Soon to be unrecognisable from the beauty of the monsoons, it’s off for the off-season traveller; the shutters are back up and beach umbrellas fight for non-existent space. It’s season time in Goa!
With a buzz in the air that the Morjim-Ashwem stretch is the place to be seen this year, we headed north to see what all the fuss was about.
Aneel Verman is back from his annual monsoon expedition travelling around Asia and Europe, and his boutique resort Sur La Mer has just about shaken off its monsoon cobwebs. Celebs like British designer Jade Jagger (who resides nearby!!) and flashpackers – yes, flashpackers! or backpackers of the upscale sort – are set to rub shoulders.
Hidden up a narrow dirt track you will find Sur La Mer, blink and you will miss it – in fact you won’t even see a signboard. The resort is located away from the usual crowded spots of Goa, but is in proximity to beautiful Morjim Beach.
Warmly welcomed by the staff, we were delighted with the setting that we found ourselves in. The first thing that captivated us was the length of the swimming pool. With 20 differently-styled rooms – each facing the pool – and the Penthouse Suite on the upper terrace overlooking the sea, it was more than a good deal. One of the best things was that all water activities were in easy reach.
The charming and charismatic Aneel lends his ‘X factor’ to the resort. Originally from Delhi, most of his career was spent in the carpet-export business, but after troubled times and his need to get away from his metropolitan lifestyle, Goa was it for him. On his first day, he bought the land on which Sur La Mer was built from scratch.
Today, with his unique ideas, the resort mixes colonial Goan elements with Morrocan ones; furnished with fine antiques for which Aneel has a keen eye. Each room is individually designed with a large walk-in bathroom with double doors both front and back. The rooms on the top floor offer a special playful annexe for families which allows space for all. A Plasma TV, along with a selection of DVDs provides a soothing indoor escape when the scorching beach turns unbearable.
As late evening approached, we parked ourselves by the cosy bar. Steering his ship from there, Aneel multi-tasks – he directs his staff, while entertaining his guests and on several occasions gets stuck into the cooking, even adding the final touches to the food.
A master in the kitchen, he has spent years travelling the globe taking fancy cookery courses. Clam chowder, Beef Carpaccio, Lobster Thermidor, baked goat cheese salad with balsamic sauce, ruccola and cherry tomatoes, followed by brilliantly textured chocolate fondant and paper-thin filo pastry is what I found myself indulging in. With an option of either dining in the courtyard or on the terrace with the sunset as our backdrop, both are perfect for a fine dining experience.
As the night progressed, I observed other guests, all dressed up for a night out, but who would eventually stay put in the resort. Similarly, I was enthralled by the entertainment around, the comfortable surroundings and the endless stream of cocktails and delicious snacks which would suddenly materialise at our table.
Between meeting new and wonderful people, spending time with the owner, listening to his tales and enjoying his hospitality, Sur La Mer is a charming beachside getaway. As a guest from London says, “During our holiday at Sur La Mer, we got everything we dreamt of. A charming hotel near the sea, we felt so good that we spent all our time there without feeling the need to venture out.”