With Macau being an easy 45-minutes by ferry (or 15-minute chopper ride, for those who like to travel in style), the island is a home-from-home for many Hong Kongers. So, you’d be forgiven for thinking you know all the best spots for your weekend sojourns. Well, hold the phone, because a hop, skip and a jump away from the Cotai strip and its casinos, restaurants and show halls, and you’ve reached Taipa, a village lined with sweet pastel-hued buildings and imbued with an otherworldly charm. We know, we know, you’ve been there too. But have you stopped by the just-opened Goa Nights? We thought not.
On entering the three-storey block that Goa Nights calls home, I was immediately greeted by a striking mural of a chap smoking hookah – the vibe is set from the off, this is a spot for those who don’t take themselves too seriously. I settled on a bar stool to find a menu in the shape of a map, showcasing Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama’s journey from Europe to India, a nod to where this bar got its name and a path to follow when it comes to ordering your drinks.
Fortunately, owner Gagan Sethi and head mixologist Chetan Gagan were on hand to guide me through the unique menu. They talked, I listened (and ate my way through a fair few bar snacks – don’t miss out on these), so read on to find out why Goa Nights is the new name to know in Macau.
We know there are a whole host of impressive dining options in Macau, but what is the current cocktail scene really like?
Gagan Sethi: Macau is an emerging market for cocktails as traditionally locals tend to have more of a preference for wine or beer over cocktails. There’s huge potential. We are among the first stand-alone establishments in Taipa Village to kick off as a cocktail bar – it will take time but it’s a changing scene.
Tell us about the design of Goa Nights, what inspired it?
GS: Goa Nights’ design concept was a family collaboration and the collective effort gives its interiors a personal touch. From the custom-designed boat-wood furniture we acquired from Indonesia, to the hand-crafted plates we serve most of our dishes on.
The wall art was a big challenge and took us a few months to finalise what we wanted; when we did, we opted for an Indian Sadhu smoking a chillum. Gwen, my wife, took it upon herself to do the entire artwork and it took her 56 hours in a span of seven days to complete. It definitely draws a lot of attention!
Who designed the food menu?
GS: The food menu has been developed by my business partner and sister Shilpa Sethi and styled by Chef André Correia. We wanted to give Indian food a contemporary style, yet keep the Indian flavours intact.
How do you want people to feel when they walk in?
GS: I love to see guests coming in to have just one drink and then they end up finishing the entire Vasco da Gama voyage, the inspiration to which our nine signature cocktails are based on. It’s even better when they enjoy our creative food menu and the music!
You like to mix unusual flavours – like coffee and oranges in your Negroni – is there anything else you think we should give a try?
Chetan Gagan: That’s a tricky one but I find beetroot and coconut water a good mix, as well as hazelnut and rosemary.
Which cocktail on your menu is your favourite?
CG: To me, the Lisbon is the most special. It’s a beautiful blend of earthy and citrus flavours which come from raw turmeric and grapefruit. But, if I could only choose one, then it would be the Cape Verde – it’s the easiest-going cocktail on our menu.
What’s your favourite part about mixing drinks?
CG: Every day is a new day. You meet new people and there’s always an opportunity to learn something. Being in Macau, to witness new cultures, new flavours and finding new ways to experiment with cocktail making, there are just so many experiences out there to encounter and to learn from.
So, what’s next for Goa nights?
GS: Goa Nights has a lot of potential, we are even looking at taking it over to New York! As for pop-ups, we’re speaking to a few mixologists we could make magic with.
Quick fire questions:
Quality of ingredients or quality of service?
GS: You can’t skip on either. These days clients are well aware of what is essentially good and what is not.
CG: Both are equally important if you want to call yourself a good cocktail bar
Warming whisky or refreshing gin?
GS: Gin during a nice sunny afternoon and whisky to end my day… Do I sound like an alcoholic?
CG: Warming whisky on a Friday or Saturday and refreshing gin on a Sunday morning to ease the hangover!
Sitting at the bar or sitting in a booth?
GS: Definitely the bar, that’s where you witness the magic. Besides, to me it’s always fun to engage with the mixologists and hear their stories.
CG: Obviously the bar, that’s where the action is
Early aperitif or late-night lock-in?
GS: Early aperitif
CG: As a bartender, late-night lock-in.
Dress it up or keep it casual?
GS: Dress it up!
CG: It depends, a night out with the ladies? Dress to impress. An outing with friends, keep it cool and casual.