Panjim of late has gotten itself a bean bag filled with new cafes.This week we review two of the new beans on the block, Black vanilla and mad hatter’s tea café. While one is owned by a big hospitality company which already owns three food and beverage outlets in Panjim, the other is a small enterprise by a woman entrepreneur ,her first venture into the world of F and B.
Black Vanilla: strategically situated next to Crossword book store, this cute and cozy café calls itself a boulangerie as well. The newest venture by Bernard and Bennett, the ones who own enroute and Barrels and Bones, they even have a loyalty card, redeemable at any of their outlets. Artistic paintings of the Eiffel tower, French style windows, and fresh baguettes for sale add to the French appeal of the place. The tree shelf bearing books as leaves on it’s branches is a particularly lovely sight, and a treat for book lovers and writers.
They have a host of salads, burgers and open faced sandwiches. The black pepper beef sandwich was recommended . I found the beef quite tender but the marinade had not managed to flavour the meat,the leftovers infact tasted much better the next morning, because of the increased time for the flavours to actually marinate. The prawn and calamari Caesar salad is perfect for a quick lunch on a hot afternoon. The only grouse is that they do not have any crispy croutons in the Caesar salad, hopefully that can be easily remedied. The desserts unfortunately did not pass muster. The red velvet roll, was infact just a red coloured sponge cake. The average Goan who loves to eat out has now evolved enough to know the difference between a sponge cake and a red velvet cake. The cheese cake had a lovely dense creamy cheesy aftertaste, the white chocolate top was inspired, but I felt it was not value for money. They have a nice, if not an extensive cold as well as hot coffee range. The cold mocha was refreshing, with balanced flavours of coffee and chocolate, but I wish it wasn;t served in a coffee mug. Coffee mugs just make me think ‘hot’ coffee, I prefer my cold beverages in tall, transparent glasses. But that’s just me.
Pros: great location, cozy ambience, ample parking (opposite the road), open till 11 pm.
Cons: average desserts, limited seating,expensive.
Madhatters tea café: situated in the bustling road just off 18 june road, this one is on a one way, and is best located through google maps. The place is still a work in progress, with a menu which has maggi and simple sandwiches as the highlights. The quirky theme is what gets people in the door, and the theme carries forward in the posters from alice in wonderland, a photo booth complete with photo props like hats and tea cups. Given the mad hatters love/hate relationship with time, there are a number of alarm clocks and table clocks which add to the ‘mad and quirky’ décor. Yes, there is room for improvement, but one can’t help but realise that there is a personal touch in most things at the café.
Food wise, this place is a work in progress, they yet don’t have a fixed menu. All the teas are loose leafed, which is a major plus, considering even the five star ‘tea lounges’ in the city are serving tea bag tea. I ordered the chamomile tea, and it came in a transparent tea pot, I could actually see the chamomile flowers infusing the hot water. The visual in itself was calming and I feel a large part of the tea appreciation experience. The pot comes with it’s very own 3 minute hour glass, and watching the sand slip down while the tea brews into a warm sun kissed auburn shade is an experience I haven’t seen in any other tea café in the city. The tea itself is poured into transparent cups, which works great with the green teas and infusions, but I would love to see some quirky porcelean cups brought from antique thrift stores at the madhatters, especially while sipping on black teas or milk teas. They have about a dozen odd number of teas, which in itself is not many, but since Goa is still waking up to the tea revolution, it is a start. The food as I said is very limited, and I just tried their club sandwich, which was average.The place is aimed at the young, aspirational college goer, and thus the prices are affordable, but I feel given more thought and time, this place could very well stretch out to the more experienced , mature customers, who are knowledgable as well as love their tea.
Pros: quirky name and concept , affordable, use of loose leaf tea.