Café Review: Farm Fresh in White Town, Pondicherry

Our ‘last supper’ in Pondicherry was the most simple one. After the heavy lunch at Le Dupleix and an afternoon nap like there was no tomorrow, we went for a stroll around the promenade and the French town. Yet, after a two-hour stroll, we weren’t hungry for dinner. And so found a place that was good for something light – Farm Fresh in White Town.

Ambience of Farm Fresh in White Town, Pondicherry: It’s an extremely simple place with just a few chairs. They sell organic products such as honey, nuts, lentils, veggies and fruits; and also have a desserts section. The place is clean, and the service is prompt.

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Food at Farm Fresh in White Town, Pondicherry: Farm Fresh supposedly uses organic raw materials for all its dishes. We ordered a Grilled Fish and Mosambi Juice. That was it. We had absolutely no appetite. The juice was made with fresh mosambis. The Grilled Fish was for our daughter and she liked it with the Potato Chips and Tomato Ketchup.

Final Word for Farm Fresh in White Town, Pondicherry: The place is nice. But note, not fancy at all. Go with the right set of expectations and you will like it. The Sandwiches should be good considering they make it with organic raw materials.

Restaurant Review: Le Dupleix in Pondicherry

We frolicked around the Pondicherry beach for close to 3 hours and sure enough, started getting the hunger pangs by the time the sun was overhead. Enough, I declared, let’s get back to the hotel, shower and go for lunch. Reluctant as they were, the father and the daughter, tried to protest, but gave up realising that any later, it would be too late for lunch. And we hadn’t even made any reservations.

We had set our mind on Le Dupleix for lunch on our last day at Pondicherry. On our way back to the hotel (read Review of Sea-Side Guest House), we called up the restaurant and booked our table. No taking chances!!!

Ambience at Le Dupleix in Pondicherry: Le Dupleix is a boutique hotel located in the French Colony, a few blocks away from the Pondicherry Promenade. Extremely elegant and stylish, the hotel building used to be the residence of the Mayor of Pondicherry three centuries ago. Restored with care and bearing in mind its history, every corner, wall, staircase, door, window, roof, painting, furniture, artefacts, tell tale of a glorious past.

They spread the dining across its ornate restaurant as well as its plant and gravel-filled refreshing courtyard. We opted for the restaurant since the humidity levels were high that afternoon, and we wanted the comfort of air-conditioning after the severe tanned out morning at the beach. The restaurant houses the bar and have about 5-6 tables that can sit both large groups as well as 2-3 member families, couples. Soft music, attentive staff, interiors and décor that speak of a bygone era, we were happy we chose Le Dupleix. Ambience is great no doubt, lets hope the food is too, we thought.

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Food at Le Dupleix in Pondicherry: By now, we were famished and needed a royal spread. They gave us a bread plate of Focaccia breads and one cone-like bread still warm from baking, while we studied the menu card.

The manager helped us chose an awesome seafood platter fittingly called the Chef Tasting Seafood Platter that had prawns, lobsters, shrimps and calamari. When the plate was laid before us, a small cry of joy and excitement passed out lips. What an assorted delight. Jayanta had ordered his Buds, while I had requested for a fruity cocktail that could fight the humidity and heat of that noon. The manager offered me the Frozen Masala Mango Daiquiri. That Daiquiri was the best I have had in my entire life!!! Strongly recommend you to request for it if dining in Le Dupleix.

The main course was Malabar Fish Curry with Steamed Rice. Cooked in traditional Kerala-style curry of coconut milk and curry leaves, the helping was large. I kept sipping my Daiquiri until the very end and was so enamoured by it, that I didn’t want to order desserts, fearing sweets would spoil the exquisite after-taste of the Daiquiri.

Final Word for Le Dupleix in Pondicherry: Please DO NOT leave Pondicherry without having dined here. At least once. Need I say anymore?

Discovering Pondicherry Beach

After a lazy breakfast at Baker Street ( Read review of Baker Street) on our 2nd morning at Pondicherry, we decided to head to the beach. Not that you can go into the sea and play in the water. There are signages that warn people from getting into the sea, since it gets deep abruptly. With sea-bathing out of bounds, we decided to explore the area around the Pier. More curious we were of the fishing activities, since, on both mornings we had seen fishermen in the sea, casting their nets for the morning catch.

