Velim in Goa has always had a track record of drawing people from around the world with its seafood restaurants, water sports, and white-washed churches.

It is one of the few places that has retained its rural exquisiteness, while also allowing for modern cafes and activities, giving tourists a chance to get the best of both worlds.

As a testament to this, there is a quaint spot on a hill, a one-and-a-half hour drive from Panjim, where you can experience this rural magic for yourself.

The brainchild of chef Avinash Martins, ‘C’est L’avi’ lives up to its name of being a table in the hills — a table set for 12 to be precise.

It was a long winding road through the top-notch kitchens of India that led Avinash to the hills of Goa.

The journey commenced in 2002, when Avinash completed his post-graduate culinary studies, following which he worked with the Oberoi Group of Hotels for the next three years.

Intent on experimenting with different cuisines and styles, he landed on foreign shores, the likes of Europe and America.

And so, in 2013 when he returned to his hometown Goa, he felt he’d not only seen the world but now also knew the change he wanted to be.

It was amid the pandemic that Avinash spent months travelling through the forests, tribal villages, and artisan clusters of Goa — a time he recalls as the most eye-opening.

“After experiencing all that I had through the places I had visited, it seemed almost a crime not to showcase this to tourists who often were under the impression that Goa was all about the historical places and casinos,” he says.

Avinash decided to pursue this idea on his 250-acre ancestral property in Velim, a space filled with cashew plantations, and coconut trees where he had spent many vacations as a child.

Avinash says that though it was a passion project, it was filled with a series of sustainable decisions. “When I set up this place, I did not trim a single leaf. The idea has always been to blend in the system and work with the environment.”

Today, C’est L’avi is a product of the land. Everything prepared here is from the farms nearby, within a 5 km radius, says Avinash, adding that he is in touch with agrarians and farmers from the neighbouring villages for this.

The seven-course meal showcases traditional dishes with a modern twist. Led by Avinash and supported by 60 local farmers, this project champions seasonal ingredients.

Expect a delightful surprise with each visit, as the menu changes based on what’s in season. Due to the slow-cooking process, reservations must be made at least 48 hours in advance.

The three-hour experience starts at noon, well before lunchtime, as Avinash encourages guests to explore the surroundings and even try their hand at preparing a starter dish!