With an invite to review the ITC Grand Goa Resort & Spa, I was only too happy to pack my bags and head to the beach after a not-so-pleasant year.
Thankfully, I got to end 2020 on a high note. I was able to check out everything this luxury hotel has to offer during my two-night stay, including huge suites, great dining experiences (there was a lot of food!), relaxing spa treatments and even yoga on the beach.
Read on for the full story...
About ITC Grand Goa Resort & Spa
ITC Grand Goa Resort & Spa is situated in South Goa, at about 20 minutes' drive from Goa International Airport (GOI). Spread across 45 acres, this property has direct access to Arossim beach.
Acquired by ITC in 2018, this property has a total of 252 rooms and suites, five restaurants, a bar, one of the largest spa facilities in the country and a three-level pool (for the times you aren't feeling like taking a dip in the sea).
Arriving at ITC Grand Goa Resort & Spa
Before heading to ITC Grand Goa Resort & Spa, I stayed at a heritage property in Candolim for a few days, and ITC organised a taxi pickup service for me. Ganpat, my chauffeur on the day, arrived at my house in Candolim and we left for the resort at 12pm.
He patiently waited for me as I ran some last-minute errands before helping me with my luggage. The car was a Toyota Innova Crysta, which was very comfortable and had the driver’s section divided from mine by a protective screen.
It took us exactly one hour to reach ITC Grand Goa Resort & Spa, where my bag was taken for screening and sanitising while I received a warm welcome from the front office staff.
Olga from the front office escorted me to the check-in desk, where I was required to show my ID and sign the Covid declaration form.
It all went smoothly, as the executive at the desk handed me a couple of room keys while informing me that I would be staying in a lagoon view suite.
A buggy was waiting for me at the lobby entrance, and I was accompanied by Melina to my room, who on the way offered to give me a tour of the property at a timing of my convenience.
Lagoon view suite at ITC Grand Goa Resort & Spa
I stayed at the 85 sq. metre lagoon view suite at ITC Grand Goa Resort & Spa - room number 207. The suite was really big and it had a separate living area, a bedroom, a fully equipped bathroom, and a balcony that stretched all the way from the living room to the bedroom and was facing the lagoon (as the name of the suite suggests).
The living area, which is where the study table was located, had enough sitting space to comfortably hold a socially distanced gathering of five people.
The balcony overlooked the lagoon and was nice and spacious. It had a table outside, which was perfect to relax and have your evening tea or drinks at.
I was welcomed to the study table by a few jars of goodies accompanied by a nicely done logo of ‘Guru’. I liked this personal touch.
The closet in the living area housed the mini bar in the room (though it was empty), this was also where the coffee kit and safety locker were stored.
The bedroom was comfortably large and featured a king size bed, a sofa and a stylish vanity table with mirror. The bedroom had a total of four doors, two of them were large sliding windows that opened into the balcony. One of them led to the hallway connecting the living area and bedroom, while the other one led into the bathroom.
There was a nice message along with a lovely towel art on the sofa in the bedroom.
The dressing table in the room added to the feeling of luxury.
The bathroom was very spacious and featured a rain shower adjacent to the largest bath I have seen in any hotel room so far.
The twin washbasins were overlooked by a mirror that stretched all the way across the platform.
The wardrobe was in the bathroom as well, and it had enough space for two people to comfortably store their belongings.
There was a toilet and bidet in the bathroom.
The bathroom amenities were from Essenza Di Wills (separate ones for men and women).
My stay at ITC Grand Goa Resort
As I was escorted to my room after checking in, Melina suggested that I try the in-room dining experience before she takes me for a tour of the property. I had conflicting thoughts about this idea as I had my mind set on dining at the restaurant.
However, I'm glad I went with Melina’s suggestion, because my experience of the in-room dining was really good. After settling in the room, I placed my order for the food at 2.30pm, my order consisted of Italian style prawns and squid for appetiser, with a fish ambotik (Goan-style fish curry) for main course along with brown rice.
I couldn't resist a bebinca (a baked layered cake made with egg yolks, coconut milk, sugar, flour and clarified butter) for dessert, served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Preston, the in-room dining team leader, delivered the food at 3.15pm and he set it up for me to eat comfortably. The food was amazing and I enjoyed each and every dish to the last bit.
Once I was done with lunch, I messaged Melina, and she was at the door in a buggy soon after. She first took me to the beach, and on the way explained that the resort has has been designed to look like a Portuguese village. There was a series of canals, with rooms and suites set along the banks.
After the beach, we headed to the swimming pool, which is quite big and has three different levels, all of them connected by a slide. The water level in the pool was reduced, due to no functionality because of Covid.
