Goa’s mexican resto-bar Miss Margarita will make you come back for more
Delhi’s celebrated tequila bar Miss Margarita debuts in Goa.
Saturday February 25, 2023,
8 min Read
The modern Indian diner does not limit themselves to the usual Indian and Indo-Chinese cuisine. Indians today are well-travelled and well-versed in the cuisines of the world. When dining out, they expect authenticity and don’t shy away from experimenting. This changing trend has led to the opening of many restaurants that master global cuisines in the country.
Goa, the country’s emerging gastronomical hub, is fast catching up with this trend, and how! A destination for seafood and Portuguese-inspired cuisine earlier, Goa now offers an abundance of modern coastal, Indian, European, pan-Asian, and fusion food, spoiling the diner with choice!
Keeping up with this vogue, Delhi’s celebrated tequila bar, Miss Margarita, recently ventured into Goa, and YS Life checked out the Mexican grill and tequileria, a venture by Agave Hospitality.
Tulum in sunshine state
Spotting the newest Delhi resto-bar is easy. Launched close to two-weeks ago, Miss Margarita is set in the Vagator junction. Earlier an unusual spot for high-end restaurants and pubs, neighbouring outlets Yeti and Raasta, and now Miss Margarita’s entry, hints towards the Vagator junction becoming the next party spot in North Goa.
However, diners are sure to forget for a while that they are at the busy junction as they set their foot into Miss Margarita. The lights are dim, and the walls are high enough to keep the traffic noise out.
Founder and Chef, Noah Louis Barnes, has curated two different playlists for Miss Margarita. One plays between 7 PM and 10 PM, and the other, the more groovy one, is played post 10 PM to set the mood and get the diners moving (think Diosa by Drake Bell, and En El Mar by La Sonora Matancera).
The lighting and music, combined, creates a very laid-back atmosphere. With Spanish music in the background and Goa’s open sky above, Miss Margarita hits the sweet spot between susegad and relajarse (unwind, in Spanish).
Unlike other restaurant launches, Miss Margarita’s entry to Goa was not as loud or flashy. Reason being, the restaurant can be experienced in its truest sense only when one can sit back and relax and let the ambiance and food transport them to Mexico, explains Barnes.
Barnes has gone beyond the menu to provide a Mexican escapade for his diners. The first glance at the design and decor will ensure that a lot of thought went behind creating the space. Miss Margarita has been designed by Livin Colour Design Studio’s head Amit Chabra (the man behind The Big Chill Cafe and The Piano Man in Delhi), and each design element has been carefully picked to reflect the culture of Mexico.
“I wanted to give the space a Tulum vibe,” Barnes tells me. And he has added elements to ensure the same. The private dining area features a turtle pond (native sea turtles are a tourist attraction in Tulum), which has now been modified into a koi pond since keeping turtles are illegal in India. Hand-painted skulls adorn the white walls (skull represents the day of the dead in Mexico); the bar has aztec designs and old Mexican-influence architecture; and an al fresco dining area featuring hand-painted mosaic– giving the vibe of Barcelona and Tulum coming together. Above, hangs the Moroccan straw chandeliers.
The air-conditioned dining area is reserved for days when Goa’s heat gets unbearable, although the al fresco dining space is where diners should head to feel the closest to sitting at a Mexico bar. Interestingly, everything at the restaurant is sourced locally.
The resto-bar also features a dedicated photo space (similar to a photo booth) for Instagrammers, featuring ‘From Mexico, with love’ in neon lights. Talking of Instagram and photo booths, one cannot miss out the beautifully done ladies’ washroom--a perfect spot for mirror selfies!
Before heading to the food menu, what really stole the show for me was how elabroare the bar menu spread.
According to Barnes, Miss Margarita boasts the largest collection of Tequila in India. The bar features every tequila that is available in the country today–including a 1942 vintage tequila. Thus, margaritas kept flowing through the night!
The classic margaritas feature fresh fruits–strawberry, pineapple, watermelon, and lime, while the signature margaritas are a bit complex but worth a try. My first pick for the night was a tequila cocktail–Heaven on Earth. Blueberry, lavender, green tea, citrus, mint, and gondhoraj lemon brought together in a glass with Jose Cuevro tequila and triple sec. A cocktail has never been named this aptly!