It was drizzling by the time we got out of Baker Street. Not to be dissuaded by the South-West monsoon clouds, we hailed down an auto and went up to the Pondicherry Promenade, took shelter under a tree until the drizzle that had now turned into rain, subsided, and then, walked up to where the pier was. Clearly, you couldn’t get on to the pier without the permission of the port authorities. We didn’t want to get into all that. We simply walked up to the rocks. The sky had turned a dramatic black and grey, but the horizon promised that there wouldn’t be a downpour. So we held on and soaked in the little drizzle, in the drama of the sea and the sky and in the beauty of that moment.

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The ominous clouds had kept the regular tourist away, adding to our joy. Our joy of discovering Pondicherry beach. To our right, just under the pier, were a few fishermen untangling fishes from the nets. We were excited. We wanted to see them do that up and close. Climbed down the rocks, disregarded the overpowering stench of the fishes, and walked up to them, excited. The sight of fishes always excites us. We are the notorious fish-loving Bengalis, after all!!!

It was beautiful under the pier. The turquoise sea kept coming back to the shores in creamy waves, bringing a shell once, a crab next, sometimes a fish too. We squealed in delight. Started picking shells and stones for our aquarium and garden back home, chased the waves and got chased back, explored the colourful fishing boats, played hide and seek with the pier pillars…

Every once in a while, it is nice to have nothing to do, to not have an agenda, to not have an itinerary. Only then  do you discover pleasures that would have otherwise been lost in a regimented, in a schedule-driven day. Pondicherry beach was one such discovery….

Breakfast at Baker Street In Pondicherry

Our first breakfast in Pondicherry had been where we were staying. At the Sea-side Guest House. Simple and basic food, but we had loved it there. On the second morning though, we wanted to walk down to the Baker Street – the famous joint in Poindicherry known for its delectable French-style breakfast menu.

Located just after the canal, Baker Street is a little away from the French Colony. It’s about a 10-15 minute walk from the Pondicherry Promenade, and since it was morning, we decided to walk it in order to build up a good appetite.

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Ambience of Baker Street in Pondicherry: It is just like any other café, with cheerful interiors and close to 7-8 tables. Mostly self-service, the lady at the counter never smiled even once in all the time that we were there — neither while taking the breakfast specs of the guests, nor when they were served. Ask for a fork or Tomato Ketchup, and she will simply point to the counter where they are kept. Again, no smile.

Food at Baker Street in Pondicherry: but the options for breads and breakfast does astound you. They have everything from burgers to quiches to flute breads to hot dogs to croissants; a whole lots of tempting chocolates just as you enter the place; and then the usual tarts and pastries and cookies, all vying for your eyes and tongue!

We ordered breads and omelette and a spinach quiche for our daughter, over some watermelon juice. Request for stuffed omeletes were promptly turned down, and we were told that they served just plain omelettes. All right, so we settled for plain omelettes.

Final Word for Baker Street in Pondicherry: Food is super there. So are the options. If you can ignore the lack of warmth of the staff, you will surely like the place. Prices are on the higher side though!

 

Restaurant Review: Carte Blanche in Pondicherry

Our second night’s dinner at Pondicherry took us for a ride. Literally!! We had short-listed a few places of which Satsanga had been covered. Now, dinner at Rendevous. We decided to walk to it….bad idea…since it was quite a bit of a long walk to the area, only to find that the restaurant had shut shop some months back. Quickly revisited our list, and zeroed in on Le Club. This time, we showed better judgement of distance and hailed down an auto which took us to Le Club in 5 minutes. Only to be told that they don’t allow kids (we had our six and a half year old with us)!!! Wow!! What an evening!!! Now where?

Another look at the list, we crossed Rendevous and Le Club and zeroed in on Carte Blanche, the Neemrana property. Upon reaching there, the first thing we asked the staff at the reservations was that if they allowed kids. He nodded. But asked us if we had prior reservation. Alarmed, we said ‘No’. Don’t know if our evening’s running around showed on our face, but he went inside looking for a table for 3 and came back soon after declaring that we could dine at Carte Blance. We thanked the Gods above!!! And him, of course!

Ambience at Carte Blanche in Pondicherry: And we entered this lovely courtyard where music flowed from the violin being played in one corner. We could see other diners, quietly enjoying their meals and listening to the music. We looked around, Carte Blanche had a pretty large dining area – the open courtyard filled with house plants and palms, the little adjacent verandah that had some beautiful vintage pieces of furniture, and the main dining room inside. Thankfully, the manager showed us to a table that was in the verandah. And with that, we were sure of a dinner in style, perhaps to compensate for the mini adventure we had earlier on.