Across from the pool is the lobby, which the hotel refers to as the "town hall". There's also a chapel, which houses a meeting room, plus a jetty/ cabana, which I saw being used for gatherings and functions.
I was really enjoying the concept of the resort and it was almost time for sunset, so we headed to the Farol bar in the lighthouse to get a good view of the sun setting into the sea.
One thing about this property I liked was that, along with a beautiful infrastructure, they have a team of some really good staff members.
One example is Geston at the bar - do feel free to take his suggestions for drinks, I am sure he won’t disappoint. They also have a luxury cocktail menu at the bar, in which the drinks are inspired by hotels from ITC’s Luxury Collection across India.
Melina then showed me the dining venues. The interesting concept with the restaurants here is that although they have independent indoor seatings, the outdoor seating for all of them is common, which is one large area around the fountain (called "Fountain Square").
Ananda, the restaurants manager, suggested I go for a table by the fountain for dinner and so I asked him to a reserve one for me. I arrived at the restaurant around 8.45pm and, after I got comfortable, Chef Sasha from Ottimo came to see me (one of the sweetest people I have come across).
She offered me an option to either have a multi-course Italian dinner that she had planned, or I could go for something of my preference. I didn’t have anything in mind so I was happy to let her surprise me.
It turns out I was getting a multi-course feast, and here’s how the dinner menu read:
- First up was a bread basket followed by an antipasti, which was a plain pizza with garlic on top and a choice of sauces on the side.
- Next was polipette di pollo con bagna cauda: Chicken dumplings in thyme scented, triple reduced chicken stock and confit garlic.
- Zuppa di funghi: Gluten-free assorted mushroom soup with salted mascarpone and asparagus tips.
- Tortellini di gamberi: Prawn stuffed tortellini with Livornese-style prawn fumet, roasted cherry tomatoes and zucchini.
- Stinco di agnello con balsamico: six-hour slow cooked lamb shank in balsamic jus with seared vegetables and a Milanese-style creamy polenta perfumed with lemon zest and saffron.
Wow - that was a lot of food! (Though I had no idea what was yet to come...)
The dinner experience was really good, and Chef Sasha did a wonderful job with the food. The staff was courteous and they took care of my needs well. The only thing that kind of disrupted the ‘near perfect’ experience was the kids running around the fountain, while their nannies chased them.
Bhim, who was looking after me at the restaurant, walked me back to my room and I really appreciated that. It was beautiful how each and every member of staff contributed towards building a long-lasting memory for the guests.
After getting a good night’s sleep, I was up at 7am, very excited about the yoga session at 7.30am on the beach. Dr. Sunil was waiting for me there with the mats.
It was such a peaceful, relaxing and a very energising start to the day. This was my first time doing yoga and I couldn’t have asked for a better guru to introduce me to it. Our session went on for an hour and we ended it with Surya namaskar.
After the session, I had a quick chat with Dr. Sunil about my spa consultation with him later, before taking a stroll on the beach and dipping my feet in the water.
I headed towards the fountain square for breakfast, which is served at Pavilion between 6.30am and 10.30am. There is a buffet spread, with live counters for egg, dosa, pancakes, waffles, etc.
Bhim was taking care of me at breakfast as well, just like dinner the previous night. After confirming with me, he brought my Americano and orange juice, and took my order for masala omelette with mushrooms and hash browns on the side.
ITC went a little further and served me baked beans and sautéed corn along with it as well, and this omelette was a massive upgrade from the last one I had at a five-star hotel (Taj Palace, New Delhi).
I was unsure about getting dosa, so he offered to bring a south Indian platter, which was a good suggestion.
Chef Glen, in charge of the kitchen at Pavilion, came over to meet me at the table and asked me if I wanted anything else before suggesting that I try the Goan breakfast dish that is made of ‘choliya’ (fresh green chickpeas) and served with pui (bread). He also offered to serve me a cheese platter.
Overall, the breakfast experience was quite extensive and no less than the dinner last night.
Next thing on my itinerary was the spa treatment and I had an appointment with Dr. Sunil at Kaya Kalp - the largest spa facility in Goa and, at one point in time, the largest of its kind in India.
It has 16 spa rooms, comprising seven spa suites with an outdoor shower and sauna, plus nine spa pavilions that are open and designed in the Ayurvedic ways.
I had a 20-minute long consultation with Dr. Sunil, during which time he checked my pulse and asked me questions about my lifestyle in order to understand my body type and suggest the right treatment for me.
He concluded that Ayurvedic 90-minute potli massage would be the right one for me, before Shiju, my therapist on the day, took over. They require the guests to take a shower before the treatment, and so I took a shower in the suite and changed into the clothes provided (a disposable shorts and a gown).
