Well Café [Auroville]

We will go anywhere for food. Seriously, anywhere.

That explains why we took an hour-long ride in the hot sun, after a scuba session (❤) to reach the depths of Auroville. Hidden away in the interiors of Auroville, you will find many a treasures and Well Café is one such treasure.

Wilderness is that word that defines this place the best.

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Why we recommend this café?

Firstly, the food is insanely good. It is simple yet amazing. The café specialises in Mediterranian cuisine with limited options and the food is prepared fresh by the local women.

Secondly, the ambience is amazing. An open garden café with random chairs strewn under a thick canopy of trees whose trunks are covered in colourful sarees. You will find crafts made from recycled paper hanging from above. Chirping birds, a dog or two, and a few really colourful insects (we did not know God made these, this colourful!!) are your company. But don’t let this worry you, sometimes, such an ambience can do wonders!

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Thirdly, the café and the entire WELL centre (that includes a handmade paper shop, art gallery, etc. ) is managed by women for the empowerment of women in this area. This place gives you a peek into their lives. Spend some time and chat with the locals and they will share their stories with you! There also is a homestay next door and in case, living amidst a thick cover and with locals is your calling, you should definitely check out this place.

Fourthly, this café also hosts musical nights and other events from time to time. The ambience is then transformed to one of those mid forest camping-party style places which makes it even more awesome.

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What we absolutely love and still lust over are the Vegetable Omelette & Cheese Baguette and the Eggplant & Labane Baguette. 

First I burned my tongue fighting over the super hot vegetable omelette and now I am drooling all over my laptop at the thought it. This cannot be good!

Vegetable Omelette & Cheese Baguette – The vegetable omelette was delicious on its own. Thick and so well spiced, it had onions, coriander and more. The curd cheese that was spread over the crispy pieces of bread was heavenly. Yup, we did lick it off the plate! If only we could fill like a jar or a room with it and bring it back to Mumbai!! These were served with three salads, a beetroot and cream based, a mixture of cabbage, beetroot, carrots & more and another one which had a little tart due to the addition of vinegarette.

Eggplant & Labane Baguette – Labane or curd cheese spread generously over the crispy bread, topped with smoked eggplant slices. This was another delight! This was also served with salads, a pepper spiced cauliflower based salad being one of the portions served.

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Eggplant & Labane Baguette

 

Well Café is a place you would enjoy as much for the food and courteous, smiling service as you would for the peaceful escape it provides from all forms of chaos!

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If you are ever in Auroville, this is definitely a place you should check out!

 

P.S.: Trust Google Maps, even if you feel it has lost its mind! It will bring you here.

 

 

Well Cafe [Auroville] – Google Maps

Well Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Artika Café [White Town, Pondicherry]

First look at Artika Café and you feel like you are in a slow-motion video of some lost town. Time probably, literally stops here! Artika Café is one of the best places to laze around in Pondicherry.

 

It is essentially a black and white shot, with a random table or two adding the colours. Dry leaves and white bougainvillaea decorate the courtyard, giving the feel of a never-ending autumn. The quietness here can be the brand ambassador for Pondicherry’s ‘Peaceful Pondicherry’ tagline! This peacefulness is what drew us here and kept us here and what made us never want to get up and leave!

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A narrow and beautiful shrub covered path led us to the graffiti and mural-covered courtyard. There are a few tables in the open courtyard and a few lounge chairs in the shade covered area to just stretch and relax.

There are a few tables inside as well, in an old, pretty worn-out house but we chose outside, obviously!

There is an art gallery and a shop inside, which sort of seems like the thing in Pondicherry!

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Once we had taken in the amazing surroundings and rested for a few good minutes, we asked for the menu, which is another surprise. They give you a big handmade paperboard menu that is handwritten – art all the way!

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There are quite a few breakfast options, sandwiches, baguettes and crepes to pick from.

They have some really good combos to pick from. The food ranges from affordable to average pricey but one can easily find something

 

according to their budget.

Another good thing here is the free WiFi for as long as you want.

The service is prompt and super friendly.

 

 

We had a Ratatouille and Cheese Sandwich. The aroma of the ratatouille being prepared made our mouths water! The sandwich was delicious, non-spicy ratatouille with lots of veggies like zucchini, bell peppers, tomatoes and more with lots of mozzarella cheese! It was lip-smacking!

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Ratatouille & Cheese Sandwich

We also had Mango Lassi which was more like thick mango pulp smoothie! It was very refreshing and filling!

Artika Café and Gallery should be where you head to, to chill on a hot summer day or to get your work done in peace. And if nothing, a few hours of peace don’t hurt!

We had an amazing time at Artika Café, do tell us about yours!!