Carte Blanche is the restaurant of the hotel L’Orient, which is actually a 18th century restored French Mansion. Surely, the place has seen a lot over the centuries….its decor truly reflects its character….

Food at Carte Blanche in Pondicherry: Our love for sea-food is big, and when we are in coastal cities, it knows no bounds. So we settled for a Seafood Salad that came dressed with herbs. The Bong couple, along with their youngest member, devoured it like there was no tomorrow! Red and White Wine just added to the charm of the evening!

Main course was – Ragout de Mutton (that’s Mutton Stew) for me, which they planned to serve with rice. I requested for breads instead, and they happily obliged me. The stew was very well made, with a lot of mutton that I had difficulty finishing, even when my daughter shared from me. Jayanta asked the manage for dish that Carte Blanche was famous for, and the manager happily jotted down Creole Beef Coconut Curry in a bed of rice. Needless to say, Jayanta loved it.

Desserts was rich Chocolate Mousse. Fittingly!!

Final Word about Carte Blanche in Pondicherry: One debacle dinner upon reaching Pondicherry (at Madame Shanthe’s — read Review of Restaurant Madame Shanthe’s), one basic breakfast the next morning (at the Sea-Side Guest House — read Review of Sea-Side Guest House), one average lunch (at Satsanga — Read Review of Restaurant Satsanga in Pondicherry) – summed up our first three meal-experience in Pondicherry. Another bad/average meal, and we would have cried bitterly. God averted that. And got us to Carte Blanche. Lovely ambience. Yummy food. Happy family!!!

(Note: That evening, when I sat down to transfer photos from my camera to my laptop, catastrophe struck!!! I ended up deleting photos taken at Auroville and thereafter! So have no photos to show for much of Auroville, all of Satsanga and Carte Blanche)

Restaurant Review: Satsanga in Pondicherry

Post our dinner debacle at the Madame Shanthe’s restaurant the night before, we wanted to be extremely careful with the choice of restaurants for our remaining meals in Pondichery. So for lunch, the next day, we zeroed in on Satsanga — a place that is much recommended for both it’s European food as well as Indian.

Ambience at Satsanga in Pondicherry: We had been out since morning sight-seeing and had been to the Sacred Church of Jesus and Auroville. By the time we got back from Auroville, it was already time for lunch and most importantly, we needed some respite from the humidity. Our auto-walla seemed to know very well where Satsanga was, and so reaching it was not a hassle. Again, Satsanga too, like most other restaurants in Pondicherry is in one of the blocks in the French Colonies, and hence, not too far from where we were staying, the Sea-side Guest House.

It is a well spread out place, almost like a garden. Lots of greenery around. We almost immediately felt nice and cool. Great ambience for cosy dinners, be it for a couple or for a family.

Food at Satsanga in Pondicherry: To whet our throats, we ordered Beer, White Wine and sweet lime for Jayanta, myself and our daughter respectively, over a plate of fried prawns. The prawns were good but served with tomato sauce. Oh why can’t they make dips for these appetisers?

For the main course, Jayanta was forced to order a Fish Dish since they Beef and Chicken were out of stock that afternoon at Satsanga. I played it safe – ordered Veg Rice.

Final word on Satsanga in Pondicherry: Food there is average, not all that great! The ambience is good enough. Service is slightly slow as there weren’t too many in the staff at that hour. Don’t know if it’s different for dinner time. Overall, nice enough place to chill. Good crowd.

Check it out if you are in Pondicherry for longer duration and want a taste of every good-enough place.

(Note: That evening, when I sat down to transfer photos from my camera to my laptop, catastrophe struck!!! I ended up deleting photos taken at Auroville and thereafter! So have no photos to show for much of Auroville, all of Satsanga and Carte Blanche)

Restaurant Review: Madame Shanthe’s in Pondicherry

I don’t know what made us go to Madame Shanthe’s. Was it that we were tired after our flight from Mumbai to Chennai, the saree-shopping in Chennai and then the drive from Chennai to Pondicherry? Unlikely. For, this is almost our regular travel routine. We hadn’t even read about Madame Shanthe’s. Then why did we go to Madame Shanthe’s for our first dinner in Pondicherry? Was it the appearance of the place from outside?

Ambience at Madame Shanthe’s in Pondicherry? From the outside, it did look inviting. A few meters from the Pondicherry Promenade and tucked away in the corner of a block in the French Colonies, Madame Shanthe’s roof garden restaurant somehow seemed alluring.

