a gilded hotel armchair overlooking the beach by the horizon sounds so luxurious. The lobby at Taj Fort Aguada converts into a venue for the ‘Taj High Tea Ritual’. The aroma of tea all over, as the pianist in the centre strums his keys to create melodious music – just perfect! So here we were sitting facing the pool, with the beach beyond – a sight to behold, during our afternoon tea.

Everything about the place was so surreal and pretty. The tables were laid with beautiful floral cups (and they were pink), cereal and macaons (yayyh)! We soaked in the vibe, sipped on our tea and were served a couple of exotic snacks, all hot and perfect for the evening!

The three-tiered tray was laid with creamy chicken wonton, crispy balchao style prawn crusted and fried, sundried tomato bruschetta, grilled zucchini and cheese sandwich, blueberry cheesecake, red velvet cake, chocolate cake and seradurra – everything of which was delicious and served in the right proportion.

Refreshing herbal tea at Jiva Spa

I don’t know why, but I find the nicest teas at spas. And this time was no different. Though it was our fourth cup of tea for the day (green tea in the morning, chamomile tea during lunch, another one at the high tea and the fourth one at Jiva Spa), we absolutely loved the freshly brewed herbal tea. Wish I knew the recipe and could recreate it! Guys, don’t miss the tea here. I had another cup just before I left! So that makes it five cups of tea for the day. Yasss! Read about my experience at Jiva Spa here.

Whimsical dinner under the stars at Fish Tails

While at Taj Fort Aguada, a whimsical celebratory dinner setup under the starry night sky awaited us at the far end of the resort, close to the Bay. The silent little space, with just soft music playing in the background – called Fish Tails, had a private fine diner set up complete with fairy lights and hearts drawn in rose petals on the table. We were greeted by Saby, who popped the champagne bottle and poured the bubbly for the two of us.

Men, this is so perfect for a special date night – probably on your anniversary, Valentine’s Day or when you decide to pop the question. Women, you can plan this if you’re looking to surprise your guy. Trust me, everything about the space is perfect! They also set up the celebration table at a location of your choice – in your garden (outside the villa), by the beach, at the Fish Tails lawn or even in your room (if the weather isn’t favourable).

The menu is from Kokum – so you get multiple options to pick from. We asked for a soup first (because we both had flu-ish symptoms). The Caldo Sinquerim Soup was more like a hearty Goan seafood broth and seemed perfect to begin our meal with. After a slight drizzle, the thunder kept rumbling in the distance and the sea kept getting rougher, but it didn’t rain and we soaked in the vibe.

We ate very light that night – a Grilled Whole Pomfret served with citrus mash and balsamic glazed vegetables and Chimichurri Marinated Grilled Tiger Prawns served with mashed potato and seared asparagus. The food was delicious, the service great and the entire experience surreal. I’d definitely want this again, and again!

For the desserts, we had a deconstructed Passion Fruit Cheese Cake. The ginger based passion fruit cheesecake was served with wedges of peaches, kiwi and espresso ice cream. The slab of Slow Based Chocolate Cake served with wild berry compote was goey and delicious. I loved how both the desserts were plated and the components fused well with each other!

The final in-villa breakfast

We had some activities planned for the day. But before we left, we ordered breakfast (though we had initially planned to go out and grab some). It arrived a while later and we enjoyed a hearty breakfast of fluffy banana pancakes and a similar egg platter like yesterday – but scrambled eggs instead of fried. We washed it down with hot chocolate and were all set for a fun day!

My thoughts on the food, ambiance, service and overall food experience

The time spent at Taj Fort Aguada has indeed been memorable. I loved Mosrico and SFX more – because they’re casual and apt for both – day and night. Kokum Kitchen, however, is more crowded and can get you uncomfortable. Il Camino is super formal and the millennial do tend to feel out of place, because we aren’t used to so much formality usually,

The staff – at all the restaurants are very kind and friendly. They are willing to assist you in anything, swift with orders and prompt in recommending anything when asked. Probably, this is one reason we had such a great experience at Taj Fort Aguada. A big shoutout to the entire team at Taj Fort Aguada for having us over and planning a brilliant itinerary for us. We indeed had a great weekend away from home!

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