The treatment started off with the cleansing of my feet before moving on to oiling my head and massaging the neck. He then massaged the body with medicinal Ayurvedic oil followed with potli - small heated herbal pouches.
The potli was dipped in hot Ayurvedic oil and was used to give massage on the pressure points.
Throughout the treatment, medicinal Ayurvedic oils were used and after it ended, I was advised to take steam for five minutes and wait for an hour before taking a bath after. This was to give the body enough time to absorb the oil.
As I was waiting for the buggy to take me to my room, I had a chat with Dr. Sunil, who mentioned that the spa also offers five-day and seven-day plans, so if you are planning a longer getaway and want to be rejuvenated, you can sign up for a longer course.
While I was at the spa, I also checked out the salon and the gym, which were well equipped.
Once I returned back to my room, I was already feeling some difference and super relaxed, but also hungry, so after letting the oil stay on my body for half an hour or so, I stepped into the shower. I then headed to Kebabs & Kurries, which is where my lunch was planned.
Bhim showed me to my table and presented the menu. The veg kebab in the menu caught my eye, but I wasn’t sure how to feel about the beetroot preparation among all the non-veg kebabs that were going to be served.
Here's how the starters read on the menu:
- Labgeer: Patties of fresh beetroot stuffed with a mixture of green chillies, mint, cashew and cheese, flavoured with cardamom and pan grilled in butter
- Jhinga dum nisha: Prawn marinated in cheese & hung yogurt, flash cooked in tandoor and finally on dum, served with a saffron-flavoured seafood chutney
- Macchli tikka: Boneless fish marinated with salt, ginger and garlic paste, turmeric and lemon juice
- Murgh angaar: Boneless leg of chicken marinated with ginger garlic, chopped onion & red chilli flakes, grilled in a tandoor
- Gosht ki galouti: Patties of lamb, spiced with green cardamom, mace and saffron
To my surprise, and I can’t believe I am saying this, but that veg kebab ‘labgeer’ was the best one out of all that was served on the platter.
There was amazing food to follow but, before that, Chef Farhan, head of Kebabs & Kurries restaurant at the hotel, came to see me and he explained how their ‘labgeer’ kebab beats galouti.
I couldn’t argue with that, and I am still in shock, as their galouti kebab is pretty damn good. ITC has done a wonderful job in bringing North Indian food to our tables with Kebabs & Kurries, Peshawri and Bukhara at ITC Maurya (in Delhi).
The main course was next and it was quite extensive. Each main dish was served in a small portion and here’s how the menu looked:
- Jhinga hara masala: Prawns tossed with spring onions and 'hara masala' of coriander, mint, green chillies and garlic. This was very well prepared and it actually reminded me of the green sauce my mother prepares at home.
- Murgh bemisal: Smoked chicken tikka simmered in a gravy of tomatoes and browned onion with hint of fenugreek and dill. This went along very well with the bread.
- Burrani gosht: Chunks of lamb leg on the bone, cooked in an onion and yogurt gravy, sprinkled with garam masala and topped with garlic flavoured yogurt.
- Dal bukhara: A blend of black lentils, tomato, ginger and garlic simmered on a charcoal fire, finished with cream and served with a dollop of unsalted butter. This is an ITC special and I believe everyone who is going to have North Indian food at a Luxury collection property shouldn’t miss this.
This was served with two different types of bread - warqui paratha (it literally translates to paper bread) and pudhina paratha (bread flavoured with mint leaves).
Next up was a lamb biryani, finished in a sealed pot. I could smell the beautiful aroma with every bite.
The main course was no less than the starters, and even after being a regular at Kebabs & Kurries restaurants at ITC Grand Central in Mumbai, I was in awe of the food here.
Not that I needed it, but dessert was served soon after and included:
- K&K kulfi: A cardamom-flavoured frozen dessert made with condensed milk
- Shahi tukda: Syrup-soaked homemade bread, garnished with saffron, silver leaf, pistachio and almonds
- Shaan-e-aam, the "King of fruits": Alphonso combined with fresh cream, finished with pistachio and almond shavings.
Overall, this lunch experience was one that I’d remember for a long time. Special shout out to Chef Farhan and his ‘labgeer’, which I am still amazed by. The only let down during this whole experience was that they forgot to provide me with cutlery until Chef Farhan came to see me, which was after I was done with the kebabs (using my hand).
After such a huge meal, I was experiencing food coma. After resting for a bit, I got busy with work in the evening when I received a call from Bhim to enquire when will I be coming in for dinner. 🙈
Dinner would be served from the Goan kitchen, Temperom, and I arrived at the Fountain Square at 9.15pm. Bhim showed me to a table that was specially set up for me by the pool.
During my time there, the kitchen and inside seating of Tempero had been exclusively given over to players and staff from Mumbai City FC (Indian Super League club), who were staying at the hotel.