Inside, at the restaurant, we found that it was an average place, done up in bamboos and had some very beautiful lights, be it the massive chandelier right at the centre, or the palm-sized sea-shell lamp shades that looked so beautiful.

Well, the enchantment ended there!

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Food at Madame Shanthe’s in Pondicherry: Should I begin to rant? We ordered Squidd Fritters – came fried in a batter of besan and tomato sauce dip – was quite good and the serving was rather big. Would have liked a better dip.

For main course, I ordered a Basil Pesto Penne that I intended to share with my daughter – turned out to be yucks!!! Never have I eaten anything this bad! Tasteless, with an overpowering after-taste of basil, we couldn’t eat the stuff to even fill our stomach, no matter how hungry we were!!! Jayanta ordered a Fish Steak Florentine that came with rice and potato chips. He found it ok…nothing great. We ate the chips off his plate.

Didn’t have any heart to order desserts.

Is Madame Shanthe’s in Pondicherry worth it? Absolutely NO!!! The prices are reasonable. The three dishes we ordered cost us merely 700-800 Indian rupees. But the food was BAD!

BEWARE!!

Restaurant Review: Indigo Deli in Bandra, Mumbai

Last evening, we needed, very badly, to save ourselves from Bandra’s infamous Sunday-evening traffic. We were in Pali Naka. Ah, how about Indigo Deli? Yes, Indigo Deli – one of our most favourite restaurant chains in Mumbai. And so, what was meant to be a SOS, also turned out to be a good, deserving, nicely laid out evening and dinner.

How is the ambience at Indigo Deli in Bandra, Mumbai? I think Bandra has the best ambience after the first joint at Colaba. As is usual with all of the Delis, their Bandra joint is also stylish, signature décor with as much as the same white flowers in round bowls, open kitchen with the chef in colourful bandanas and lively music. Just the place to unwind over some good wine and food.

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How is the food at Indigo Deli in Bandra, Mumbai? Now that we have reviewed all of the Indigo Delis (in Colaba, R-City Mall in Ghatkopar, Andheri West), guess, there is nothing different to write about. The guys are very serious about their brand name and hence, ensure they stay uniform in food (taste and quality) and service.

We ordered from their day’s menu (which is perhaps the best thing to do) that had a good mix of sea-food, poultry and meat. Wine – we went with a White Sangria for myself and a Sauvignon Blanc for Jayanta.

For Starters, we ordered Prawns in Butter, Garlic  and chopped herbs – turned out to be extremely succulent, juicy and so tasty. We loved it, especially our little daughter, who loved it with the dip they had served.

In the mains, Jayanta wanted his usual, Pork Ribs, while I scouted for anything with Lamb and ended up ordering Shredded Lamb Confit in a bed of lentils and colourful bell peppers. Both the dishes were awesome, barring the fact that they were very heavy and we struggled to finish them. Had to skip desserts as there was no room left!!

Final Word on at Indigo Deli in Bandra, Mumbai: Go go go! The service is excellent, food is excellent and so is the overall experience!

Hotel Review: Sea-Side Guest House in Pondicherry

There are plenty of boutique hotels in Pondicherry, most of them are old renovated French homes with stately courtyards, beautiful pieces of furniture – all that tell the tale of a bygone era. I too wanted to stay in one such boutique hotel, but Jayanta had other plans. He had read very good reviews of the Sea-Side Guest House maintained by the Aurobindo Society, and reasoned that since tourists flock to Pondicherry for the Aurobindo Ashram and Auroville, it made more sense to stay in its own guest house. I gave in…

Where is the Sea-Side Guest House located in Pondicherry? Right against the Aurobindo Ashram, on the Pondicherry Promenade. You simply have to walk out of the main door to be right where the beach is. Aurobindo Ashram is two steps away, the Samadhi House is about a 5 minutes walk, and all the popular eateries, restaurants are in a radius of 500 meters. Nothing can beat the location advantage of the Sea-Side Guest House!

How is the Sea-Side Guest House in Pondicherry? We had booked the suite, that came with two rooms, one double bed and one single bed. More than enough for us. But the best part of the suite is that it has a verandah and is sea-facing!!! You can see the sea from your bed. Yes! You get to see some awesome sunrises from the verandah….

The suite is very well-maintained, has the basic facilities such a mini fridge and a tea/coffee convenience.

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How is the food at the Sea-Side Guest House in Pondicherry? You have to inform the guest-house staff in advance in case you want to take your meals at the guest house. We opted for the breakfast only for the three mornings that we had in Pondicherry. Of which, we went to the popular joint, Baker’s Street, the second day.

