Hope you’re enjoying the Pondicherry Series! As you probably know by now, Pondicherry is tantalizing mix of South India and France and so one of the reasons I visited was to see what the culinary scene was like. Would French food and South Indian food maintain their identities, both of which are poles apart from each other? Or would there be instances where they merged into something ultra mod? Are the glorified places really worth the hype and are there undiscovered restaurants waiting to be found?
I’ll get right to business! Here’s a list of places I ate at and a snippet of what I thought of them.
Zuka – This place is a candy store – literally! Chocolate lovers, you’re in for a treat with their decadent hot chocolate served with a chocolate spoon on the side! Take your pick from a variety of cakes, cookies, chocolates and pastries in the gleaming display case, all of which will ensure your sweet cravings are satisfied before you walk out the doors. For the amount of patrons they have, 3 tables fall short of requirements. So prepare yourself to gorge on chocolate while standing up.
The Courtyard, Le Dupleix – A palatial French bungalow converted into one of Pondicherry’s finest hotels also has a breezy restaurant in the courtyard with a name that defines it. I sampled the rasam aux crevettes which is a curious mix of south Indian rasam (a tangy tamarind-tomato-pepper soup) and juicy prawns, an ingredient that definitely doesn’t belong in it, but works wonderfully! I chose to try the famed Tamil Nadu dish Chicken Chettinad here, for its authenticity and it didn’t disappoint either. I’ll share more about my meal at Le Dupleix in my next post.
Biker Stall – I don’t think this food stall has a name, but you’ll find him parked just a few lanes away from the Promenade with his motorcycle turned into a makeshift kitchen. A grill attached to one side is sizzling with chicken wings, chicken cubes, paneer and pineapple while hungry patrons eagerly await their plate of food, eyeing patiently at the men at work, basting and turning over the meat on the grill. The food is nothing spectacular, but if you have time, visit for the novelty of it all.
Xtasi Pizza – Undoubtedly one of the best places to eat in Pondicherry! A small diner with a larger than life reputation for having the finest wood fired pizzas in town. Start with some onion rings and a brownie milkshake until you decide which of their 50 pizzas you’d like to sample – and if you can’t, simply order a half-and-half! All their pizzas have a generous amount of toppings, but if you’re really hungry, order the 18 inch one – it’s as large as a tyre! I tried the Xtasi special, and would definitely order it again!
Baker’s Street – If you want a real taste of French confections, this is where you’ll strike gold. From melt-in-your-mouth chocolates and croissants that bring on that twinge of guilt to light, fresh quiches, salads and baguettes, the selection of goodies they offer will have you agonizing over what to order. Visit for an early morning breakfast, late brunch or evening pick-me-up and admire the authentic red diagonal tiles set diagonally and patterned ceiling. It doesn’t take much imagination to transport yourself to those little cafés off the pavement in Paris.
Kamatchi Biryani – Another highly recommended place for its biryani but it’s had a definite quality drop. The service is prompt, however, the food was served cold, rice devoid of flavour and very little meat. The briyani came with a side of rasam, of all things, and another bowl of steamed rice, which was quite confusing – but if you’re looking for a tummy-filler, try it out. If you want taste and quality, look elsewhere or try your luck and order something else.
GMT Gelato – OMG! I’d go back to Pondicherry just for a taste of this gelato! Located at the start of the promenade, this tiny parlour has artisanal flavours at reasonable prices. From rich, velvety vanilla to playful sorbets, dark chocolates and boozy flavours, pick up a creamy treat before your jaunt through Pondy! I loved the Himalayan Salt-Caramel flavour!
Villa Shanti – An institution in itself, Villa Shanti is a hotel with a restaurant serving exquisite French food. Partly indoors and partly outdoors, this fine dining restaurant delivers consistent Continental/French cuisine and a bit of Indian fare. It doesn’t fit into any boxes, per se and has a soothing ambience with a European feel that reflects in the décor and menu. Imported beer, attention to detail when it comes to presentation, good service and a pricing that tilts towards the higher side with food to match are some of its prominent features. Go for an early/late lunch or dinner to avoid waiting for a table.
