Most people may already have visited this place called Aunty Maria located in the Fidalgo Hotel in Panjim. It’s open 24 hours a day and one of the most popular meeting points in the capital city of Goa. There are several specialities of this place but above all is its most hospitable staff and the entire atmosphere that gives you the feeling of comfort of being at home and you will never find yourself out of place.
The walls are adorned with portraits of a Catholic lady with an apron serving food, which is not fictitious images but pictures of an actual lady called Maria who depicts the character of “Aunty Maria” that this coffee shop is known for. “Back in the day, almost every Goan household indulged in the baking of some sorts within the house. Naturally, the head of these small establishments were ladies and so the concept of the ‘Aunty Maria’ term came from this. We have Aunty Maria in a person who works here with us and is synonymous with the name of this cafe,” narrated Ajay Singh, the Food and Beverages Director of Hotel Fidalgo.
According to Mr Singh, it is the only outlet in the area of Panjim that operates 24/7. “The cafe is famous for its late-night crowd, the after-party crowd. The entire concept of “Aunty Maria” is to have coffee and bites. We have a state of the art, semi-automatic coffee machine, which makes Cappuccinos, Lattes and Espressos. Apart from different coffee varieties, we have a huge selection of tea flavours as well. We serve blue tea as well which is a herbal beverage good for the body. We use Lavazza coffee beans which are on the premium side so we do not compromise on anything here,” he said.
“At Aunty Maria, we keep innovating and this April onwards, we will be introducing a new menu for the season. Depending on the masses, the guests, we strive to take the feedback from them. Our main goal at the end of the day is to provide maximum guest delight in terms of food and service,” he added. “ Aunty Maria strives to be the brand for everyone, i.e. a school going child can come and try the wide selection of pastries that we have. This is what we strive for at the end of the day. Great food, and great service.”
Aunty Maria has its own in-house bakery which is an added advantage. “We have items such as Quiche, Pastries, Puffs, Croissants, Cakes, Donuts, Cheesecakes and so on. We keep introducing new flavours and dishes during the festive times such as Easter and Christmas and that is why this place is the most sought after during the same,” said Mr Singh adding that even after the late-night masses, people flock in here to grab a late-night bite and this place can get real crowded which is why we keep all our restaurants open on that particular night to accommodate the crowd.
Aunty Maria attracts a huge crowd on a daily basis. “This place is preferred by not less than 8,000 people and that is the amount of crowd we get here,” said Ajay Singh. “After 12 am onwards, we also serve beer, and wine so that if there are couples or families who want the same is coming in, and we serve them that.” There one more thing Mr Singh put light on and that is about serving the late-night Biryani at Aunty Maria. “We serve Biryani at Aunty Maria’s past 12 am and is one the only few places that do so at the time in the area of Panjim. The sole reason for doing so is because people like the dish and the fact that our other restaurants serve the same,” he said.
Talking about the Signature Dishes of Aunty Maria, he said that whatever they serve is by far their signature. “But we have the Signature Aunty Maria Breakfast in the morning hours where we serve eggs to order, juices, breakfast rolls, and then we serve a continental breakfast too.”
According to him, from 8 am to 11 am they have more foreign visitors to Aunty Maria’s. “Our costing may be on the higher side but we do not compromise on the items and the quality, the materials, or anything for that matter. Right from the basic to complex ingredients, we stay as authentic to the dish as it gets and hence there is no compromise on the same here which is why people like the place. And for that matter this not just the Aunty Maria outlet, it stays the same with all our other restaurant outlets.”
Mr Ajay Singh is an MBA Graduate and a Hotel Management Graduate from IHM Mumbai. He joined Hotel Fidalgo in the year 2010. “We have a huge team here at Hotel Fidalgo who work tirelessly. To stay ahead and strong in the market to go distances you need to provide the best service to the customer. Many restaurants open and close in a small span of time but to maintain the flow is what is important. It is always a challenge to stay afloat in any competitive environment,” narrated Mr Singh.
At Aunty Maria, they follow a very healthy policy, “When it comes to cooking vegetarian and non-vegetarian food we use different kitchens here at Fidalgo, so the customers can rest assured that we do not mix them at any point. These are the small thing we believe in and such things go long ways as we care for our customers. There is no compromise on these things,” he said.
Finally, there are many new plans in the pipeline that will make Aunty Maria even more appealing says Mr Singh. “We are planning to come up with a High-Tea Buffet Concept from the timing slots of 4 pm to 7 pm. Aunty Maria will be undergoing some renovation in the near future which will extend the seating area to accommodate more people. This is still in the pipeline but will be happening very soon as we’re trying to give the customers value for money package,’ he narrated.