Yellow House, Goa: Colonial Charm in India’s Portuguese Enclave

Guest unit at The Yellow House, Goa

The vast subcontinent of India is full of world-class tourist attractions, not the least of which is the former Portuguese enclave of Goa, although it has remained under the radar of most American travelers. Those who do venture to this coastal state — famous for its white sand beaches, savory cuisine and colorful markets — would do well to spend at least part of their stay in The Yellow House, an elegant boutique hotel that oozes colonial charm. 

Somewhat surprisingly, and in spite of its name, The Yellow House is not actually yellow. In its current iteration, the hotel’s two edifices are gleaming white in color; the name merely pays tribute to the original color during its colonial heyday.

Other than that, the hotel has remained true to its roots: the main building – a.k.a., the Heritage Wing – retains its impressive colonial architecture, both within and without. Even after its renovation and conversion into a hotel, access from the lobby to the giant guest suite in this wing is solely via the imposing grand staircase.

The Yellow House is blessed with two pedigrees: the first dating back to the colonial era (1510-1961), when it was built, and the second when the hotel became a Seleqtions property, one of the subsidiary brands of The Indian Hotels Company Limited (IHCL) group. The idea behind Seleqtions is that each hotel projects its own unique character; accordingly, even though there are five IHCL brands and 24 IHCL properties in Goa alone,  there is only one Seleqtions designee in the entire state. 

Roomy accommodations

The Yellow House is intimate even by boutique standards: a total of only 49 guest units, reflecting five categories of rooms and suites. All but two of the units are in the Modern Wing, which borders on the lush forest land of northern Goa.  

The largest unit is the SeleQtions Suite, which occupies the entire second floor of the colonial Heritage Wing. Its grandeur derives in large part from the strikingly high ceilings and the flamboyantly arched windows, which together lend an atmosphere of opulence complemented by the extremely tasteful decor. 

Private deck and jacuzzi at The Yellow House, Goa

Even guests choosing to stay not in a suite but rather in one of the four dozen guest rooms will find there is plenty of living space: the smallest room in the Modern Room measures a generous 300+ square feet, with either an al fresco balcony or garden/patio big enough for chairs and tables. Arguably, the most desirable configuration for many would be the premium room with plunge pool – a handful of ground-floor units with outdoor deck and illuminated private plunge pool with whirlpool jets for cooling off 24/7. 

Inside the rooms and suites are every amenity that one expects in a five-star establishment: comfortable king/queen-sized beds, user-friendly climate control (A/C plus ceiling fan), large flat screen television with multi-channel and multi-lingual programming, laptop-sized electronic safe for valuables, and refreshment corner with complimentary mineral water, mini-refrigerator and electric kettle for making coffee and tea. Free WiFi extends to all guest rooms, as well as public spaces. 

Bathrooms are fastidiously clean, with spacious shower stalls equipped with dual shower heads, pampering toiletries and hair dryers. Both the make-up table and toilet cabinet are separate from the sink and shower area, thus enhancing the convenience factor for couples. Bathrobes and slippers superbly complement the thirsty bath towels.

Tasting Goa

One of the great pleasures of Goa is eating the regional food, rooted in the gastronomic traditions of both India and Portugal; fortunately, Yellow House is a microcosm of the surrounding culinary scene as a whole. The property’s dining options are concomitant with the compact size of the hotel, but they still manage to touch all the key bases of local (Indian and Goan) and international (European and Asian) cuisine.

Dinner at The Yellow House, Goa

Helming the kitchen is award-winning Chef Tushar Malkani, who is as amiable as he is talented. He was very amenable to our request to treat us with a few Goan specialty à la carte dishes, which became the cornerstone of one our finest dinners  

Both the breakfast and dinner buffets are lavishly stocked with dishes reflecting a broad assortment of tastes and preferences, primarily North and South Indian but also including a smattering from Western and Oriental cuisines. Meals may be enjoyed  in air conditioned comfort or al fresco, on a terrace overlooking the courtyard.

Libation is an important part of the dining experience, and the mixologists at the handsome bar Botequim serve up craft cocktails made with exotic local ingredients (such as cashew liqueur) that can really elevate an evening. The friendly and impeccably professional wait staff will happily bring your dinks to your dinner table or even your room.  

Naturally, dining does not end at the doors of the hotel, and there are plenty of excellent restaurants just a few minutes’ drive away (while there is ample free parking for guests who arrive by car, getting around by taxi or auto-rickshaw is ridiculously inexpensive). Highly recommended is the slew of options connected to IHCL sister properties just down the road: two sprawling adjoining resorts under the  marquee brand name Taj: Taj Fort Aguada Resort and Spa and Taj Holiday Village Resort and Spa, each one with its own complement of fine dining restaurants, sophisticated bars, endless ethnic and international buffets — even a brewpub.  

Finally, one of the drawing cards of The Yellow House is its location precisely in Anjuna, a waterfront village in north Goa famous for its huge and diverse weekly market every Wednesday. Here you will find bargains galore — on clothing, footwear, artisanal crafts, souvenirs and more — alongside even more beachfront restaurants and eateries, where it one may indulge in must-try Goan delicacies made from the freshest fish and seafood harvested from the bounty of the Arabian Sea.  

The Yellow House, Goa

Rooms rates for two start at $90 (plus tax) per night in low season (summer) and climb incrementally throughout the year. Book (choose between room-only or breakfast-inclusive options) at the hotel website, or compare prices at Booking.com or Expedia to see if you can score a better rate. 

Text and photos by Buzzy Gordon, who was a guest of The Yellow House for purposes of review. Featured image credit: Diana Shahar. Additional photo  courtesy of the hotel. The author also recommends another worthy property in Goa, reviewed here

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