Café des Arts – Given the amount of people that recommended this place to me, I was sure I was in for a treat, and didn’t snack all day in order to do justice to Café Des Arts. Ugh!! Dismal! Absolutely dismal! It baffles me why so many people recommend this restaurant, with its wobbly chairs and indifferent staff. I’m not sure if they’re just resting on their laurels and allowing the quality of food to slip, or are overconfident that no matter what they serve, patrons will come calling. The mustard chicken sandwich lacked any kind of presentation (or even effort) and the dryness was the least of its problems. The Bacon and Egg baguette came in bread so hard that I had to gnaw at it like a bone. They didn’t even bother to cut the edges off. I wouldn’t spend another rupee here, but if you want to give it a shot, I’ll leave the decision to you.
Bread and Chocolate – This adorable café in Auroville is definitely a must visit for excellent confections, bread and great energy! I regret not trying the large, delicious looking chocolate croissants on display! You will find clean, raw, fresh ingredients in your lunch bowls, sandwiches and salads! I had the sourdough bread with layers of sliced banana, a drizzle of honey and a slather of homemade peanut butter and it was marvellous! Don’t miss this gem for anything!
Naturellement – Getting here is a bit tricky as need to make your way through red, dusty, unpaved roads through patches of forest but using GPS, you will eventually get there. This large, outdoor café in the midst of nature serves organic, gourmet European fare and every dish I tried was hearty and delicious. The tuna salad was the best I’ve tried so far – packed with flavour and with generous heaps of tuna! The Raviolli and Penne Pasta was delicious too, but what stole the show was Martina’s Special Cake – layers of chocolate and a biscuit-y crumb, served cold. You will literally lick the spoon! Visit for an unforgettable experience.
Eat my Cake – You’ll feel like you walked into a cozy little dollhouse when you put your foot in the door! This darling little café lists their specials on a pink board outside, that’s placed alongside cute wooden chairs and teal tables. You can place your order downstairs (they have a display case with knockout desserts) and head up to the al-fresco seating area that overlooks a street lined with bougainvillea. It’s a great place to spend a few hours, sipping a cuppa and indulging in waffles, brownies, apple pie and fresh juices. They even have free wi-fi so you can work, although all you’ll want to do here is take pictures for Instagram!
Coromandel Café – This is the kind of place you want to spend hours in! Like Café Des Arts, this one is also a house converted into a restaurant, but oh, how exquisite!! A magnificent chandelier hangs from the ceiling in the main hall and stands out against the pale green wallpaper and antique furniture. Every room has 3-4 tables and the outdoor seating is prettier than inside, however the humid weather made us pick a table in one of the a/c rooms of the house. The service is extremely slow, but I didn’t mind since I wanted to spend as much time there as possible. The menu is limited, comprising of a handful of dishes under starters and mains. I tried the pink taggiatelle and penne paste and was bowled over! The portions were huge and the pink pasta was exquisite – big chunks of sweet caramelized onions, distinct creaminess of goats cheese, crunchy red cabbage and sprouts and a mind blowing dollop of Auroville Parmesan sauce. Insanely yum!
BlueLine, Promenade – The prominent Promenade hotel has 4 restaurants, out of which I tried BlueLine, a 24 hour establishment overlooking the sea. They serve lavish Indian, Oriental and Continental cuisine. I ordered the Double Baked Three Cheese Souffle and it was exquisite! Gouda, Parmesan and goat cheese was light, airy and every bite was rich in cheesy goodness. I picked my mains from the French section of the menu as well – Sole Meurinere – which was a pan fried sole fish cooked in brown butter, parsley and lemon. Another win! Simple ingredients accentuated the delicate flesh of the fish beautifully without too much fanfare.
Sicily’s – This is another restaurant on the Promenade that overlooks the beach and provides value-for-money Continental fare such as Pastas, Pizzas and steaks. The interiors are cool and colourful but they also have pleasant outdoor seating. I tried the pasta which was a little monotonous, while the pizza was fairly good. There’s definite room for improvement.
Surguru – There are quite a few of these around but I visited the one near Xtasi Pizza place. No frills air-conditioned restaurant with AMAZING south Indian food! I really enjoyed my crispy medhu vada and fluffy idli (although I’m not really into idlis.) The restaurant was empty and I had a lot of work to do, so I sat there for an hour, drinking filter coffee + working and the courteous staff made me feel at home. Head over for a great breakfast!
That’s it from me for now! Hope this post helps you make the most of your time in Pondicherry and eat your way through its best restaurants. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for more deliciousness!
See you next time!