“A super-elegant, revamped Portuguese mansion (sleeps 6) in Siolim, with riverside tree platform to kick back on”
The entrance hallway to Noi Varo sets the tone: soaring up to the rafters over the oblong infinity fountain and walls graced with framed prints from photographer-creative director-social entrepreneur-owner Vikram, it’s sleek and impressive.
Two bedrooms open off it - both have little anterooms/dressing rooms connecting them to their bathrooms - and the third, is down a step next to the dining room. All are similarly spacious, with ochre polished concrete floors and air-conditioning, plus a lounge area in the suites. French doors lead out onto little deck verandas that are bordered by water lilies, and rooks cawing and other birds tweeting add a peaceful country feel.
The rooms are clean, artistic and serene. Heavy original jackwood doors and shutters lend a satisfyingly antique feel, though their clunky old bolts tend to need wangling. The rust-red, orange and ochre upholstery is all handwoven in India, and dressing gowns and towels are waffle-weave.
Wide beds (all doubles) are dressed in luxury-soft bedlinen. Wall-mounted flatscreen TVs face the beds, and you can get a DVD player on request – though you’ll need to bring your own movies. One bedroom has a mezzanine level with an additional single bed, reached via vertical metal rungs, so it's a good choice for parents with smaller children.
Bathrooms manage to be both modern (with Philippe Starck fittings and luxury rain showers) yet also soothingly earthy; natural soaps are supplied. The largest room, has a walk-in double-header shower.
There is also an additional loft space available which can sleep another couple, but its bathroom is a short walk away. Note that there are 8 speakers and an amp so you can plug in your iPod and supply music throughout the house.
Shunya spent 6 months training their head chef before they finalised the exotic and extensive menu; he now cooks at Kaju and oversees the kitchen at Noi.
You need to order meals the evening before or after breakfast; prices fluctuate according to market rates. We tried the multi-dished ‘Goan feast’ which was spicy and interesting, particularly the digestif of ‘Coconut and Tamarind Curry’ in a glass; the signature 'Crab Leek Souffle', 'Bouillabaisse' and the 'Steamed Squid stuffed with herbs' dishes are all recommended. The simple window-walled dining room seats 6-8, and fresh fish barbecues out in the sand garden can be ordered a day in advance.
The following day, a simple, tasty breakfast of coffee, fruit juice, warm poi rolls and poached egg was served out on our little deck veranda; you can order eggs as omelettes, boiled, scrambled and sunny side up as well. Porridge, muesli, homemade yoghurt and condiments (lemon curd, passion fruit curd) are also on the menu.
For a change of scene, visit the quaint, tiny Candle Light restaurant just down the road. Run by the friendly Tony, it serves cheap and cheerful food: local chicken, pork and beef recipes, fried or curried seafood and Chinese. Otherwise Siolim is short on restaurants, so guests tend to eat either in-house or down at one of the beaches.
Noi Varo might be rather too elegant for young kids, but they’d enjoy the flatscreen TVs with DVDs, mezzanine office for internet-surfing, computer games and divan-sprawling, and iPod-playing in the colourful lounge, plus, of course, the pool, sand-garden (and barbecues) and riverside tree platform. Cots and rollaway beds are available, and child-minding can be arranged if you want an adults-only night out.
Children (4-12 years)
The 2 larger rooms each have a divan in the lounge area and a mezzanine loft space with an additional bed.