Flavours of Pondicherry

After 12 days of non stop baking, 70 kgs of chocolate, 800 jar treats and going crazy while racing against time, Diwali madness finally came to an end and I decided to take a much deserved break and head to Pondicherry for 5 days!

I had come up with a really long ‘must-eat’ list for this trip and I’m pretty happy that I ended up trying most of the places on my list 🙂

We decided to take a cab from Chennai to Pondicherry and stop over at Mahabalipuram for lunch and some tourist-y sightseeing. Even though Moonrakers was recommended by a lot of people we chose to try out Hotel Guru, which i where the locals eat. The place was packed and we had to wait 15 minutes to get our table and then the food just kept of coming! We opted for the meal with fish fry and prawn masala on the side. The meal included beetroot sabzi, white pumpkin sabzi, pickle, rice (lots of it!!), chicken gravy, prawn gravy, sambar and rasam served on a bright green banana leaf. Everything was perfect – quick service, hot fresh food and the flavours were spot on.

Meal at Hotel GuruAfter stuffing our faces we visited the Shore temple, Five Rathas and Krishna’s butter ball post which we made our way to Pondicherry via ECR.

Shore Temple, Mahabalipuram Krishna's Butter Ball, Mahabalipuram

But before we reached Pondicherry we had to try Kumbakonam Degree Coffee which is available throughout the ECR route. The strong filter coffee that kept us up post a heavy meal so that we could enjoy the scenic drive to Pondicherry.

In Pondicherry we were staying at The Promenade by Hidesign which was located, well at The Promenade also known as the Beach Road or Goubert Avenue.

Our room at The Promenade by Hidesign
Our room at The Promenade by Hidesign

The Promenade is a much cleaner version of our Marine drive or Worli seaface and the best part is that it is a car free zone from 6pm to 7.30 am everyday! So it is perfect for a stroll in the evening without any honking and an amazing view of the Bay of Bengal.

The Promenade
The Promenade
The Promenade
The Promenade
The Promenade
The Promenade

Our stay at the hotel was very pleasant with great facilities and room service, courteous staff and a good breakfast spread which could do with a bit more rotational menu but flavour wise nothing was bad.

Breakfast at The Promenade by Hidesign
Breakfast at The Promenade by Hidesign
Super fluffy scrambled egg at The Promenade
Super fluffy scrambled egg at The Promenade

We also ended up spending a pleasant evening at the hotel bar – Risque during our stay and we were not disappointed. Our evening was filled with chilled beers, nice music, great bar munchies, view of the Promenade and a delicious crispy prawn starter with spicy chili sauce.

Crispy prawns with chili sauce
Crispy prawns with chili sauce

We did end up eating a lot and by a lot I mean A LOT in Pondicherry and not one meal was disappointing!

We started off with a dinner at Cafe Xtasi  on Mission street which was flocked with college kids relishing these super huge wood fired oven pizzas. We settled for the Xtasi special with pepperoni, chicken, salami, bell peppers, corn and gooey stringy cheese. A small is more than enough for two so think twice before you go ordering in excitement after seeing the huge variety they have on offer.

Cafe Xtasi

Then we headed to Zuka which specializes in everything chocolate. The place was packed so we decided to take away a Tuscan mousse pastry. The pastry was moist but not loaded with sugar syrup and the mousse was light and not too sweet.

Tuscan mousse pastry from Zuka
Tuscan mousse pastry from Zuka

Next day we made our way to Auroville and Matrimandir to enjoy some peace before we again went hunting for our next meal.

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Matrimandir
Matrimandir viewing point

For lunch we headed to the super famous Tanto for crisp wood fired margherita pizza, refreshingly light Mediterranean pasta and a litre bottle of the most amazing iced team I’ve ever had!! The perfect ending for the delicious meal was the rich yet light dark chocolate orange zest mousse.

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mediterranean pasta, margherita pizza and iced tea bottle at Tanto
Mediterranean pasta, margherita pizza and iced tea bottle at Tanto

To burn off the meal so that we could eat more in the evening we headed off to Aurobindho Ashram and the handmade paper factory.

Next stop on our food trail was Baker Street where we enjoyed hot cups of coffee, the most flakiest chocolate croissant, passionfruit macaron and chocolate mousse raspberry pastry. Except for the macaron everything else was spot on.

