Our Facebook pages are chockfull of tips on healthy eating, from the benefits of honey and turmeric to the cancer destroying power of the sour sop fruit. But when you are prowling like a hungry wolf on the streets of Goa, there’s only oily batatawadas and samosas available. Where does one go for all that healthy food?
There is indeed a place exactly for these nutritious cravings right in the heart of Margao—the newly set up Lovii Café. Having seen some delicious photos on their FB page I went over to check it out. Nestling in the heart of Comba, Margao’s old residential quarter, Lovii Café stands at the rear of the house of Fatima Figueiredo (Mario Miranda’s sister!), at the end of Abade Faria road. The old judicial courthouse of Margao is just across the road, and there’s even a whitewashed colonial-era sentry box at the entrance of the café. The Figueiredo’s garage once stood where the café is now. The café is part of the Oorja Wellness Centre which teaches yoga and also has a multi-specialty clinic. Lovii Café caters to the dietary desires of the Centre’s patrons, but is also open to the public.
Café Lovii is managed by the young couple Vasant and Vatsala Hede, from Margao. Vatsala holds a degree in fine arts, and takes care of the aesthetics of the eating experience. The crockery and cutlery is chosen by her, and I am impressed by the long stemmed water glass that stands on my table, with an effusion of cranberry colour at its base. “I have also studied a hospitality course and worked at the Marriott for two years, so I take care of our customer service,” she says. Her husband is busy at the kitchen counter, chopping and grinding away. The kitchen and eating area is all open plan and patrons can pretty much see every step of their sandwich or fruit shake being prepared. The café is open on three sides to the beautiful garden of the house. A spider crawls over to make my acquaintance.
I peer at the day’s menu written on a board mounted on a paint-splattered easel. Quail egg omelette. That’s a new one for me. “Quail eggs are smaller than the usual eggs, but are very nutritious,” informs Vatsala. “The eggs come from Ms. Figueiredo’s farm”. Fatima Figueiredo is the sister of Goa’s much loved cartoonist and artist Mario Miranda. This centuries-old Margao house is meticulously maintained, and stands as an elegant flourish at the end of all the heritage homes that line the Rua Abade Faria.
“We serve fresh juices, and beverages like ginger-tulsi green tea, which are rich in anti-oxidants,” says Vatsala. “All our sandwiches are assembled on the spot. We don’t serve any pre-packaged snacks here.”
I know Vasant as the Placement Coordinator at Chowgule College, but it’s a fresh sight to see him confidently grinding masalas in the kitchen. “He used to work at cafés in the UK when he was studying there, so he knows how to multitask,” Vatsala tells me, with an affectionate look in his direction.
The maître d’-cum-chef finally comes over to join us. “A masala tea can take ten minutes, as the spices are freshly ground,” says Vasant. “We like to make the tea the way we make it at home.”
Avocado sandwiches are popular here. A fruit sandwich? I think of slices of apple in bread and I’m confused. “Avocado is very creamy, it’s not very sweet. It’s like in between a fruit and a vegetable,” explains Vasant. “They even make mayonnaise of avocado. We serve our fruit juices as delights, as in Watermelon Delight. It’s a combination, with one or two fruits dominant. Our Fruit Tower serving has mixed fruits and honey and sunflower seeds, etc. We also have fruit and yoghurt combos. Yoghurt has good pro-biotic qualities.”
“The clients of the Wellness Centre are on strict diets,” he goes on. “No onions, no chillies, nothing heavy, no potatoes. It’s very sattvik. They need fresh vegetable dishes and salads.”
I notice the rates for the foods are quite reasonable, given the premium placed on health foods nowadays. Items range from seventy to ninety rupees, with a masala tea for thirty. “Given a choice of fat-heavy commercial snacks and our healthy foods at the same price, we want people to choose the healthier option,” says Vasant. The café is not even a month old, but eight to ten customers come in every day, with more numbers on weekends.
What’s with the name Lovii, I ask them. “That’s what we call each other,” says Vatsala. “And those two i’s at the end show our own individuality,” adds Vasant, gazing at her. This is a couple clearly in love, I decide, as I slurp off my Watermelon Delight. And food cooked with love can’t be bad for the heart!
Café Lovii is open from 9am to 7pm, closed on Mondays.