Pondicherry and food have a long history when it comes to the Indian Vagabond I mean me myself. Wondering what nonsense I am talking about? Well to truly understand this let us rewind a couple of years approximately 28 years. I was around 7 and somehow remember this incident as it happened.
We had gone to Bangalore during our vacation and it was just before we actually shifted there and during our vacation, we made a detour to Pondicherry where a good friend of my father Mr. Augustine Brutus lived. Pondicherry was more French than what I had seen recently, not influenced by the steady influx of tourists this place was a real little French town.
During that visit we had a grand gala dinner at a newly opened Chinese restaurant known as Quality and the spread was the best the sea could offer, lobsters, shrimps you name it they had it.
Don’t exactly remember what happened in between but my stomach started churning and I had to rush to the toilet. Since I was quite young thus on the pretext of watching the fishes in the aquarium I decided to ease myself in the toilet as I did not want others who were there at the dinner party to know.
Somehow I could not manage to figure out the route to the toilet and in this confusion could not control myself and let it all out. My sister was wondering why I was standing still and staring at the aquarium and not making any movement which was very unlike of me. She approached me to enquire and then with no other option had to inform her about my misfortune.
My mother at once came running and was somehow dragged to the toilet where I was cleaned up by my mother and my sister. As luck would have it she was not carrying and spare clothes thus the only option was to wrap me in a shawl. So the next part of the dinner was spent me sitting wearing a wraparound in the form of a shawl.
Years passed by but this incident still remained etched in my mind, when I was traveling to Pondicherry recently and I was informing my father about this trip he jokingly reminded me of the famous “Pondicherry Food Adventure”. On a serious note, he insisted that I try all the authentic French cuisine that Pondicherry as it’s as French as it can get sitting here in India.
The day I reached Pondicherry along with my family I had declared to them that the time we would be in Pondicherry would be only having French food and nothing else. My daughter being a foodie like me agreed and it did not take long to make my wife agree.
New Farm Fresh
Our first stop was at New Farm Fresh which is quite famous for its pizza, now pizza is often related to Italian cuisine but even the French has its own version. While I was going around the White Town locality my wife ordered a medium pizza and when were served came the real surprise. Thin crust pizza with cheese topping, black olives, bell pepper and served with condiments which can be added on as per taste. I was never a pizza fan but this was something really different.
On enquiring, I was told that they use traditional wood fire oven which creates a perfect heating environment, unlike the electric ovens. With wood, the heat is spread out unevenly and this creates the magic actually given each pizza its unique identity, unlike the branded mass produced pizza.
Apart from pizza, sandwich and other confectionaries this small shop also sells organic coffee, spices, and jams. And the best part is that is that it was not that expensive and priced quite reasonable.
Our next French food adventure was by fluke, we were hungry and wanted to have a good sumptuous dinner and was looking for some restaurant to settle down. We had selected a restaurant that we planned to go and was following the route map that was suggested on the phone GPS. The traffic was thick and we were traveling on a rented scooty zipping around traffic. Suddenly by chance, my eye caught a sign that said “Baker Street” which was mentioned as a French Delicacy Concept Store. Changing the plan we decided to try out Baker Street.
This place is something which I have never imagined could exist here in India, a bakery shop selling authentic French food and confectionary. Another good thing about this place is that you have the option for chicken, pork, fish and veg this makes the options in the menu truly remarkable of course not to forget the varieties of pastries, cookies and other sweet dishes.
This place has a steady flow of both Indian customers as well as many French tourists who come here to try out something that would remind them of their homeland. Surprisingly most of the employees taking the orders speak fluent French and this make this place a little more authentic than just its food.
The next stop was an equal adventure, my daughter wanted to swim in the sea so I had planned to take my family on the rented Scooty to Auro Beach which was supposed to be one of the safe beaches in Pondicherry where you can enjoy a swim. For this, we left our hotel early and headed straight to the beach skipping our breakfast. After enjoying the swim we decided to head towards Auroville which was around fifteen minutes’ drive from the beach.
Since we had all skipped our breakfast thus we were really hungry not finding any shops open on a Sunday morning we had no choice but to stop outside a small coffee shop where we could spot some customers mainly foreigners enjoying their morning cuppa. To our surprise, this place not only serves organic coffee but also home mage cakes, cookies, and freshly prepared sandwiches.
Marc’s Cafe was the brainchild of Marc a who came to India from Spain (Catalan) to settled in Auroville and opened his own coffee shop where he himself would brew each cup according to the customers’ preference. Along with this his staff daily would prepare organic cakes and other snacks.
The coffee was the best I had ever tasted along with the fresh baked products. This was the kind of Pondicherry that I wanted to see and taste. The best part was that the owner Marc himself interacts with the customer making it a personal experience.
All this made me curious and I asked Marc about his philosophy and he simply smiled and said “I give what the customers want and not what I want to serve the customer, this way the customer is happy and satisfied. As a chef, it’s for me to understand the uniqueness of each customer and adjust the taste accordingly”. This I guess is why this place is so popular adding on to the café there is an expansion plan to open up boarding lodges on the first floor which I think would be a real good place to stay.
Apart from this, there are few other places which are worth the mention, if you are visiting Auroville then do drop by the Dreamers Café, here also you get good organic coffee along with organic food. In general, if you are at the White Town which is the old French quarter then do drop by at Café Des Arts, La Villa Shanti etc. All around White Town locality, you will find numerous restaurants and open-air café serving some of the best food that your money can buy.
By the way, I did try to locate Quality Restaurant, unfortunately, it must have closed after some many years as I could not find it. I just wanted to visit the same place where I had such a “pleasant” history which till date I cannot forget.
Hope you have enjoyed my blogs do check out the other blogs on Pondicherry and see you soon in my next blog.
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