Step into Hotel Venite and lose yourself in a Goa of another time. Revati Upadhya uncovers one of Panjim’s most loved old favourites.

Venite interiorWith its old world charm, the Portuguese quarter of Panjim is replete with narrow alleys, lined with brightly coloured buildings, tiny balconies overlooking the streets beneath. A walk through this area is like breathing in a bit of the Goa that was. Tucked away in the interiors of this world away from the bustling city of Panjim is Hotel Venite, housed in a heritage building that is said to be over 200 years old. Today it is a much-love haunt for bikers, backpackers, bohemian tourists, Goa-lovers and seafood-enthusiasts alike. It’s no wonder then, that it has found a place in the most respected travel guides of the world.

The best part about taking guests to dine at Venite is probably the look on their face when they enter the restaurant. Standing in the dingy alleyway below, one would never imagine the cheerful Goan restaurant that lies at the top of a flight of wooden stairs. Salvaged from discarded ship decks, even this “walking the planks” is an experience in itself.

Push aside a curtain of shells, bangles and beads and step inside what can only be described as a little Portuguese tavern. Dim lighting, old picture frames and odd knick-knacks donning the walls complete with rickety furniture, Venite is anything but fancy but is has a character and charm of its own.

If you find yourself at Venite with a significant other, be sure to squeeze yourself into the balcony seats, because this is as intimate and cosy as it gets in Panjim. The days specials are up on chalkboard – which could include anything from typically Goan fare like Roast Tongue, Beef Chilly, Pork Sorpotel and bread, or seafood favourites like Fish Steaks, Fish and Chips, and prawns and calamari cooked in various styles.

Prawn curry riceApart from the standard bar menu, the house wine (Rs 90 for a glass and Rs 290 for a bottle), which we are told is homemade, is excellent at Venite. Sweet and fruity, it disguises its potency rather well, encouraging you to be indulgent. If you are all about trying out local cuisine, you simply can’t miss trying out this house wine. A plate of Crispy crumb-fried king prawns (Rs 310) served with a tangy tartar dipping sauce arrives shortly and is just the kind of start to a meal we looked forward on the way here.

The other favourite is the Chicken steak in pepper sauce (Rs 410), served with French fries and sautéed vegetables. For those who love seafood, another one of Venite’s hot-sellers is the Fish curry rice platter (Rs 240) – a one-person meal of rice, Goan-styled fish curry, fried fish, salad, papad and pickle. For dessert Venite’s classic caramelized rum bananas (Rs 90) served with vanilla ice cream is almost a staple so be sure to pre-order a portion before they run out.

Caramelized rum bananasDon’t be surprised if your see groups of resident Goans entertaining relatives and friends from out of town, here. Introducing folks to Hotel Venite, it is quite like letting them in on one of Goa’s little known wonders. Have you been here yet?

Must try: Chicken Steak with pepper sauce

Meal for two: Rs 1000 inclusive of taxes (yes, old world charm tends to be pricey sometimes)