Multicultural Haven: Pondy Is A Place For The Unconventional
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Stunning French architecture, cheap alcohol, and a string of beaches—what's not to love? The union territory of Puducherry, the erstwhile French capital of India, is sure to impress the most discerning tourists and travelers. The settlement is a melting pot of different cultures, from the native Tamil people who live in the city to the several foreigners who live in the nearby township of Auroville. The food scene of Puducherry is divided amongst two distinct parts of the settlement: the UT’s capital city of the same name, Puducherry, and the township of Auroville, which is situated about ten kilometers from the city.

The local cuisine and dietary habits have profound French influences. It is not uncommon to see locals have croissants and coffee for breakfast. Traditional French fare such as coq au vin, ratatouille, salade niçoise, and bouillabaisse are eaten throughout the settlement. Several French bakeries are still open in Puducherry today, selling everything from crepes to creme brulee to croissants and baguettes. Locals also consume Vietnamese dishes, which can be traced back to the French occupation of the country, which saw several Vietnamese people immigrate to India via Puducherry and vice versa. Preparations like prawn malay curry and Vietnamese spring rolls continue to persist in the city’s fare.

All this said, south Indian preparations continue to be a mainstay; orthodox households hold fast to their Tamil roots and stick to vegetarian preparations such as dosa, idi, rasam, sambar, etc. Meat eaters have long made preparations that are directly derived from French fare, such as meen puyabaise, an Indian take on bouillabaisse with the addition of local spices, and crepe dosas, dosas made in the same manner as crepes and served with meat and cheese. These fusion cuisines, however, have diminished in popularity in the past few decades. Several elders fight to keep this eclectic tradition alive by offering classes to those willing to learn.

The cuisine in Auroville is primarily continental, thanks to the community’s foreign residents, who helm most F&B operations. This generates the majority of the township’s revenue. Without further ado, here are some of the top restaurants and F&B ventures in both Puducherry and Auroville.

Bread & Chocolate 

The Bread and Chocolate bakery is legendary in Indian pastry circles, both for the excellent technique employed to make the various desserts and pastries that the outlet sells. The bakeshop was cofounded by Daniel Trulson, a Chicago native, and Fabien Bontems, a Frenchman. Trulson is the bakeshop’s head baker, and he has years of experience under his belt, which includes several stints in leading bakeries and restaurants in both the US and Paris. Bontems is the co-founder of the artisanal chocolate brand Mason & Co., which supplies the cocoa products and condiments the bakeshop uses. The breads and laminated pastries sold at the bakeshop are some of the best in the country. The croissants, escargots, and cruffins are must-haves here. A meal for one, with a beverage to boot, costs just 500 rupees—an absolute steal for the quality of fare offered here.

Courtyard Restaurant, Le Dupleix 

The Courtyard Restaurant is housed in one of Puducherry’s most famous hotels, the Le Dupliex. The outlet’s menu extensively features French, Indian, and Creole cuisine, with an emphasis on ingredient quality and customer service. The creme caramel, creole crab cakes, and confit de poulet are local favorites and pair well with the restaurant's extensive wine menu. A dinner for two at the establishment will cost upwards of 1500 rupees.

Marc’s Cafe

Marc's Cafe and Roastery was one of the first establishments in the country to offer third-wave specialty coffee to the general public, with over a dozen offerings from various countries and roast ranges sold through the cafe's website and e-commerce platforms. Marc Toro, the cafe’s founder and head roaster, is a licensed coffee q-grader with more than two decades of experience in the industry. The cafe sells a range of coffee-based beverages, tea, sandwiches, pasta, gelato, and artisanal chocolates from Mason & Co. The cafe also offers several master classes centered around coffee. A quick bite at the cafe with a beverage to boot will cost you around 500 rupees.

Coromandel Cafe & Restaurant

The Coromandel Cafe and Restaurant is a quaint and charming restaurant located in the heart of Puducherry. Helmed by head chef Jay Adams, the restaurant serves contemporary cuisine made using the highest quality local produce sourced from both Puducherry and Auroville, namely smoked fish, artisanal cheese, bean-to-bar chocolate, and organic flour. The restaurant features a great bar selection of both spirits and house cocktails. Patrons recommend trying out the beer-battered British fish and chips, and the pork chops. A meal for two at the restaurant, with alcohol, will cost you upwards of 2000 rupees.