Simran Kaur is the face behind Amrapali, a boutique hotel built on the strong bones of a 100-year-old Portuguese home. She is a true multi-talented woman with a major in English, a minor in photography, and is a pastry chef certified by Le Cordon Bleu in London. With her skills, love for the craft, and collaboration with local artisans, Simran brought Amrapali back to life.
The hotel is renowned for its warm color palettes and carefully curated details that adorn every corner of the space. It has been featured in various lifestyle magazines such as Travel and Leisure, Conde Nast Traveller, Vogue, and more. Amrapali is a humble abode that focuses on providing exceptional service, despite being the base for many worldwide fashion brand photoshoots and even being featured in the film ‘Golmaal Again’.
Hi Simran, could you please give us a brief introduction of yourself?
Hi, my name is Simran Kaur and you can find me either in Mumbai or in Goa. I am an English major with a photography minor from Bryn Mawr College, one of the seven sisters’ colleges in the US. I also studied patisserie in Le Cordon Bleu, London.
Tell us about your resort. What brought you to this property and why did you decide to revive it?
Amrapali, originally called Villa Morgado, is 100 years old and was built by the Nazareth family in 1920. It has been in my family for about 15 years but we only started restoring it in 2014. I remember first seeing this old Portuguese house when it was covered in undergrowth. We were told it would not withstand the next monsoon but I could feel the house’s spirit, how it really wanted to be filled with life again. And the decision was made to fix it. We have been thanked for preserving it by many Goan locals who grew up, seeing the house as it sits in a very central & visible location.
Have you always wanted to own a hotel? What was your dream?
My dreams have always been more conceptual & ephemeral. They include making people feel joyful, uplifted, comforted and received. They also include honoring the Earth’s resources. Cheffing fit in those parameters & so did building a space to allow people to experience a state of grace.
“We try to work with real people” – This water fountain was made by local potters in Bicholim but finished by a guest – an Iranian artist, Fatemeh Yazdani, who decided the lion needs more power.
Tell us a little about the resort, today.
Amrapali – House of Grace is a lovingly restored, 100-year-old Portuguese house on the banks of the river Zuari. We are an independent-minded boutique hotel with a high level of personalized service.
At Amrapali, we value tradition, culture and creativity. The house was restored by preserving the Portuguese design while honouring the skills of local artisans. Every single thing you see in the house has been handmade to order, our artisans felt a huge sense of pride for the encouragement they were given by architect, Alex Von Moltke, and myself. At the end of the project, they gifted us a plaque as a thank-you for their freedom of expression.
R&L: So tell us the story behind “Amrapali – House of Grace”
The name “Amrapali” has many references for us, one being the literal meaning – a young branch of a mango tree. This name is brought to life with our grand 100-year-old mango tree, which was planted the same year the house was built. It abundantly provides us with sweet mangoes every year.
The other reference for our name is the legend of the beautiful courtesan, Amrapali. It is said she was spontaneously born at the foot of a mango tree in the gardens of Vaishali during the time of Buddha. She had a home in a mango grove, grander than that of many kings, however, when she met the Buddha she donated her entire wealth to Buddhism and became a devotee of Lord Buddha.
“All our services highlight our core values – service in all its forms.” – Simran Kaur, Amrapali – House of Grace
What do you want your guests to feel and take away from their experience?
As this Home was brought to life, we want Amrapali to do the same for its guests, we want you to feel nourished and refreshed. We want you to feel an increase in your life force energy. Each guest will be made to feel relaxed while enjoying our curated space, our meticulously designed menus, and our truly happy service – we want you to come and experience a state of grace.
How have your roots/upbringing influenced elements of your hotel?
I remember having guests in our home every single day. My father would show up with someone who needed help, with zero notice. My mother would gracefully accommodate them. As children, we also had to shift from our bedroom months at a time, to accommodate company.
Similarly, my grandfather received the Panth Ratan Award for service to the Sikh community. Therefore, service to a cause was something I was brought up with, both at the home and at work. My obsession with authenticity, be it in design or food or other aspects, comes from the internal struggle I think every human goes through – how can I be true to myself while the world demands that I behave a certain way to fit in?
Fast food and quick distractions just don’t feel authentic to me. On my journey to be truly myself, I created a space that is authentically me. I hope my guests will also be able to feel accepted as their authentic selves.
R&L: Tell us why your cafe is the place to be while on a holiday in Goa.
Fresh, local, vibrant – our menu includes Spanish, Moroccan, French, and Italian cuisines incorporated with local and artisanal ingredients. Our in-house preparation tasks involve things like preserving lemons, picking radishes and sun-drying our own tomatoes, and more. We try to source as locally and as sustainably as we can. Cheese from a local Goan dairy, some organically grown vegetables from a farm in Pune, capers also from an Indian grower, and much more.
My favourite thing on the menu is Fraisier: our French strawberry cake. It is a ring of in-season strawberries encased between two layers of French genoise (a whole-egg cake) sponge cake filled with creme mousseline. We make the genoise by hand, something few pastry shops even in Europe will do. The 20-minute long whisking with a balloon whisk creates luxuriously long and soft strands in the genoise sponge and this makes for a very tender mouthfeel.
What to expect when we stay at your resort?
We will set up a private picnic for you on Siridao Beach, we will organize sailing lessons for you in Bambolim Bay just 5 minutes away, and we even set up a poolside barbecue for you. However, we think the most special thing about staying with us is relaxing in the ambiance we create. Whether it is breakfast by the pool, listening to the raucous birdsong in the morning hours, or staring into the orange sunset from our waterfront verandah – there are a lot of spaces for you to relax, enjoy and feel like this grand old home is yours to keep.
What are the nearby hotspots for visitors?
The churches of Old Goa are very popular with our guests as are the charming by-lanes of Fountains in Panjim. Since we are close to a bay, there are all-day or sunset sailing experiences to enjoy. We also organize bike tours and a very special walk with a famous Goan artist. If you prefer to stay in-house, we can set up a Goan cooking class with our local Chef or a personalized barbecue by the pool. The cherry on top would be our spa services by curated massage therapists, available with prior notice.
Catch more surprises at Amrapali – House of Grace on their Instagram page and be sure to drop by next time you are looking for a home away from home in Goa.
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