Signature margarita, Hibiscus Basil is the perfect fit for those who love floral notes. Severed with fresh basil, orange liquor, lime, and rim covered beetroot salt, the drink bursted with flavours at the very first sip.
The cinnamon smoked tequila and agave cocktail, Mexican Affaire, served with green apple juice over cracked ice, was flavourful and refreshing.
While tequila dominates the bar menu, there are plenty of options for diners who prefer other spirits, and plenty for those who like their drinks non-alcoholic. The menu features sangria, cerveza (beer), champagne, sparkling wine, liqueurs, iced tea, and coffee. It also features five cold-pressed cocktails for those who like their spirits white.
I ordered the Gin Gin Jamun, a craft gin thick cocktail, infused with jamun puree, muddled coriander, and lime. While the signature tequilas were show-stoppers, the gin cocktail did not disappoint either.
The menu begins with the guacamole bar, made fresh table-side, and the street skewers featuring a vegetarian, a chicken and leek, and a pork option. My first order is the Diablo prawn sizzle. A portion of mid-size prawns with habanero and tangerine glaze, burnt garlic, and lime.
Every table features two in-house sauces, marinated for 30 days. Chef Barnes tells me that while most of the ingredients in the menu are locally sourced, Miss Margarita is very particular about its chillies and imports them from Mexico. Unlike popular belief, Mexican food will not make you gasp for breath. The prawns had the heat from the chillies and the hot sauce, but it did not make me sweat.
The al-fresco dining area features a blue smoke smoker, exclusively dedicated to the ‘From the smoking pit’ section in the food menu. Barnes says that the dishes are not cooked directly on the flame, but in the heat of the flame–inspired from the age-old traditional Mexican cooking methods.
Curious to know how it influences the taste, I ordered the red and green snapper. Sourced locally, the large plate came with two snapper fillets–one red and another green. Served with fermented citrus sauce, tomato salsa, grilled lime and pineapple, corn on the cob, and tortillas, it was a meal in itself!
Personally, I liked the robust and complex flavour of the red snapper more than the green alternative, and the tomato salsa was the perfect accompaniment to go with it. The spicy sour cream, however, was not for the faint-hearted.
You cannot judge a Mexican restaurant unless you try the tacos. Breaking the usual stereotype, Barnes tells me that Mexico has no hard-shell tacos, it is all soft shells. The menu at Miss Margarita travels far and wide. With an option of 11 tacos to select from, I was left confused, and decided to go with the least complicated one–the street style grilled chicken and chilli bean taco.
Served in a portion of three, the soft-shell tacos come with grilled chicken strips topped with sweet paprika drizzle, refried beans, rocket, smoked tomato salsa, and fresh tomato and onion.
For the mains, I went with the cerveza chicken enchilada. Again a trio, the enchilada is stuffed with charred chicken and chilli, and topped with pepper sauce and cheese. Each of the enchilada’s feature a different level of spice and were a treat to my taste buds!
Full from all the food and drinks, I would not leave Miss Margarita without trying their dessert menu. A limited menu with only two options–classic cinnamon churros and tres leches, I put up a brave face and ordered both. And no regrets!
The churros were served with two dips–chocolate sauce and a chilli chocolate sauce, which were decent.
Next came in the tres leches. The classic dessert offers little room for experimentation. But not at Miss Margarita. Served with blueberry compote, edible flowers, a generous heap of whipped cream, and the occasional surprise visit of coconut, I was left tongue-tied. A fan of the famous Magnolia Bakery tres leches, the one served at Miss Margarita raised my bar way up!
The menu at Miss Margarita is immense, and a single visit to the resto-bar will never be enough. Probably that’s Barnes’ business strategy? To make diners come back for more.
The specials menu--featuring casseroles, rice bowls, and grills, remained untraded. The smoking pit section featured Goa-special smoked rock lobster tail, pork burnt ends, and jumbo shrimp, among other exquisite dishes. And there is so much more to be tried from the bar menu. While a lot from the menu still remains untouched, I was satisfied with everything that came to my table. I am definitely going back for another meal, or two!
Timings: 12:30 PM to 3:30 PM and 7:30 PM to 12:30 PM, every day
Cost: Rs 2,500 for two (without alcohol)
Edited by Megha Reddy