It was a chaotic Thursday in February. On the bed, lay my entire rescue gear for the Himachal trip – My snow jackets, mufflers, woolen gloves and socks, monkey caps, snow shoes, etc. It was a pretty colorful sight to behold, and so within the next few minutes that clumsy layout found its way on my Instagram stories – #allthatpacking….the trip starts here!
My excitement levels were soaring high if anybody could have measured I bet they must have beaten the temperature at the snow-laden Himalayan peaks! But alas, this was not supposed to last! After all the overload of instructions from friends and family and those typical mommy banters of “dos and don’ts of what not to do, what to avoid, how to avoid catching a cold, etc. etc. I suddenly found myself walking around in my loose tropical t-shirts, that funky pair of chappals, big glares and layers of sunscreen on that long road, perhaps the most photographed lane of Goa. Remember, the pristine narrow road lined with palm trees on either side, of the Dear Zindagi fame? Yes, That’s the Parra road for you!
Due to a last-minute goof-up, our Himachal trip got canceled and to recover from those deep drawn-out emotions, we found ourselves on the way to Goa for a quick rebound abut alas…..a long Goan affair for me!
We had put up at Anjuna, near St. Anthony’s chapel, just a minute walk from the Anjuna beach and everything was almost paradisaical.
One fine evening, as I was wandering off the adjoining lane from our guesthouse to the Anjuna beach, a pleasing and adorable, quaint heritage villa caught on my eye on the right. The typical v-shaped daunting pillars mostly found in ancestral homes down in the south and some palaces were there right at the entrance inside. These rested on a beautiful red oxide flooring. This is the same red oxide flooring that takes us back to the bygone era and brings back the visits to the grandparent’s house. It was rich and glossy with age. A sloth of hanging greens from the tapered wooden roof, a few blocks of stone engraved in the grassy earth leading to the entrance from the main gate along with a black slate board which read “Coffees, Desserts, sandwiches, etc.” was enough to refresh my senses and send that link to my brain that perhaps some nice coffee at this place was just waiting for me. I told myself “this place has to be explored.” I wasn’t sure if it was a cafe or there was perhaps more to it. There was a small signage outside which read “Clay”.
The next day, right at 5:00 in the evening, I found my feet neatly grounded on the red oxide flooring at the porch, my eyes staring at the warmth inside because the main door was wide open. Two wooden rocking chairs made merry with an old wooden chest that lay right in front of it. A few planters, some books and a lot of old-world charm just added to the comeliness and perfect symmetry of this place.
Right ahead of this, was what I saw a minimalistic setup of modern-looking wooden table with white chairs in another room. It had those old wooden windows with vertical railings, the whole setup was straight out of my imagination. I just thought that perhaps if I open the windows, there would be a peacock waiting for me outside, such was the feeling!
It was the first of many things ‘old world’, about to unfurl.. .In fact, this precious gem was the reason for the interlude in Goa. As heritage restoration and preservation enthusiasts and lovers of earthy cafes, my interest peaked even more as “Clay” married these elements beautifully.
Barely as I had gathered my varying thoughts about this place, I was welcomed by Nihar, a charming guy who welcomed me and politely answered those numerous questions that were popping in my head. “Hi, is this a Cafe?” I asked. “Yes”, he said….”but there’s more to it….”
“Slippers outside please”, he remarked and we headed to the left, where after pushing open an arched wooden door, I came across a huge room where wooden tables and old cane chairs headlined the main story. Rustic blue and white rugs, those typical old railing windows, bulky switchboards from the past, minimalistic photo frames on the walls, warm lighting and inverted cane basket lights from the ceiling added to the refinement in the room coupled with a deep feeling of comfort as if it was just made for me. At this place, you could just be yourself without worrying about being noticed or anybody peeping into your privacy.
