Located in the bustle of Assagao, Black Vanilla Café does not fuss overly about design, and serves very good food in a penny plain verandah.
On the main Assagao road, crane your neck out for a Thirsty Bear. A brown bear that stands tall in the garden of an old, refurbished house with purple hyacinths in a large bowl, palms reaching out to the balustrades from the flower bed and an ancient tree adding a touch of antiquity. If you are a true foodie, you’d recognise the Thirsty Bear from a distance. Once upon a time, that Bear served scrumptious food in Goa’s Bambolim area. The Thirsty Bear, however, no longer lives in Bambolim but people still talk of him.
If you are unaware of the Thirsty Bear, you probably know of Black Vanilla — not the spice derived from orchids of the genus Vanilla but the gourmet store in Panjim (near Crossword Bookstore). The gastronomic stuff in Black Vanilla Gourmet Store has now popped out of the jars and turned into toothsome waffles, burgers, tarts, macarons, bread, baguettes and glasses brimming with hot/cold drinks at Black Vanilla Breakfast House, Café, Patisserie.
Think of the Thirsty Bear as the ancestor of Black Vanilla Café. And it is in the lawns of the Assagao café that a large cut-out of the Thirsty Bear sits. The Bear has no face, you can stick your head in, impersonate him and get photographed!
The nosh narrative began with a mariner’s love for food and cooking. When Lincoln Bennet Rodrigues, a formally untrained chef/restaurateur, dons the apron and bastes the meat, you know it will be a feast for the gods. That innate love for food and inherent culinary skills in his DNA — his mother and grandmother being excellent cooks — is what gives Black Vanilla Café its eminence as an unpretentious café — minimal in design and no fuss about chairs, mats and linen. Design-wise it is unornamented and utilitarian — it is food where the focus lies.
A brick-red flight of steps lead into the café which is spread lengthwise on the verandah of an old house that was deserted and derelict for too long. Until Lincoln took it upon himself to renovate the former government office into an easy-breezy café with delicious food.
There are quirky subheads to food options: sandwiches fall under For the Hungry; there’s Pasta for Every Mood; pizzas are bunched as Pizza Amour; good salad under Salad Goodness; there’s Thirsty Bear Kids’ Menu; coffee is to Drive Your Thirst Away; cut fruits are High on Fruit; tarts, macarons, pastry, cheesecake are For the Sweet Tooth (based on availability); croissants and gourmandies are Straight from the Oven while Baker’s Basket has golden-brown buttery garlic parsley baguettes, baguettes stuffed with minced bacon, and garlic crostini with cheese.
Sandwiches are christened unconventionally: Tuna is Trending (Rs 240), Let’s go Clubbing (Rs 400), Chicken on the Run (Rs 200), Wanna Beef (Rs 280). There’s also Sizzling Chick Chicken Burger (Rs 300) and the Big Mamma Beef Burger (Rs 350).
Breakfast options include Mr English (Rs 350), Royal Breakfast (artisanal deli breakfast, Rs 600), Just Scrambled (Rs 140/150) and Classic Egg Benedict (Rs 250).
The Lock & Mason yoghurt in the popular Yoghurt Bowl has been created by Fabiola Rodrigues, Lincoln’s better half. The Lock & Mason yoghurt comes in various flavours; there’s vegan yoghurt, too, made with coconut milk.
The two black doors of the café are burdened with multi-coloured sticky notes from customers, their comments ranging from loud applaud to pure humour:
- The French fries is good. The coffee is good – I am Kabir
- This is the best place to chill – Aaron Lus
- Best Pav bhaji in town – Amit (he even left behind his phone number on the yellow post-it)
- Delicious breakfast. The best beef burger and waffles – Nafisa
- I ate the food, the mosquitoes ate me – Hayat
Ignore the mosquitoes that ate Hayat. Instead, look at the dog standing in the corner of the main staircase. There’s a donation box with a dog’s mugshot pasted on it for the welfare of strays — a cause very close to Fabiola’s heart. With three dogs at home, Fabiola dishes leftovers to the strays.
That very bright and sunny April noon all the lights in Black Vanilla Café were switched on. Those lights at noon looked like a climate-change culprit. But Fabiola hopes that someday the café will turn fully sustainable with a zero-carbon footprint. Until then, the Nutella waffles, Yoghurt Bowls, Thirsty Bear Gadbad and Mr English will bring foodies to the verandah.
Overall rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ (Max: 5 stars)
One dish we loved: Nutella Waffles & Thirsty Bear Gadbad are the crowd favourites.
One thing that didn’t work for us: No added beauty to the verandah.
Good to know:
Address: Behind Cajetan Church, Khursa Waddo, Assagao, Goa
Timing: 8 am to 7 pm. Monday closed
Alcohol served: No
Pet friendly: Yes