This perfect hideaway introduces guests to the true experience of Goa, buoyed by the influences of owner Suraj Morajkar’s charming disposition
By Sinead McManus
It was the thick of the season three years ago, after the rambunctious New Year crowd had filtered out leaving behind a sizeable number of good-natured tourists, when I received a very interesting invite. It was to the opening of a boutique hotel they called The Sol, and whispers abounded that renowned fashion designer Tarun Tahiliani had a hand in its interiors.
Having been a fan of his work, I didn’t want to miss a chance to see his latest venture and took the long trip up from Palolem to see the new property. Located in Nerul, the luxury lifestyle hotel had for its company the calm tides of the meandering river and a carpet of green paddy fields bordered by verdant hillocks.
This was my first meeting with owner Suraj Morajkar, a charm of a man, who veils a list of accolades behind an unassuming demeanour. His close friends and associates made for great company that evening, after which I retired to a room which remains the favourite of guests who visit the hotel. Overlooking the river, the spacious suite caressed carefully selected furniture and comfortable seating that would soothe the most nitpicky guest. Its latest amenities, quality bed linen, eclectic furnishings and hand-picked fittings ensured every need was met. It was the perfect marriage of Goan and Portuguese influences with modernity in a subtle yet evident manner.
At a later meeting, I asked Suraj, president of prominent real estate development firm Sun Estates Developers, why he started The Sol. He had a very interesting story to tell that spanned his initial catalytic exposures as a travelling state-level cricketer to a self-made entrepreneur bringing his own flavours to realty, events and eventually hospitality in Goa. The young businessman recognised the value and potential of the Goa most tourists never see – the rivers, paddy fields, coconut groves, hills and salt pans. His aim with The Sol was to provide luxury hospitality in a typically Goan ambience.
A year after my first visit, The Sol was named one of the Top Five Hot List Hotels of 2011 by international travel magazine Conde Nast. Suraj’s achievement in hospitality was also recognised by fashion magazine Harper’s Bazaar. Receiving a hotelier’s dream with these accolades, Suraj along with two interesting personalities took its hospitality offerings to a whole new level. In collaboration with Abhijit ‘Beej’ Das and James Foster, Suraj gave The Sol a new beginning as The Sofala 15°74 (identified by Goa’s geographical coordinates) by Troca Hotels, a 21-room comfortable and stylish hotel that guests can call home during their stay.
The discerning owner homed in on Beej and James for their extensive experience in hospitality and marketing. Beej, the president and CEO of US-based Boston East India Hotels which owns Troca Hotels, has worked previously with Hilton Worldwide, Molinaro Koger and Goulston & Storrs, while James, the director of development and marketing for Boston East India Hotels, earlier played leading roles with the Casa Boutique Hotels and The Appco Group.
Together, they have introduced to Goa a chic, sophisticated holiday lifestyle, the kind that evokes classy ambiences, the latest improv music in jazz and electronica and memories that make guests look forward to their next visit no sooner they leave. It was then that Goa’s favourite Thursday Night Live began at The Sofala, instantaneously placing marks on calendars across the state every week.
Only recently, a couple of my fun-loving friends decided to take a weekend off, making their way to The Sofala for two days of soul satisfaction. They invited me to join their weekend fun and when I arrived at the beautiful hotel, Shilpa and Karan were already set to rock the night away at its SoSocial event. Saturday nights have turned up the fun in Goa with SoSocial @ The Sofala as resident DJ Johnny Deep from the UK brings in live improvised jazz and funk-infused electronica, building it up to the very latest deep house and tech. He stays true to his vision to bring the soul back into electronica and the live element back to the DJ experience.
But everyone knows the weekend doesn’t end on Saturday. The Sofala delivers with its delectable Sunday Brunch including an unlimited bar between 1pm and 5pm. Dips in the expansive pool were punctuated with yummy watermelon martinis and great music by Anika and Sancho.
An insalata gorgonzola arrived as my starter, leaving me to kick back and relax as I soaked up the genuine Sofala experience. I chose filletto di manzo con funghie patate – char-grilled beef – as my main, while my friends enjoyed a succulent pork offering called scallopine di maiale alla romana and red snapper in black olive sauce, a dish they called snapper alla griglia.
These scrumptious dishes came from among the offerings of the hotel’s new addition Mia Cucina, a premium Mumbai-based restaurant touted as plating the most authentic Italian food in Goa. Open daily throughout the year, guests can be seen savouring mouth-watering home-made pasta, steaks, fish preparations, pizza and delicious desserts in the tastefully decorated restaurant or on The Sofala’s pool deck terrace with a view of the beautiful Sinquerim River.
There was much dancing and conversation as we enjoyed the company of others also sampling the divine offerings at the hotel. Shilpa later told me that she “couldn’t believe that in two days she partied, lounged, ate well, relaxed and met so many great people in one amazing place”.
Brunch moved smoothly on to a languorous Sunday evening spent lounging by the pool, availing special spa treatments that the courteous concierge at The Sofala can organise for you. Tid-bits of conversations almost always reflected the impeccable service and warm hospitality received in every room – from the deluxe guest rooms to its spacious suites and the gorgeous Mangrove Villa.
Monday morning brought with it an intense reluctance to get out of bed, but weekday blues must be pandered to. The tasty breakfast spread and sight of lumbering buffalo in a nearby field made leaving so much harder. I left my two friends in a picture perfect frame of the flowing river, green fields, a monsoon drizzle and the Candolim church in the distance.