“A melting pot of glamour and Gaudi mosaics, an uber-cool hilltop retreat set in tropical forest, a few miles from Goa’s golden beaches”
There are 11 unique and stylish rooms, each designed around a cosmic theme; some cut into the hillside and accessed via steps that disappear beneath the pool terrace; others in Hobbit-like cottages, scattered around the grounds. All except Ganga (a spacious suite at the top of the main building) have a small private terrace or sit-out space; most have big picture windows with views of the gardens; none of them conform to any standard shape or regular form. Star, for example, is housed in a round kiln-like laterite dome; Sun (or Surya in Sanskrit) is a subterranean womb of sculpted curves and light sunny yellows. Fire has a wide bed and a little balcony in the trees; Soul and Little Moon have adjoining balconies, and are ideal for family use.
In all rooms, expect an eclectic mix of colonial antiques and ethnic Indian furniture (from Gujarat or Rajasthan), four-poster beds draped with muslin, or kingside platform beds that rise from polished terazzo floors inlaid with swirls of colour. But for all the glamour, remember that this is the jungle: expect squirrels, the occasional monkey playing on your terrace or on your roof, or the odd frog in the shower.
Bathrooms are madly eccentric - some-semi outdoors and all crazy-paved with china mosaics in whatever colour scheme suits the room - but they are well-equipped with efficient showers, hairdryers, cotton robes, shower gels and shampoos and thoughtful little extras, like tubes of mosquito repellent. There are no phones in the rooms, but a call button swiftly summons room service; there’s no TV either, though you can order a DVD player and screen if you want to watch a film.
Nilaya’s restaurant and bar sits on a shaded laterite terrace overlooking the pool - the latter beautifully illuminated at night. Dinner, included in the tariff, is a set menu and consists of 3 or 4 courses - usually fish or chicken dishes with an East-meets-West flavour. A typical menu might be seafood ravioli, or carrot-ginger soup, tandoori chicken with fresh vegetables (from Nilaya’s kitchen garden), or tuna steak with cucumber spaghetti and dill rice, then tropical fruits with ice cream. The evening's menu is displayed in reception in the morning, giving you time to request changes if the choice doesn’t suit, or if you prefer a traditional Goan curry among other spicy Indian dishes. Like the hotel, dining is relaxed and informal - and candlelit at night; you can turn up in a sarong if you like, though the setting inspires a bit of dressing up.
For lunch there’s a menu of light dishes and snacks (soups, pastas, club sandwiches). Breakfast is continental - muesli, yoghurt, fresh fruit salad (the pineapple, papaya, banana and mango are all home-grown or local), breads, and preserves. Hot dishes are also available. It’s served at more or less any time, in a small garden pavilion furnished with tiled tables, but - as with all meals at Nilaya - you can ask to eat in the restaurant, in your room, in the garden, by the pool. And don’t miss a peek into the kitchen. Just behind the music room, it features ceramic mosaic worktops, a live palm tree and a hive of activity - everything here is freshly prepared.
There are a few restaurants a 10-minute drive away, should you want a change of scene. Le Poisson Rouge, J&A's, Little Italy, Sublime and Souza Lobos are all recommended; reception can book tables for you.
Children of all ages are welcome; extra beds or babycots can be provided; there is an extra nightly charge for children in extra beds. Those under 12 sleeping in their parent's bed only pay extra for breakfast and dinner.
Teens (over 12)
All rooms can fit an extra bed or babycot, but Soul and Little Moon have adjoining balconies so are especially good for families.