Artika Café [Pondicherry] – Google Maps

Artika Cafe Gallery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Kasha Ki Aasha [White Town, Pondicherry]

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“I think I am in the wrong place!”

“Nope, definitely, this is someone’s home. We are in the wrong place!”

This is how the conversation will go when you first enter Kasha Ki Asha – that you have entered someone’s really well-kempt home and there is no way that a café exists here. Pass by those rooms with handicrafts and khadi kurtas and bags and you reach the centre of the home which again reinforces your belief that this is someone’s home and you are trespassing!

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With a small central verandah with lots of flowers, a metallic statue of the dancing God and a few females going about their business, it has got to be a home, no?

Well, it is, but it is a home converted to an art gallery and also houses a café upstairs.

Breathing a sigh of relief that we have to be hungry no longer, we climbed up the narrow staircase to come face to face with the rooftop café and then… and then we smiled!

 

Kasha Ki Aasha is a dream we all had but never got. A terrace with cane furniture to laze on, lots of plants to keep it cool…. a space where we could relax and spend all our days and evenings and maybe even nights! Away from the chaos and cacophony, one can chill and be at peace at this café for as long as they want. And delicious homecooked food doesn’t hurt either!

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We spent hours here, hogging and just sitting, doing nothing, at some points not even talking…just being quiet! That is the type of place Kasha Ki Aasha is. And if you love such places, you will love this one!

The women who run the café come upstairs from time to time to ask for any order or you can go to the stairs and holler for someone but apart from that, they let you be. No one keeps poking asking if you want anything more, something we Mumbaikars, or for that matter, metro-dwellers are not used to!

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Coming to the food, they have a small menu and also serve some specials apart from the menu. The quantity is decent and one cannot help feel that the prices are a little high. That kept aside, the food is delicious! Their European and Thai thalis are hot selling and pretty famous! They also serve beer and wine. We stuck to mostly Indian options or Indian with a twist. Here’s what we tried and loved:

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Traditional Indian Breakfast – Soft steamed idlis with a bowl of sambhar and a groundnut and coconut based chutney.  The sambhar is non-spicy but had the perfect maa-ke-hath ka taste! The quantity of sambhar is a little less and you may have to ask for another bowl. The chutney is delicious too, with no hint of spiciness.

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Chappati & Dal Fry – Two large and soft chappatis with slightly crispy centres and a small bowl of dal. Dal again was non-spicy but yummy with lots of onions and ginger. This preparation is again served with the chutney.

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Chappati & Dal Fry

Pizza Dosai – Before we tell you what it is, we will tell you that it is delicious!! Two plain uttapams with lots of veggies on top – chopped tomatoes, onions, capsicum and more. This is then finished with lots of cheese! It tastes very slightly sweet owing to the tomato based sauce used to mix the veggies and the batter but the combination overall is amazing and something different!

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Onion Dosai with Chutney – Crispy and thin onion dosas. These were again bang-on yummy and can be had even without that chutney!

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Onion Dosai with Chutney

Black Bean Burger – The black bean burger has two black bean based cutlets with a slightly charred and smokey flavour, topped with tomatoes, capsicum and onions. It is served with a cold macaroni salad that is spiced with black pepper and is delicious. Each of these can be had separately and the combination is lip-smacking.

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The café is open only until 7 p.m. which is really sad considering the ambience is perfect for spending your evenings!!

All in all, Kasha Ki Aasha is an amazing place with good food and should find its way to your list of places to visit in Pondicherry!

Kasha Ki Aasha [Pondicherry] – Google Maps

Kasha Ki Aasha Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Canteen 18 [Heritage Town, Pondicherry]

Sometimes, wrong roads lead people to the right places.

One such wrong road led us to discover Canteen 18. We were headed towards our hotel and we saw a small little eatery, at the corner of a street, just in the passing. Little did we know a split second would have that much impact. The moment we were fresh and ready to feed our growling tummies, the first place that we mentioned, together, was that small eatery at the corner – Canteen 18!

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We walked to the eatery, located in the lane behind a very busy MG Road. A sharp contrast from the chaotic main road, this street and Canteen 18, both, are a solace. First look, and you are bound to smile. A small cooking area, with 3 tables and a capacity to seat not more than 10 people, this place is charming in all certainty.

The place is run by two people and sees an influx of locals and foreigners alike. The menu is not very large in general and really small, like 5 items small, for vegetarians. And yet we recommend you go here, even if you have to pick the same combination in a burger and a croissant (this is for vegetarians, others have options), we still strongly recommend you do not miss out on this one! Have a bite of their burgers or croissant sandwich and you will know why!

