Add kokum-champagne cocktails and mango-feni éclairs to that mix
Pankti Mehta Kadakia
On the long drive from the airport to the hotel, I glimpse into the many worlds of Goa. On one side, palm-lined fringes; on the other, the urban jungle. I see fresh produce and trinkets in micro-markets housed on carts and stalls; but also sprawling malls with new American apparel and the latest in athleisure. The sleepy beach town, with its burgeoning art districts, is embracing commercial living in many ways.
This drive was perhaps the best introduction to its newest luxury hotel, the Le Méridien Goa – Calangute. This is the Parisian hotel giant’s 10th venture in India. Tucked behind one of those rising malls, the 146-room property aims to unlock the culture of Goa, and the bustling Calangute-Candolim stretch it stands on, to its variety of guests. While it is a family hotel, the Le Méridien Goa also hopes to attract the millennial traveller with its jazz and whiskey bar, the first in the city.
Le Méridien boasts a global philosophy of ‘destination unlocked’—bringing in local elements to fully immerse guests into the place they are in. This theme begins right at the start—a ceiling mural at the entrance porch depicts the Portuguese’s arrival into Goa; inside, a metal-and-sand ‘Plan de Goa’ stands by the elevator, a take on what was considered to be the first map of Goa. The ‘arrival art’, as with the porch mural, is signature of Le Méridien hotels across the world—each such work is specially commissioned and unique to the destination.
The art across the hotel, curated and created by artist Pratiksha Tayal, features Portuguese elements and those inspired by the local Kunbi tribe, mainly tillers of land. An installation at the hotel reception showcases metal jewellery and tools used by the tribe, while frames in the hotel rooms display black-and-white portraits enhanced by 3D metal replicas of their jewellery.
Inspired by the typical checks found on the Kunbi women’s saris, an array of works show stylised portraits of men and women, but in chic, black-and-white check patterns such as houndstooth.
Wine and dine
Goa’s first whiskey bar is housed inside Jazz & Grills, a live music venue that specialises in grills, as the name suggests. It stocks more than 40 kinds of Indian and international whiskey, and makes signature whiskey cocktails such as the smoked apricot sour (Bourbon, apricot jam, egg white, fresh lemon and cedar-wood smoked apricot jam) and the jazz fusion (Bourbon, peach liqueur, fresh lemon juice and honey syrup). Jazz & Grills also offers a premium selection of cigars, and a menu focussed on steak and grills.
Some menu highlights include the roasted tenderloin burger in squid ink buns; seafood platter; grilled prawns; and tenderloin grills.
Latest Recipe, the all-day dining venue, serves up a multi-cuisine menu. The Sunday breakfast spread includes a signature breakfast that takes inspiration from Goan cuisine—Ros omlette on local poi bread in cashew-chicken curry; or bebinca, Goa’s traditional jelly-like sweet, served with ice cream.
At Longitude 73, the café that turns into a ‘Sparkling’ (another Le Méridien fixture), a champagne bar at night, the in-house mixologists serve up India-inspired spritzers using flavours such as kokum, lavender and saffron.
During the day, you can drink Illy coffee here or sample yet another Le Méridien signature element—one they take so seriously that there’s an entire website dedicated to it—the Le Méridien éclair. The world over, the hotel chain makes a special éclair menu that takes inspiration from local cuisine. So, while Le Méridien Mahabaleshwar has a strawberry-and-cream éclair, the Delhi outpost has one with a spiced shell, Darjeeling-jaggery pastry cream and a ginger fondant and mukhwas-garnish. When in Goa, you can try the mango and cashew feni éclair.
The hotel has a full-sized pool flanked by Plunge, an outdoor bar-café; a gym and steam room; banquet halls and special space for business meetings; and a Family Kids Club for children. The five family studio rooms come with a rounded couch-bed, utilitarian for families with young children.
The classic rooms either face inward into the pool, or outward into the city. A terrace space has a sea view and can be used for private gatherings.
Prices for a classic room at Le Meridien Goa – Calangute begin at Rs 10,000 from October to March; Rs 8,500 from April to September. A Vista suite costs Rs 15,000 onwards.