It is a simple, vegetarian fare at the Sea-side. They do serve eggs though. For breakfast, they have the Indian and Western options. On most days, the Indian breakfast is a spread of Idli, Dosa, Upma etc; while for the Western, they serve Bread toast, Butter/Jam and Eggs.

Bookings and Rate of Sea-Side Guest House in Pondicherry:  The rate of the Suitethat we had booked was just INR 2800 per day that includes the cost of breakfast. Lunch and dinner is payable separately on an as-actuals basis.

Do note that you cannot book online for the Sea-side Guest House. Send a mail to this id for reservations– seaside@aurosociety.org – and they revert very promptly.

The Sri Aurobindo Society has 2 others guest houses – the Retreat and the International Guest House – too. Log into this side for more details — http://www.aurosociety.org/visiting/accommodation.aspx

Final Word on Sea-Side Guest House in Pondicherry: The Sea-Side Guest House is not a fancy place, but makes available basic facilities and is very well-maintained, clean and hygienic. And as I raved already, its location and view is simply AMAZING. We recommend it strongly.

Ciao! :-)

 

Sight-Seeing in Puducherry (Pondicherry)

After a hectic month of festivals, Ganesh Chaturthi and Durga Puja, we wanted to run away from Mumbai. Away from religious rituals, festival dressing and food, and most importantly, Mumbai’s oppresive October sun. We looked forward to our Puducherry break over the extended Diwali weekend. 2 days in Puducherry and 2 days in Chennai was the itinerary.

We promised ourselves a complete relaxing time at Puducherry and did just that. A very small and compact place, this little Union Territory of India draws crowds from all over India and abroad for its French settlements and for the Aurobindo Ashram.

Here’s a list of the places you shouldn’t miss visiting when in Puducherry:

Aurobindo Ashram: Is located on the Puducherry promenade. Visit the Ashram for prayers or meditation, or even to check the various sections of the Ashram. A seperate bulding just minutes away from the promenade houses the samadhi (bodies) of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. A place that observes a great deal of discipline and silence, go there in the evening to see how followers flock there for moments of quitetude and prayers.

Puducherry Promenade: Is where every Puducherry visitor definitely goes to. The promenade stretches to about 2 kilometers, is extremely clean and is clear of vehicular traffic fro 6pm to 7 am everyday, making it one of the best promenade walks in the country. Being on the Bay of Bengal, catch some glorious sunrises early morning, or jog along the sea-stretch to shoo away your city-exhaustion.

Puducherry Beach: Let me warn you in advance, the Puducherry Beach is not for swimming or any water sports. Apparently, it is very deep. However, there’s are two picturesque piers there, one, natural and made with rocks, while the other is a long, man-made one. It looked to us that you couldn’t get to the man-made pier. Nevertheless, we frolicked around the natural pier and the adjoining cove where fishermen were busy sorting their day’s catch amidst colourful boats, and we were busy chasing crabs and collecting shells.

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Colourful French Houses: They spread along a couple of blocks from the Puducherry promenade, marked by streets that are named ‘Rue XX’, ‘Rue YY’ — denotinf Road number in French! Colorful houses with large courtyards, most of them have been converted to hotels or restaurants or boutiques selling antiques, apparrels. Simply stroll by the streets, nay, ‘Rues’ to get a feeling of how the French lived in India many years ago.

Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus: Is a few blocks away from the Puducherry promenade. In large grounds, we loved the church for its simplicity and beauty. When there, look out for the birds cage on Church grounds that house some very colourful birds.

Eglise de Notre Dame des Anges: Or, the Church of the Lady of our Angels. You can actually see the Church from the promenade. Made of cement and coloured with orange paint, the Church is not an architectural wonder, but go there if you want to spend some quiet moments. The view of the sea from the Church’s stairs is stunning!

Auroville: Auroville is about an 20-25 minutes auto-ride from the Puducherry promenade. Nestled in greens, here is a township that is home to people of any nationality or religion. Go there to see the Matrimandir, the learning centres and the numerous boutiques that sell products made by the local residents. The tour of auroville can take almost half a day.

If you ask us, Puducherry is a quiet nice place where you needn’t be in a hurry. We mostly strolled around the Promenade area and the French Colonies and saw the Governor’s House, the Park opposite the Raj Bhavan, the Arulmigu Manakula Vinayagar Temple, the Romain Rolland Library — simply hop into any of these, other than the Raj Bhavan of course, and hop out to explore Puducherry further.

Memoirs of a warring couple who agree only on travel and food

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