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We tried the Paneer Veggie Burger and totally loved it! The patty had a slightly charred and smokey flavour and went so well with the molten mozzarella. Add to that their lip-smacking Barbeque sauce and it was heavenly!

We also loved :

Veggie Croissant Sandwich > A slightly crisp and buttery croissant that was stuffed with veggies, sauces and mozzarella, just like a sandwich would. But it tasted soooo soo good!

Affogato, which was only ₹90 – a perfect treat!

Canteen 18 is a dreamy place and definitely something you have to treat yourself to. Imagine a quiet road, open-air cafe, aroma of delicious food filling the air. Doesn’t seem much like India? Well, that’s where Pondicherry will surprise you!

We don’t even wanna imagine how beautiful this setting would be in monsoons! Another Pondicherry trip seems like a great idea at this moment!

 

Canteen 18 [Pondicherry] – Google Maps

Canteen 18 Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Pancham Puriwala [Fort]

In the bylanes of South Mumbai, many legendary places hide in plain sight. Not that these are not popular, in fact, they are more popular and deserve to be so, than most of the new eateries. Some have revamped themselves with changing times, some have decided to stay the same, some have fought hard enough but failed and some have sustained… but what is common for most of these is that they have kept traditions alive…. more so in the way the delicious food is prepared than any other.

Pancham Puriwala is one such legendary eatery in Fort. Famous for the terrific and hearty thali (a full meal, with insane variety, covering all bases – savoury main course, dessert(s) and traditional beverages),  this place had been on my list for a really long time.

As the story goes, which most of us have heard time and again, the man who started this legendary place came to Mumbai with dreams in his eyes. He started a Puri vending stall opposite VT (CST) station and his family for generations to come have nurtured it to the famous and iconic eatery that it has become! The place is not hard to find considering people know about it and then there is Google Maps! Though parking space is definitely going to be hard to find! The place is swamped, day or night, weekday or holiday, and why won’t it be? Have you seen the menu and those prices?

We visited here for lunch on a festival day, hoping for less crowd…both on the roads and in the restaurant. While the roads were actually empty (almost), the restaurant was as full as ever. In the 30 mins that we took to finish our meals… the waiting line outside had grown almost exponentially.

They have an a la carte menu as well as set thalis of different proportions… choose one depending on your appetite. We selected one Pancham Thali and one Delux Thali.

Here is what came in each thali :

Pancham Thali : 

6 vegetables/curries : Aloo ki Sabzi, Bhindi Aloo , Chole ki Sabzi , Rajma , Pakodi Kadhi and Paneer ki Sabzi.

3 types of puris : All filled with masala and dal, delicious and not overly oily – Regular masala puri, Palak based masala puri, and Beet Root based masala puri.

Along with these, there was Paneer Pulao, Dahi Bada, Papad, Gulab Jamun and a Glass of Chas.

Delux Thali : 

5 vegetables/curries : Aloo ki Sabzi, Bhindi (mix) , Chole ki Sabzi , Pakodi Kadhi and Paneer ki Sabzi.

3 types of puris : All filled with masala and dal, delicious and not overly oily – Regular masala puri, Palak based masala puri, and Beet Root based masala puri.

Along with these, there was Special rice, Raita, Papad, and Kheer.

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Every single curry/sabzi had a marvelous taste.

Aloo ki sabzi was delicious, much like that made in mom’s kitchen, adequately spiced with lots of chilli flakes. Apt to be eaten with rice, puris or even alone! Rajma had a Punjabi style thick gravy with onion and coriander, my favourite! Chole ki sabzi was another delight. Pakodi Kadhi was delicious, not spicy but did not lack in taste either, with the pakoris perfectly soft and having a taste of their own as well! Bhindi Aloo was a tad disappointing compared to the rest of them, a little on the drier side. Paneer ki Sabzi  was a delight with a delicious gravy and soft paneer pieces.

The Masala Puris were delicious, the masala making them good enough to be eaten alone without any curry. Paneer Pulao had pieces of paneer, beans, and peas and was good. Raita on the other hand (in Delux Thali) was really watery. Dahi Bada had a little more of the sweet chutney, so if you aren’t a fan of that, tell them to skip the tamarind chutney (I couldn’t coz I did not know it would be sweet). Gulab Jamun and Kheer were delicious. Not very sweet and just delicious. Chass was good too and we went for two extras!

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We also tried the Gulab Lassi, was was a thick creamy lassi with rose syrup. Delicious, both in taste and aroma. Absolutely loved it!!

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The Pancham Thali was priced at Rs. 130 (no we did not miss a zero there!) and Delux Thali at Rs. 100. Our total bill came out to be only Rs. 300!! Super value for money, no?

Pancham Puriwala – Google Maps

Pancham Puriwala Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato