I have barely left the airport and II we’ve already taken the sharp II right turn, down a dusty side II road that we could have nearly II missed seeing. As the wrought II iron gates that lie before me m creak open to reveal a definitively Portuguese edifice, I feel a sense of nostalgia for the future: I’d rather like to own a house like this. Matieu greets me with the effortless charm that only the French can muster. How was my flight? Anything for lunch? How about the Caprese salad? Bon appetite. An air of tranquility sweeps its way through the inner courtyard, welcome as an afternoon zephyr. As I sat out on a breezy terrace, watching the Zuari River ebb and flow away, so too does the babble of modem day life.
This, I realise, is what they mean by susegad. Formerly known as Villa Morgado, Casa da Graca is a passion project between owner and dreamer, Simran Kaur, architectural visionary Alex Von Moltke, and the indispensible contractor Abbas Sheikh. Working tirelessly together, it took almost three years for this inexorable triumvirate to transform the unloved former home of the de Siqueira Nazare family, back to its current splendour. Over a century old, there are hints to the property’s grand past: the family crest greets guests as they enter, traditional blue and white Portuguese murals adorn the walls of the bathroom. An oasis like swimming pool in the courtyard is a welcome modem addition.
Far from the maddening crowds of Goa’s northern beaches, Casa da Graca is located in the fabled ‘real’ Goa. That’s right it’s not lost, it’s just hiding. Just a short drive from colourfully tiled Latin quarter of Fontainhas, with its independent boutiques and local cafes, and the church-lined streets of Old Goa, few travellers bother to visit this comer of India’s smallest state. And that’s exactly why you should go there.
Peace, small but perfectly formed, is the only room with views of the River Zuari, from its own private garden terrace; while Compassion and Devotion overlook the pool. My room, The Creation Suite, was palatial. Not misinformed travel-website ‘palatial.’ No, getting something from the other side is to embark on your very own Camino de Santiago, palatial. While in the bathroom there was a bathtub so enormous it probably warranted an on-duty lifeguard. Goodness, I thought, deciding phone battery was not essential and I’d probably be safer with a shower; they must have had staff for this in those days. And they do. Matieu runs a small team like a family unit.
In fact the property retains the feel of a well-run family home—like you’re staying with that wealthy, eccentric aunt you don’t have. He admits to not being a chef by profession, hut he shouldn’t, because the food is delectable. Kingfish steamed in banana leaf with fragrant jasmine and seafood linguine are their signature dishes. Romancing couples coo across candle-lit tables overlooking the pool while even the most ardent epicure will feast their eyes on the breakfast. Fresh yoghurt set the night before accompanied by homemade granola and crepe Suzettes so delicate they could have been flambeed by Henri Charpentier himself. As much as possible is either made in house or locally sourced, and everything is fresh and of the best possible quality. Mon dieu, I’m glad the French are such snobs about their food.
Casa da Graca’s melange of styles and flavours is an immaculate reflection of the influence of Goa’s colonies over the years; executed with all the attention to detail of a labour of love. Its walls whisper the message susegad where guests are lulled into a sense of blissful indolence, often garnered with proximity to the sea. And is that not, after all, what we are all in search of in the sunshine state?