Relax Inn: Flavours of authentic Goan delicacies in Panaji's Latin quarters

Antonieta and Allwyn Jorge have tantalised taste buds with authentic Goan snacks for over 20 years. Annoushka Fernandes of The Goan delves into the secrets behind their successful family business

Relax Inn: Flavours of authentic Goan delicacies in Panaji's Latin quarters

PANAJI: Nestled in the quaint lanes of the Latin Quarters of St. Tome in Panaji lies Relax Inn Café, a cosy spot owned by Antonieta and Allwyn Jorge. Originally established as a guest house, the café has transformed over the years into a beloved local haunt, attracting people with its authentic Goan delicacies for over 20 years.

Antonieta states that the cafe initially served as an extension of their guest house to cater to guests. However, as word spread, locals began visiting the café, drawn by the aromas of its home-cooked food.

“We only had a guest house and to serve our guests we had to open up a café since we began offering bed and breakfast. We thought of setting up this small unit only for our guests. Slowly the people also started coming in and everybody was impressed with our home-cooked food,” says Antonieta. She adds that she gets immense pleasure by serving the guests just as she would at home.

Famous for their rissois, the cafe also serves chops, alle belle, croquette, sausage bread, ham & Cheese, samosas, ros omelette & mixed bhaji among other things which are always savoured with a cup of hot tea or fresh fruit juices.

“Our local snacks like the variety of chops such as beef, prawn and egg, croquette, sausage bread, ham & cheese bread, different type of omelettes and the veg option is our homemade mixed bhaji,” she states adding that the prawn rissois is a hit among the people.

These traditional recipes have been passed down to Antonieta by her parents and grandparents. “I learned to cook these dishes at home from my parents, grandparents and elders. People often say my food evokes memories of their mothers and grandmothers. Cooking brings me joy and I love eating too,” she says. 

While plenty of new cafes have come up, serving Western food items, the couple remains unfazed as their customers are drawn towards the authentic food they serve. “The up-and-coming new western restaurants do not affect us at all, our reputation is built on the authenticity of our dishes,” she adds.

Antonieta ensures that she doesn’t compromise on the quality of the ingredients and maintains hygiene. “I take great interest in choosing the raw materials and ingredients to ensure everything is very hygienic. So I don’t see any competition, everyone has a different menu and I do total justice for my service," says Antonieta.

Our menu is completely different, adds Allwyn. “We keep on adding dishes to the menu, during Covid when we were temporarily closed we redid the menu and added these items post-Covid,” he says.

Initially featuring omelettes and a limited selection of snacks, they expanded to include a broader range of options, such as tea time snacks like alle belles.

 “Incidentally, the idea to include alle belle on the menu came from a guest who saw my son enjoying the snack at the café and suggested we add it to the menu” shares Antonieta.

Antonieta and Allwyn ensure that every guest leaves their café fully satisfied after enjoying a hearty meal. “Since some guests were vegetarian, I learned how to make authentic Goan mixed bhaji from our Hindu neighbour. I make the masala from scratch which is also used for the ros omelette,” reveals Antoineta.

For Antonieta and Allwyn running a café comes with its own set of challenges, and it takes hard work to overcome them. “Running a café certainly has its challenges," admit Antonieta and Allwyn. "But we're fortunate to have reliable help. The demand for our snacks can be intense—we often sell out by afternoon. This means we're frequently working late into the night, sometimes until midnight, to prepare for the next day's service,” says Allwyn.

Transitioning from operating a guest house to running a café posed an initial challenge for Antonieta and Allwyn, as they lacked prior experience in the food service industry. "Our guests demanded that we serve food. At first, it was challenging because we had no background in running a café. We approached it the same way we would serve breakfast at home, and thankfully, our efforts were well-received," explains Antonieta.

Allwyn adds, "Meeting the demands can be overwhelming at times, but we've learned to manage. It's all about finding a balance and ensuring we deliver quality service despite the challenges."

Antonieta and Allwyn attribute their café's success to the genuine authenticity of their food. "The food here is crafted with a lot of hard work and love," Antonieta claims. "We pour our hearts into every dish, we give our best and serve our best,” she adds.

The Relax Inn Café holds a special place in Panaji's living heritage, evoking a profound fondness from locals and visitors. One will never find the place empty as it is filled with locals and tourists alike. “We always come here for tea and are served with love, my personal favourite is the ros omelette, it pairs perfectly with the tea, and no other place does it quite like Relax Inn. The atmosphere is always vibrant, bustling with both locals and tourists alike," says Dylan Fernandes who claims to visit the café from Anjuna, despite quitting his job in Panaji.

The café is open from Monday to Saturday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

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