Chocolate mousse and raspberry pastry and pasionfruit macaron at Baker Street
Chocolate mousse and raspberry pastry and pasionfruit macaron at Baker Street
Chocolate croissant at Baker street
Chocolate croissant at Baker street

We did end up visiting Baker street everyday of our trip and we tried their uniquely tart Lemon tart, another winner – spinach and veg croissant sandwich, some more coffee and eclairs filled with the lightest chocolate and coffee diplomat creme. I was in love!!

Chocolate eclair at Baker street
Chocolate eclair at Baker street
Lemon tart at Baker street
Lemon tart at Baker street

Another place we couldn’t get enough of was Zuka. After the Tuscan mousse pastry we headed there again for their famous Hot chocolate which is served along with a chocolate spoon as well as grated chocolate sachets. You need to stir the hot chocolate with the chocolate spoon and as it melts the hot chocolate gets richer and if this is not enough you can add the grated chocolate too! Despite so much chocolate in one tiny little cup the drink doesn’t feel too rich or heavy.

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We also tried their coffee and caramel crunch pastries out of which the caramel crunch was my favourite because the coffee was strong so I cudn’t finish the entire pastry.

Coffee and caramel crunch pastries from Zuka
Coffee and caramel crunch pastries from Zuka

We found that the perfect way to digest all the food we were indulging in was to walk and explore the tiny and immensely beautiful lanes of the French quarter.

The super pretty Palais De Mahe Hotel
The super pretty Palais De Mahe Hotel
Outside Spice Route restaurant
Outside Spice Route restaurant

Pondi doors

Graffiti outside Cafe Des Arts
Graffiti outside Cafe Des Arts
Graffiti outside Cafe Des Arts
Graffiti outside Cafe Des Arts

On our third day in Pondicherry we chose to try the Chettinad non veg meal at Anjappar which was a steal at Rs.99!! but the dull lighting of the restaurant was a major turn off. Nevertheless the meal was good but the picture isn’t.

Non veg meal from Anjappar
Non veg meal from Anjappar

At night we headed to Surguru spot on Nehru street to and wiped off the rava dosa, parota and kurma in minutes. The dosa was served with a unique tomato sabzi along with the standard chutneys and sambar. Next day after more exploring but this time we checked out Nehru street and MG Road and then headed to the quaint restaurant – Carte Blanc located inside Hotel de L’Orient.

Hotel de L'Orient
Hotel de L’Orient

I happily hogged on pan grilled chicken fillet with finger licking good lemon mustard sauce with a side of perfectly flavoured garlic coriander potatoes.

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The next place was the highlight of our trip. Villa Shanti stole my heart as soon I walked in. Minimal ambiance in shades of white and grey with the plants adding some colour. We visited this place twice in one day! In the afternoon we licked the dressing off the plate of the green papaya salad along with a couple of beers and warm bread with beetroot spread.

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At night we started off our meal with masala prawns which were juicy and perfectly spiced followed by a simple pasta dish of penne in Alfredo sauce and vegetables but  mind you, it was the best Alfredo pasta I’ve ever tasted. It was a huge portion but didn’t take more than a few minutes for it to disappear! We got a bit greedy and decided to call for another main because well, it was our last dinner in Pondicherry. We opted for tawa fried crisp fish with tangy tomato sauce and lemon rice. It was another winner! Sorry the pictures aren’t too clear.

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We didn’t stop here and called for almond orange flourless cake topped with chocolate mousse. The cake was rich and nutty with refreshing orange zest flavour and the light mousse did cut through the richness of the cake.

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I’d say that Villa Shanti can’t be skipped if you head to Pondicherry!

For our last lunch in Pondi we chose to try the veg special thali at Surguru Spot. We were a bit surprised that the meal started with soup which can be skipped easily. But when the thali arrived we had a big smile on our face!

IMG_20141105_122513Puri, apalam, sambar, rasam, rice, pickle, curd, payasam, tamarind rice, spinach sabzi, spiced potatoes, raita, pumpkin in yogurt gravy, some kind of dal came sitting pretty in a thali. And if this wasn’t enough they got us a scoop of ice cream to end our meal. I couldn’t move after eating the thali but thanks to this meal did end up sleeping through the drive back to Chennai airport.

Overall Pondicherry did treat us really well and we came back with our heart and belly filled with happiness! 😀

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