Riding Through Royal Enfield’s History At A Garage Cafe In Goa

Riding Through Royal Enfield’s History At A Garage Cafe In Goa
Royal Enfield

Jab bullet chale toh duniya raasta de.

(Everyone makes way for a bullet)

Motorcycle-inspired cafes now pepper the planet. Many riders pay homage to The Ace Cafe in London , Cafe Fahrtwind near Germany’s famous Nurburgring, as well as Black Lightning in Eureka CA. However, Royal Enfield has decided to give those folks some seriously, tough competition with their new Garage Cafe in the Arpora - Baga region of Goa. This haven for shaan ki sawari riders pays tribute to Goa’s longtime relationship with the Indian-adopted British bike and those atop it. For decades hippies, explorers, and free-thinkers have thumped their way through the palm-shaded lanes of Goa, echoing the satisfying growl of a Bullet pacing through a tropical paradise. This cafe is dedicated to those pioneer riders of Goa, who lived the Royal Enfield life, as well as to those who strive to be a part of that iconic state of mind.

The key to this mecca for motorcyclists is that the fastest growing motorcycle brand in the world still knows how to take it easy. The azonic flow of the Garage Cafe coupled with a tasteful manipulation of light both interact wonderfully with the structure, making the cafe appear like Frank Lloyd Wright or Geoffrey Bawa could have played a hand in the design. However, the well-splayed layout that reaches out half an acre is thanks to people whose passion lies in firing up a Bullet and letting its pistons pump from dawn until dusk. Due to their unharnessed love for the eye-catching Enfield, the team behind the Garage Cafe were able to make the joint appeal to all senses of the bike and the brand. You don’t need to be a rider to kick up your boots and order a pint of craft beer at the bar; in fact, they encourage everyone from artists to cooks and writers to swing by the Garage Cafe and weave their story into the ever-thumping narrative of Royal Enfield.

That being said, the best way to roll up to the cafe is to glide in on a thumper thirstily, gurgling away. You can do this by signing up for the Royal Enfield Breakfast Loop. The Garage Cafe offers this unique ride, which winds through Bardez to Porvorim onto a ferry and then back to the cafe. The route has been curated by a group of riders that live to ride. Thus, the had the necessary skills to map out a jaunt that appeals to both veteran motorcyclists and shoddy saddle riders alike - myself being the later. Despite stalling on the provided bike several times, which had nothing to do with the beautiful motorcycle and more to do with my clutch hand being as fumbling and clumsy as Trump’s little hands, I had an absolute blast. Moreover, the approximately two-and-half-hour ride was spaced out by several stops to give riders a bit of history as well as bring Goa further into the dialogue.

I usually abhor such things, and would just have well as got on with the ride, however, it turned out to be rather engrossing. I got to hear about a bloodthirsty Portuguese general and gaze upon ambling rivers covered in a thick blanket of morning mist. For someone who has lived in Goa it was refreshing to go on such a well-laid out route as well as soak up a bit of history I was earlier ignorant of.

The Breakfast Loop culminates at the Baga Creek locale, a place Goans would recognize as the old J & A’s, and after a refreshing jaunt on the bike, good grub and a quaffable pint should be on one’s mind. And that is exactly what awaits! Fresh Susegad beer, in the form of both a formidable mango and pale ale, is poured to perfection with a reaching head and full body. The avid rider who runs the restaurant is Mr Jamshed, an easy going fellow who can be found coasting through the Himalayas on his Enfield when he’s not running a successful restaurant. His classy open-air affair allows soft sunlight to shine on the absolutely heavenly Italian food at this joint. The Sicilian in me bowed down to everything from their woodfired pizzas to their alluring aioli. They also serve up a mean beef stew paying homage to their Redditch namesake.

The concept behind the eclectic menu is inspired by “the many restaurants and wayside inns, that are frequented by motorcyclists,” according to Royal Enfield. Menus that saunter across a variety of cuisines usually are a bit problematic, as far a culinary vision goes, yet the only problem you encounter at the Garage Cafe is choosing which dish to order because everything hits the spot. A notable reason the quality of the food is so high is that all the ingredients used are locally sourced and sustainably grown.

As amazing as the food is, you have to fight the urge to explore the sprawling sanctuary for motorcyclists while you wait for your meal.

In the restaurant lies a one of its kind jukebox filled with a seriously good selection of seven-inch singles featuring Howlin Wolf and Muddy Waters. This golden chrome jukebox holds more importance than just spewing out great tunes. Back in the UK riders use to strip their Enfields down into cafe racers and try and do a ton up (go over 100 kmph) around the block of the given cafe. Popping a quid in the jukebox was a way to compete in the ride, as the riders strove to get back to the cafe while the same song was still playing.

