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 talented multi-faceted woman with an English major, photography minor and is a pastry chef certified by the Le Cordon Bleu, London. Simran applied these skills, added bouts of love, and collected local artisans to bring Amrapali back to life.
The hotel is known for its warm colour palettes and carefully curated details that grace every nook and cranny of the space. The hotel has been featured in various lifestyle magazines like Travel and Leisure, Conde Nast Traveller, Vogue and more. This pocket paradise was also one of the sets for ‘Golmaal Again’ and has been the base for many world-wide fashion brand photoshoots. Even with these merits, they are still a down-to-earth abode with the main aim being – to be of service.
Hey Simran, please share a brief intro 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 the 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 up. 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 honouring the Earth’s resources. Cheffing fit in those parameters & so did building a space to allow people to experience a state of grace.
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 personalised 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 hand made 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.
The story behind the name.
The name Amrapali has many references for us, one being the literal meaning – 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.
Both examples for us highlight our core values – service in all its forms.
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 in 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, quick distractions just doesn’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.
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Growing up, Goa was synonymous with sleepless nights and drowsy mornings, where the only relevance of an accommodation was a clean loo ! Remember those days ? I am not sure when things stared changing but they surely seem to have. Don't get me wrong, I am terribly social and love a party, and am surely ageing as gracefully as Mick Jagger but presently accommodation means so much more than just a clean loo. . . And the House of Grace fit perfectly into my now altered world view of accommodations:) it is beautiful, secluded, oldworld, houses a gorgeous pool, excellent selection of culinary delights (we loved the mutton curry for lunch and goan chorizo for breakfast) and has an amazingly courteous staff. There are four rooms in all and thus when their website says "boutique", trust me it is truly boutique and not just a bastardized version of the term ! The property overlooks the Shiridao lake and is about a good hour away from your conventional hot spots in Goa. So in case you want to move about getting a self driven car may be a good idea. . . . We were staying in the Creation room (the last picture in the series) and trust me the room and the bathroom together were twice the size of my rat hole apartment in Bombay ! Since it is an old portugese structure, the covered balcony runs along all the rooms and is the perfect place to lounge wih a good book or Netflix:) (See, I am keeping up with the Netflix and chill movement). Even if you are not staying at the property and waking up to nothing but the pitter patter of rainfall(I would really urge you to give this place a chance during monsoons) and chirping birds, do drop in to their cafe for a bite of heaven and surreal hospitality … . . #thetravellingbengali
Please share more about your cafe
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 local and as sustainable 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, we even set up a poolside barbecue for you. However, we think the most special thing about staying with us is relaxing in the ambience 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 Fountainhas 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 personalised 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 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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