“This is where we work, this is where everyone can work, relax, chill, have food and drinks and just do whatever they want. ” He remarked. “This is the age of entrepreneurs and freelancers. Individuals with an active imagination, re-imagining the world. While they do that, we at Clay, are re-imagining their workspaces. Clay is here to create a co-working space designed to bring together diverse ideas, skills, people under one roof giving them the flexibility they need while they go in pursuit of their dreams. Thus creating a unique workspace that becomes a versatile ground for creativity, collaboration and music as one unwinds in Goa”
He added “With Clay, utilize your time and save money with high-speed internet access, uninterrupted power supply and everything you want for the smooth functioning of your work. We provide you an atmosphere of positive vibes, young crowd, and professionals that inspire you along with freshly brewed coffee, of course…Oh, and yeah, you can just chill and have your friends over at the garden outside after you are done working. We will join in too for a house party”!
“Last but not the least,” he said, “we have an in-house cafe “Dough Ho” that provides a soothing counterpoint to the daily grind. Order your coffees, sandwiches, fudge whatever, and satiate your taste buds as you work at your pace at Clay!
Even as my ears were glued to what Nihar said and my eyes rolled in the all over the place to admire the comely beauty of the place, I thought to myself – Wow, such a modest yet highly practical and comfortable co-working zone. All in all, a chill zone, with inviting walls, cool comfy spaces, comprised of a vibrant yet still energy and like-minded people to interact with… It’s a place where you get to learn and grow just by being in a creative environment. “Phew, what a bonus I just got!
“Let me show you the whole place.” Nihar remarked.
Then we crossed over to the other side where there was a decent enough room for four tables along with chairs. A mattress with that typical paisley design bed sheet on the floor made for a stylish yet comfortable sight. Comfy cushions on it made for an earthy look. On top of that, there were shelves inside the wall which had amazing showpieces, earthen pots, a small antique wooden ship, some really old vintage looking books.
Just as I was looking at these wonders, there was a voice ” Hi, Lionel here. Welcome to our space. I hope you have a good time discovering it”. Lionel is another person who works here, smiling and charming as always. I had a warm greeting with him and as he left, my eyes caught the dream catcher that was hung on top of an iron rod on the table behind.
The room also had the same wooden railing window which overlooked outside, all painted in a beautiful shade of blue. The soft sun looked promising outside. The glass planters on the tables, neat art frames on the walls, those white cane woven antique chairs, earthen pots in the shelves with soft yellow lighting made for a cohesive design all on its own. Antiques and eclectic novelties often remain a favorite to personalize spaces with a unique style, but it might be hard to mix these accent pieces to give a new meaning to a place, but Clay was a beautiful amalgamation of all this.. Rustic finds emphasized in traditional bohemian style made every room stand out.
Nihar then took me over to the other room as we crossed the “chaukhat”. This was a small room with a lovely countertop on the right and to the left was a huge room which was the kitchen. A petite charming woman smiled at me. “Hello, Snigdhaa, lovely meeting you, we will talk in a while”, she beamed as she went about with her daily chores. She was Rishika, the chef who manages Dough Ho and is responsible for all the palatable stuff served there. As we walked back to see the rest of the space, an earthen brown pot kept neatly on an antique sideboard caught my attention… Besides, that was a trail of glasses and mugs. “That’s the water jug”. We believe in returning back to roots”. Nihar exclaimed.
From here we went straight to the garden outside. A space good enough for people to lounge around on the hammock and just enjoy some wonderful evenings and afternoons staying put on the green grass, just soaking in all the Goan vibes in its eternity. This was the party zone and also the relaxation area. Nihar added “Move around here. Have your coffee and drinks. Party… just chill and enjoy your time at Clay here.”
The clock struck 5:30 pm now as I glanced at my watch. That mad craving of a coffee was drying up my throat and my stomach was aching because I hadn’t eaten anything since an early lunch. I headed inside and Lionel welcomed me towards one of the tables inside that was just adjacent to the window. My friend Minal got my laptop and we just decided to sit here and enjoy some light conversations as I replied to my emails that I hadn’t even opened up since I landed in Goa.
The soft sun now shone on our faces through the window and the cool breeze softly turned up the pages of the new novel that Minal decided to read through. Our order came just a few minutes later from the kitchen of Dough Ho. The lemon berry slice, the banana cinnamon crumble cake, and the Good Ol’ Coffees, the first sight of which was enough to make me tipsy turvy as this “home away from home” kind of a place was just looking too good.