Royal Enfield actually had the vinyl jukebox built from the ground up in the UK, making this rarity the only one of its kind in India. This attention to detail is what makes the Garage Cafe so special.

And this is not the only conversation piece brought to life!

Smack dab next to the cafe lies a a Royal Enfield motorcycle museum-and-exhibition area steeped in memorabilia. This part is a damn treat. They have an original 1939 Flying Flea motorcycle, an endearing term the Red Beret Paratroopers coined during WWII in reference to the ‘Royal Baby’ Enfields. For those who don’t know, the paratroopers were dropped with light-weight, repurposed Enfields, used to quickly send messages over ground. The speedy, little bike was so light paratroopers could easily lift them up, and rapidly garnered a reputation for being a useful. I never thought I’d see one of these high-speed hornets, but that pleasant surprise was not all that laid in store for me.

An original 1963 Continental GT café racer stood looming in the corner with some seriously aggressive, low-placed handlebars. Since the Brits were already striping bikes down into cafe racers after the war, Royal Enfield made the wise decision to produce their own cafe racers in the 60s, and by God, the debonair design still holds up today. Stood next to this quintessential British ride was the big ol’ 1965 MK-2 Interceptor, designed for the West Coast market. This 750cc thumper was made to cater to the SoCal cruising crowd, eager to coast through along the Pacific Highway, checking out tasty waves and those California Girls the Beach Boys loved so dearly.

The mini-museum also has one of the last cast iron 350 cc’s to roll out from the Royal Enfield factory in Thiruvottiyur churning away in a glass container, an array of black and white photos taken by Ronny Sen speckling the walls, and 1:3 miniature ‘Classic Chrome’ model built by the Royal Enfield Design Studio. It took two years to craft this replica as the team behind it not only outfitted it with a steel tank that can hold fuel, but in addition finished the tank by buffing, chrome-plating, masking, painting, pinstriping, stickering and lacquering it. This model perfectly embodies the meticulous passion exuding from this cafe, made by riders, for riders. However, even if you don’t fancy flicking the gearbox up to fifth, the amount of history packed into this mini-museum is intriguing for folks from all walks of life.

Even though it is entirely possible to get lost is this tribute to Royal Enfields, the exterior of the mini-museum takes the cake. The facade is comprised of a myriad of white tiles featuring Royal Enfield iconography painted a beckoning blue. This specially commissioned installation hand-painted by Goan artisans pays tribute to Azulejos tile art, further merging the iconic motorcycle with the essence of Goa.

But if I’m talking about appearance, it would be a sin not to mention the row of custom bikes nestled next to the Garage Cafe’s Enfield store. If not for Goa’s glaring heat I could have stood all day, drooling profusely at these tasty-looking thumpers. A special shout out to Aarohi Singh who killed it with a paint job he slapped on an Enfield last year’s Rider Mania. Buraq’s badass bike and The Rooster were also real treats to look upon.

Royal Enfield even built a custom bike nook in the back of the joint for future projects. Moreover, there is a service center behind the customization nook with a full team of mechanics ready to repair whatever ails your trusty motorcycle. I can’t think of another place where you can have a first class meal and a fresh pint while you wait for your bike to be repaired.

This holistic haven for Enfield riders is a sure home run, but that didn’t happen by accident. Somehow the team behind the cafe have sifted out any potential element of corporate crassness, and made this joint about like-minded people hanging out and making connections. If you’re an artist, they are interested in some Enfield inspire work. The same goes for writers, photographers, or cooks. The Garage Cafe is all about the Enfield aesthetic. There is a reason the Garage Cafe is in Goa. Although the bikes have been produced in Chennai for decades, Goa has long been the place where riders have cultivated what Enfield is today.

A way to push boundaries and develop a confident love of living the way that feels right to you, not what is supposed to be right for you. It feels like I’m writing paid content by pumping so much positivity into this piece, but why should I curb genuine enthusiasm? The Garage Cafe slashes Goa’s modern day image of a slice of paradise meant for popping pills and bottles, and instead urges folks to get a buzz from the original idea behind this beloved bike - to coast around with agendaless purpose. I can’t really explain the way the cafe makes me feel without sounding disproportionately douchey, so I’ll let the Eagles say what I can’t’.

Well I’m a-runnin’ down the road, tryin’ to loosen my load

I’ve got seven women on my mind

Four that want to own me, two that want to stone me

One says she’s a friend of mine

Take it easy, take it easy

Don’t let the sound of your own wheels drive you crazy

Lighten up while you still can

Don’t even try to understand

Just find a place to make your stand, and take it easy.

And right on Baga Creek Royal Enfield have made a strong stand for the past, present, and future of their riders with the Garage Cafe.