They say, ‘Goa turns magical during monsoons’. I concur! There was an inexplicable joy in just being part of the incessant and romanticizing rains. After 5 years, I returned to Goa, and my two weeks turned out to be an unapologetically indulgent affair. While rediscovering the state, I was impressed (all over again) with its green landscapes, hinterlands, and hidden villages. Being the foodie that I am, I also explored some of the new eateries to acquaint myself with the expanding food choices of Goa. I was happy to see the influx of new restaurants, global offerings and the ease among the locals to try something new. Some of the country’s young and dynamic chefs have moved to Goa with their talent and entrepreneurial aspirations and are cooking up a storm in their restaurants. Here, I introduce you to Qlay-a distinctive Mediterranean restaurant in Assagao. The first impression remains etched in my mind distinctly for its focus on its authentic Mediterranean cuisine, food styling, and use of local and freshly procured ingredients. The earnest flavors of piping hot Cappuccino al funghi (creamy forest mushroom broth) and Raviolo Ripieno Di Ricotta E Tuorlo D’uovo (Raviola stuffed with ricotto and egg yolk) served on that rainy evening warm my heart even now.
When I visited QLAY in GOA
I was scrolling through some of the Goan Instagram posts and just then, the video and food pictures of Qlay grabbed my attention. My friend and I were looking for some delectable food too and, we did not mind an hour’s drive to Assagao from Dabolim. And in no time, we hit the road. The weather was at its best and the intermittent rains kept us entertained all along the way. It was my second day in Goa and I had just started exploring. The recently inaugurated Zuari bridge on the way came as a nice surprise. Soon, the traces of vibrant and fun Goa started to come alive as we came closer to our destination. The green landscape was eyes-arresting and that feeling of being in Goa started to commence. I had read that Assagoa had grown in the last couple of years and it definitely buzzed more. And just when we were five minutes away from Qlay, it began to pour, and continued to rain cats and dogs for the next two hours.
Qlay has a lovely outdoors seating but with the rains, we couldn’t sit outside. We walked towards the seating area that was replete with low daybeds, loungers, cafe chairs, and a pottery wall. The bar confronted the eyes as we entered. It looked huge, and energetic and enhanced the design element. There were lovely lamps and light fixtures, as well as natural illumination. The ambiance seemed aesthetic and serene. And the warm smiles of the staff added more spiritedness to the restaurant.
The Mediterranean Love
A good dining place is all about love and passion for food, and that is what Qlay is made of. Chef Neeraj Tyagi has done a great job with the menu. The unwavering focus on Mediterranean cuisine is the USP of this place. And while he has taken a progressive take by being experimental, he has not compromised on the authenticity of different cuisines. I was happy to see how he has created a local connection with global cuisine.
When it comes to the Mediterranean, the dishes are usually made up of traditional food cultures of the countries that surround the Mediterranean Sea, including Greece, Italy, Spain, Morocco, Egypt, and Lebanon. What makes it special is the generous use of vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes, potatoes, whole grains, herbs, spices, fish, seafood, and extra virgin olive oil. At Qlay, you will find no dearth of authentic ingredients and the urge to dig into the global specialties made out of them. Also, the foodies with vegetarian and vegan choices will not feel left out. They have a vast menu. They also won brownie points from me for having Valencian Paella on their menu. I was immediately hit with nostalgia from my Spain trip.
Read my blog on Valencian Paella
While the food made its way to my table, I grabbed an opportunity to explore the vibrant bar. I also spoke to the young and dynamic lady who was the face of it. I did not make much use of the best offerings there but only a mocktail. She fixed up something very interesting and soon we began talking and exchanging stories about what it takes to follow passions. She loved mixing and had persued a bartending course to be there. And we belonged to the same city, Noida.
What did we eat?
To begin with, they served us an in-house made focaccia loaf. For the Tapas, we went in with the mood of the weather. Patata de bravas (fried potato stuffed with garlic ailoli and red mojo) and Croquettasde champinones (Mushroom croquettes with garlic aiolic) promised fun and flavors. They not only looked appetizing but burst with flavors.
For the mains, we went ahead with Strudel di funghi followed by Grilled Sea Bass. This mushroom and rosemary strudel, filled with garlic, spinach, zucchini, butter-glazed carrot, green peas, and onion and dressed with percorino cheese sauce turned out to be a medley of textures and palette-pleasing flavours. While it continued to rain that evening, we enjoyed indulging in the good food.
The Sea Bass was grilled to perfection and served well with wilted spinach, butter-glazed carrots, garlic mesh, and lemon beurre blanc. The Raviolo and the mushroom Cappuccino elevated the overall experience. I was off sugar and thus, I skipped the desserts. Mr. Mithun Tyagi had done a great job in the kitchen.
Qlay stands out for its…
…happy vibes. It captures and exudes the Goan character with a new energy . It can easily be your food-and-drink destination if you are looking for a Mediterranean palate. It qualifies as a trendy and cool place to hang out with friends and family. They also do Friday musical nights. For the starters, I felt that the serving portions could be more but that when I visited other places in Goa, it seemed at par. Also, be ready to relax and when you’re here. I left the place with a warm buzz in my heart and a new respect for Goa’s growing love for experimentation.
And whenever you are at Qlay in Goa, you must not miss to notice the large 400-year-old banyan tree, in Assagao, North Goa, which sits as the most trustworthy neighbor, just next to Qlay. The tree is acclaimed to be one of the oldest in the State.