The banana cinnamon crumble cake was just a more sophisticated relative of banana bread. It was a moist banana cake with a cinnamon sugar filling and a crunchy walnut oat crumble topping. I dug my spoon in it, hot and moist as it was, and within the first bite, I could feel the dash of cinnamon and the moistness of the banana inside even as the crispy top made for a perfect bridge to reach the richness of the cake that lay in the center. Minal exclaimed – “This is one of the best I have ever had”, with her hand firmly holding the cup which had the good ol coffee. I stared into mine and a sweet dimple popped in. Coffee is always my happy nothing. This was a coffee not too mild, not too strong but with a certain character that I thought would make it a hit with all the others. The good ol coffee was simple, flavorful, and familiar.”Smooth and balanced”, this blend was aimed to please and warm a wide audience of hot-coffee enthusiasts, I thought.
The restless creature in me soon found myself making rounds of the place with my camera and I happened to interact with a few of the people who were only too welcoming to share a few words about themselves as they went about working there as co-workers. Yeah, we shared our social media id’s and, suddenly from strangers they became friends. The best part of travel, I bet. As I and Minal discussed our plan for the night, Lionel came in – “Anything else?” At the spur of the moment, I blurted – Do you have chocolate cupcakes? In the hindsight, I could see a deep shocking expression on Minal’s face, with all that sugar rush she knew I would simply end up retiring on the bed on the way out. “Few minutes”, Lionel remarked, and we both headed to finish off the blueberry lime slice.
The deep yellow color and the blueberries submerged on the top made for a pretty picture against the wooden top, the textured white walls and the small earthen planters on the table. This was creamy, mild in taste and the taste of the lemon was just so refreshing. It simply melted and within a few minutes all that we saw were just a few artworks made with the spoons all over the plate. By now, the cupcakes arrived, and they were damn good-looking, I would say. Full marks for the presentation. The white terracotta plate with the few strawberries and sprinkle of cocoa powder made the sight so inviting.
Yeah, I had them all, and the cupcakes were incredibly moist and tender without being too delicate or crumbly. And the frosting was just so light and creamy. The tummy was full but I was still drooling even after indulging in them all. It was 7:00 pm, we paid the bill, held our handbags, exchanged smiles with Rishika, Nihar, and Lionel and made our way to the exit. The smell of the wet earth and grass filled our nostrils as we walked out towards the small gate and closed it off.
We heard Lionel from behind – “Please come back soon!” And I said – “Yes, this is my permanent happy place now. You shall see me often here!” Smiles were exchanged and I and Minal walked off to our guest house.
What you take away from Clay –
Open every day except Thursday, and nestled within a quiet by-lane in Anjuna near St Anthony Chapel, the cafe offers—within serene, minimalist environs—meticulously crafted coffees, lemon teas, healthy drinks, and some lip-smacking desserts. With plenty of plug points and friendly staff, get work done over fresh salads, artisanal sourdough baked daily, their special signature dark chocolate cake and a delectable array of comfort fare—made in-house, upon order. Take a moment to sip, savor, slow down as you get to work in a growth-ready environment, a place where you get the opportunity to collaborate, create and grow together with like-minded co-workers.
Think baskets, planters made of different kinds of materials, macramé wall hangings, natural fiber rugs, colorful Persian or Turkish rugs, wood furniture, upholstery, even artwork and stacks of books as your companions here! Plants just give that effortless “jungle” natural vibe, and they are amazing and they are lots here! And the textured photo framed walls, those wooden rocking chairs in the corner, the gorgeous cabinet painted a lush tropical green – give such a distinct character to Clay!
The place thrives on those little imperfections which can make people feel more relaxed and at ease within this space. And you get to inhale some wonderful smells here – whether it’s via a good-ol’ scented candle, essential oils, incense, or even just simmering some delicious ingredients on your stovetop.
Items that somehow tell a story or special things you picked up on your travels will bring you joy on a daily basis and will be a reminder of your life journey here. Kind of like looking at a photo album, except that you live inside it!
Step inside this bungalow and you are instantly taken back in time to a bustling home inside “Clay” in its heyday.