Words: SHEENA DABHOLKAR
Photographs: JEREMIAH CHRISTANAND RAO
GREAT FROM Bangalore, Chennai
GREAT FOR Foodies and Francophiles
When fresh baguettes are on the breakfast menu, it’s easy to forget you’re in South India. In Puducherry, a former French colony, however, they are de rigueur: required by etiquette. Often called the riviera of the East, Puducherry is just three hours from Chennai and a fascinating mélange of French and Tamil culture. The city’s foodscape is just as unique, with meals that are ingredient focused and heavily influenced by both its past and current inhabitants, many of whom are artisanal food producers.
Begin your eating frenzy before you even hit Pondy by making a short detour to Tanto. It grows its own vegetables, makes its own pasta and all the recipes come from the Italian proprietor Daniel Emdin’s mother. Not surprisingly, everything tastes as good as when mamma makes it. It’s best known for its delicious, thin crust wood-fired pizza, but the seafood risotto is also pretty good.
Once in the city, park yourself at New Banana Café, a rooftop café with a relaxed, boho vibe. Order a galette, a savoury crêpe made from buckwheat, stuffed with tomatoes, cheese and olives, and wash it down with refreshing mint hibiscus lemonade.
It’s a good thing that this coastal enclave is made for walking – stop by at the local chocolaterie and you’ll know why. At Zuka, the pakoras are made of nuts covered in chocolate, and the hot chocolate arrives with a spoon made of chocolate and two cubes of, yes, grated chocolate, to be mixed into an already luscious-looking beverage.
Much like the city itself, Puducherry’s food marries fine French cuisine with distinct local flavours. Check how well it does at Carte Blanche, tucked inside the lovely Hotel de l’Orient. The weekly-changing menu is largely continental; try the white chicken curry.
Skip your hotel breakfast for a lazy petit dejeuner at Café Des Arts, a whimsical café in a converted Franco-Tamil house with a gallery, a library and a cycle rickshaw in the garden. It does the delightfully-named croque monsieur, a ham and cheese grilled sandwich, well. Get the croque madame if you’d like it with egg.
Evenings are best spent on the promenade. Stroll down to Le Café, famous for its organic South Indian coffee – order it cold – and if you can’t snag a picnic table, head upstairs for the best sunset views and people- watching. It stays open late so it’s just the place to sate midnight cravings and listen to the crashing waves.
Stave off any homesickness with a meal at Hotel Sri Kamatchi, an unpretentious joint with fabulous Tamil food. Mop up the vanjaram curry with fluffy kal dosai, or try the fish Kamatchi and unusual uttapam. The veg offerings are yummy, and the podi and chutneys good enough to make a meal of.
Extend your holiday a little longer by stopping for a leisurely meal at Serenity Beach. Theevu Plage is a little slice of paradise, with chic decor and splendid views out to sea. Cool off with the gazpacho, move on to the catch of the day off the grill, and end with a delicious scoop from Auroville’s gelato man Francesco, who makes everything from scratch, using only natural ingredients.
Prices, addresses, timings… find all the practical information you need to plan this trip now – in LPMI’s August 2015 issue. Pick up a copy from your newsstand or click to subscribe via Zinio or Magzter.