This meant that my food from Tempero was instead prepared in the Ottimo kitchen, a part of which had been temporarily allocated to the chefs from Tempero.
Chef Sarita, in charge of Tempero, came to welcome me and took me through the menu. She mentioned that Goan cuisine doesn’t exactly have a lot of appetisers, and so she was going to add a little bit of Portuguese influence to the starters.
Veg starters were served first, and they were quite alright. Here’s how it read:
- Baby field mushrooms stuffed with vegetables in peri-peri sauce
- Grandma's vegetable cutlet: This was a mixed vegetable cutlet that was crumbed with semolina
- Peanut-crusted potato cheese croquettes
Non-veg starters were a level above its veg counterpart and it read like this:
- Prawn balchao chops: Chef mentioned that balchao is locally used as pickle but the guests like this in potato stuffing and so they have continued with it
- Fofos de peixe: This was deep fried minced fish balls
- Beef assado: Off all the starters, I liked this Portuguese preparation the most. It was tenderloin slices served with potato, capsicum and tomato
Caldo de casamento was served next. This soup was prepared with shredded chicken in coconut milk.
The main course again consisted of small bowls and consisted of:
- Khatkatem: Vegetables cooked with lentil in a roasted coconut and spiced gravy
- Beans foogath: Beans with mustard seeds, curry leaves and fresh coconut
- Dal waran: Yellow lentil cooked with mustard seeds, cumin, asafoetida and coconut milk
- Prawn curry: Prawns simmered in a red chilli and coconut gravy. This is the famous Goan curry and its a must try for everyone coming to Goa.
- Peixe con Tempero verde: Fish fried in green chilli and coriander paste
- Chicken xacuti: Chicken cooked in roasted spices and coconut gravy
- Goan rice
ITC Grand Goa Resort & Spa left no stone unturned when it came to dining and their warm hospitality. I was really spoiled by the amount of food that was on offer.
I just about had room for dessert, and it comprised of bebinca, along with crepes stuffed with grated coconut and jaggery plus serradura, another famous Goan dessert made with whipped cream and condensed milk.
Dessert was special too, and I have grown specially fond of bebinca since I came to Goa.
I went for breakfast around 9.30am on my second day, and as I was waiting for my turn to get the table, I again noticed nannies running around after the kids.
Chef Glen suggested I go for ros omelette, a Goan breakfast dish, served with local bread. It was basically omelette served with chicken xacuti (chicken curry). I took his suggestion and asked for that to be served after I had the cut fruits.
After I got done with the omelette, he served me a North Indian platter with various fried bites, bread and green chutney.
The breakfast experiences were extravagant and I was glad I got to try some variety including a local Goan egg preparation. I got back to the room at 10.40am, and after doing a little work, I confirmed with Marylou about my drop-off, which the hotel had arranged.
The general manager, Mr. Bhagwan Balani, was at the lobby with his team to see me off, and he even had a nice little parting present for me. It was a framed tile with the picture of the hotel printed on it (which I have hung on the wall in my house). A nice memory of my stay!
Not only that, ITC even prepared some snacks for the road, with whole fruits, chicken sandwiches and some packets of juice.
I finally left the hotel at 2pm for Candolim. Ganpat, who drove me to the hotel was driving me back and it took us exactly an hour to get to my accommodation in North Goa.
ITC Grand Goa Resort & Spa is the only resort in ITC’s Luxury Collection properties all across, and I am happy to see them expand with this kind of a large and spread out property.
My experience at this property was marvellous, and although the pool wasn’t operational during my time there, I never found myself pondering in my room about what to do as there was always some or the other activity presenting itself.
The largest spa facility in Goa shouldn’t be missed - Kaya Kalp is the place to be if you want to be rejuvenated. A wide array of treatments is available, as well as couples rooms, if you are planning to visit with your significant other.
I have always found ITC to do a remarkable job with dining, and this was no different. I only have praises for the various restaurants I dined at - all the chefs made sure I was left licking my fingers, and the staff made sure all my needs were looked after carefully.
My only regret (besides the fact I left a few kilos heavier 😜) was that I couldn’t dine at the seaside barbecue and grill restaurant - The Royal Afghan. Since it is a beachside venue, it needs clearance from local authorities on a seasonal basis and it had started operations on the day I was checking out.
I definitely want to visit this property again and even get enrolled for a five-day or a seven-day spa treatment. Apart from dining at The Royal Afghan, I am also eagerly looking forward to reliving the experience of having the most energetic and positive start to the day with morning beach yoga sessions.
Have you been to ITC Grand Goa Resort & Spa? What are your thoughts about it?
This stay was sponsored by ITC, however my views and remarks are entirely my own, based on my experience at the property.