Jan 27, 2015

Posted by in Luxury travel, Travel Reviews | 0 Comments

Designed to seduce!

Designed to seduce!

Coco Shambhala, Goa

For most of us reading this, the want of a luxury holiday is remedied by a trip to the most exotic place that we read about in a travel magazine while killing time at the airport. The trouble is this. In the way that hearing about someone else’s dream or crazy gambling trip is guaranteed monotony, the act of watching someone take a decadent tour of a place in your own country, that you’ve never heard of could easily become an exercise in frustration.

For me, my work gives me the pleasure of realizing those dreams soon; sometimes in less than a month. So for my next hotel review, I chose Goa this time. Being the most preferred international tourist destination, choosing a luxury property in Goa should’ve been a cake walk right? Now consider this. A destination that on one hand has innumerable fraudulent websites in the name of fancy resorts and a handful of 5 stars like The Lalit, The Leela and Vivanta on the other hand, how does one decide a properly luxurious place to stay?

The last time I did this and you read about it last month, we found out how to blow it out and live large in a 5 star resort in Rajasthan…wait….and pay bigtime for the privilege. For all the joys and convenience of having an entire luxury villa to call your own, with every aspect of your stay being personally tailored for your pleasure, there were some serious downsides. Which left me wondering if that’s what all my luxury hotel experiences will always be like.

As I pondered over this, I got a call from a certain Suhas who after a quick welcome, spoke to me about my preferences for food and beverages and left me with his contact details should I need to reach out for anything until I reached my abode for the next three days, almost instantly reminding me of Jeeves from the last Jeeves and Wooster episode I was watching on my way to the property. Cut to one hour later and as I entered the Coco Shambhala villas in Bardez Goa, Giles, the owner dressed in casual shorts and the Coco Shambhala workwear as he says, welcomed me at the property.


As the caretaker unloaded my luggage, Giles took me straight to my villa, a 2 storeyed tropical house with a choice of two master bedrooms, an open air Jacuzzi, and a kitchenette. As I made myself comfortable in the balcony, Suhas creatively presented freshly prepared Sangria, some cold starters made from the freshest garden ingredients with a choice of three sauces. Reading my facial expression, Giles and Suhas tell me it’s the port wine that makes the difference in the Sangria’s flavour. Leaving me with the recipe, Suhas quickly takes down notes on what I’d like to have for my dinner as Giles talks to me about my culinary preferences, all this to create a menu just for me for the night.


Giles and I talk about his journey from Marketing at Ford back in the UK to building Coco Shambhala every 6 months at a time with his savings. The architecture leaves absolutely no room for doubt, as to how much heart and soul he has put into each and every corner of the property. And complementing every bit of his efforts is his partner, Shagun Mehra. Having pursued her passion of culinary arts by studying Patisserie, French Wines & Cheese at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, Shagun not only heads the culinary team but has also introduced exclusive evening experiences, exploring the sensory world of food & wine.


As Giles leaves to go about his day, he hands me a pre-programmed cellphone with numbers of all the contacts from his team for me to reach out to whenever I needed to. Without any signal or suggestion in sight, my personal driver drops by to say Hello asking me if I will need him to take me anywhere to the local places. He is much more than a taxi, an extension of the property’s concierge service, acting as a personal assistant the moment I step outside Coco Shambhala. And while I talk to him, Giles gives me a local guidebook specially designed by his marketing team (which is by the way revised every 6 months to accommodate the newest additions in town) to make sure I’m aware of the best authentic sights, flavours and experiences while I stay with them.

I was already starting to feel like I’ve come to visit friends who are also my personal hosts for the next few days. Well rested till late evening, as I walked towards my kitchenette to make some tea, I noticed the staff had already finished their turn down duties. Within minutes, Suhas was here again, this time with a tray full of fancy candles and flowers. “Don’t bother with this, I am only setting your table for the night”, he said.

The next time he came back, it was with some crispy Zuchhini strands with Dill Yogurt dip, Gazpacho and chargrilled & smoked corn and pepper salad. He left me to enjoy my starters, although almost warning me to put my laptop away and put only my tastebuds to work before he brought in the third course, grilled cottage cheese and watermelon bathed in barbecue sauce. This time around, he waited for me to take a bite of the hot cottage cheese and watermelon together. As I looked at him speechless, still relishing the beautiful flavours, he as if seemed familiar with the feeling those flavours had titillated my taste buds with. As he talked me through each of those recipes cleverly put together, I wondered if going by the modest, barely there appearance of the chefs, I could have ever imagined the kind of authentic flavours that were hiding inside their kitchen. For the meat eaters, the menu offers the traditional Goan specialities like Village Goan Prawn & Fish Thali, Beef Melanzane Parmigiana, Lemongrass Crab and Coconut Risotto and much more.


The perfect happy ending to my dinner was rich chocolate mini pots served in earthenware. Turns out, the chef’s a talent with his deserts too.

I spent the next day in the company of a Canadian couple and some world class Jazz musicians at one of the local places, a place that I’ve vowed to never write about except the odd cryptic clues. With an early morning flight to catch, I said my goodbyes to all the staff at the property with a promise that I shall visit them again soon.

It’s not hard to see why Coco Shambhala doesn’t feel like just another luxury holiday villa for ‘CEOs’ with loads of money but also a place where you can walk in, curl up and make yourself at home. After all it’s not every day that you find yourself in a resort with a soul, a place where you’d want to slow down, a home that is designed to thrill the heart and much more.

Coco Shambhala is stylish, truly individual and awash with character and charm.

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