By Nicole Suares
If Panjim is buzzing with a flourishing café culture, South Goa is now waking up to the modern café experience. In the bustling commercial capital, Margao, small family-owned outlets serving local snack staples like croquettes, rissois, chops and samosas dot the city.
With Caravela (named after the old Spanish and Portuguese sailboats) Café & Bistro dropping anchor in the charming, old-world town, patrons can enjoy a modern, upmarket, dine-in with their signature coffees and elaborate Goan, continental, fast food and dessert menu.
ON THE MENU
Its central location, opposite Ravindra Bhavan in Margao, is easily accessible with ample parking. This outlet stands out from its counterparts in Panjim and Candolim in size, and boasts contemporary interiors with minimalistic deco.
The owner, Carlos Noronha reveals 'the luxury of space’ afforded plenty of scope for creating an aesthetically pleasing ambience under a professional interior designer.
Touches of green foliage bring in a sense of freshness, while the quirky quotes on the wall tickle your grey cells and create a positive vibe. Share conversations with friends or host a quick meeting in its quiet environs.
The south, Noronha finds, draws a majority of local clientele compared to the north, which sees Indian tourists. Coffee-lovers can enjoy the café’s signature home blend of coffee, called Latin Quarter, ranked among the 10 best coffees in India by Architectural Digest ('International Coffee Day: 10 Indian brands that promise delicious brews', Architectural Digest India, dated Oct 2022).
Noronha says, “We make four types of roasts: 3 types of Arabica (AAA, AA and A), one robusta, and retail five types of coffees. The premium range is favoured with those who know their coffees.”
Caravela supplies to cafes across Goa, and guests have carried packages of their coffee back to Delhi, Chennai, Chandigarh and Mumbai. The rich, creamy, cold coffee or the regular latte made from the home-roast signature, single-estate AA Robusta beans are a favourite with their patrons.
Foodies can order from their range of sandwiches or breakfast platters. Noronha points out the Goan mains on the menu, a favourite with the visiting expats.
The pancakes are soft and fluffy, dusted generously with icing sugar. The BLT, prepared in classic style layered with bacon, lettuce, and tomato with fries on the side, is great value for money. The thin-crust pepperoni pizza is crunchy and not too cheesy or overdone.
A special on the menu is the pure-vegan platter that includes vegan butter and tofu eggs. The portions are sizably filling for the price.
Surprisingly, the popularity the café enjoys today was not the same back in 2014, when they started Caravela as a homestay in Panjim. They launched the café in 2015 with the demand for breakfast from guests.
Shares Noronha, “In 2015, we started with just five items on the menu and one coffee machine. We knew nothing about roasting coffee either. After two years, it slowly picked up. With our cook, we tried to make it a breakfast place.”
Catering to an Indian tourist clientele led to the addition of typical vegetarian options and even dishes with Goan sausages and beef to the menu.
“We have been constantly updating our menu based on feedback. It’s been a learning experience for us since we don’t come from a hospitality background,” says Carlos.
With the addition of the roaster, his eldest son, also named Carlos, trained for a week with their coffee beans supplier from Coorg and continues to participate in various workshops to upgrade his knowledge.
Post-Covid-19, the homestay was shut down to tide over the tough phase. “We were at a huge loss during Covid-19. The crowd after the lockdown was phenomenal,” he says.
Caravela bounced back after the pandemic by entering new waters in Candolim and Margao. The Candolim outlet is run by his younger son, Cyrus.
Despite encountering troubled waters, the first and second-generation restaurateurs have the winds in their sail to expand to new territories.