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Puducherry restaurants and eateries review plus inexpensive places to stay

August 27, 2009

Tourists to Pondicherry may not know that eating out is easy, tasty and cheap in Pondi. There are plenty of eating joints which serve inexpensive food and they are very clean too. Most of them have clean toilets. There is plenty for the western palate as well as the Indian. If you are a lover of continental food and baked food then you can go crazy here as you can find authentic western food at affordable prices. From snack and juice bars, bakeries and coffee shops to fancy hotels, Pondy has it all. I guess it’s the presence of a large number of tourists from the west (particularly France) which have made Pondy the way it is. French food is easily available here. Restaurants serving western food tend to dominate, but that could be my impression because we (like most tourists) were moving around mostly in the French half of  Puducherry and also the main shopping areas.

Here are a few places which we had a personal experience of:

Bakers Street has a lovely, warm ambience and a friendly owner. They serve a wide variety of teas and coffees as well sumptuous pastries and pies. A great place to have breakfast or a snack. Prices range from Rs 30/- onwards and one can have a quick cuppa, breaker and dessert for around Rs 100/- A wide variety of teas are available here too. Many in Pondy might find this place expensive and it is so, by Pondy standards of a cafe. But to us Mumbaikars the cleanliness and the efficient service is something we would readily pay for. And as for authentic western food, now that is expensive in Mumbai. The reasonably priced places serve spicy western dishes, red with colour and chillies. The photograph below is taken at  Bakers Street.

Le Cafe is not my favourite place but the location is great and this cafe is usually humming with activity. It is difficult to get a table on a holiday week-end. It is right on the beach, and there are many sea facing tables. There are tables on the terrace too. The food is inexpensive and mostly western, with a wide array of coffees available. Tasty pastries, croissants, cakes and pies.

Unfortunately the service here is not so good, at least that was our experience. We have been here at least thrice, twice last year and once this year. Last year our experience was quite bad as we found the waiters quite rude and sullen. However, quite over-eager to serve the foreigners. I had mentioned this in a previous post of mine, and there were some readers who felt that perhaps Indians give lower tips. However, this is not the case here. Most of the foreigners who come here do so on a shoe-string budget, and live in rooms set up by the Aurobindo Ashram, and that is why there are so many places here which offer inexpensive western food. It is the Indians who come here who tend to be flush with money, and no, they do not throw their weight around. I could see well-dressed people sitting quietly and a little sadly because the waiters were ignoring them. No one was quarreling, which I guess one doesn’t want to do so on a holiday! Perhaps there is another inexplicable reason for the difference in treatment by waiters that we don’t know about.

This cafe is run by the government and has been here for donkey’s years. Maybe the waiters know the foreigners personally as many stay here for months, and some for years. The other foreign visitors are often not week-end butterflies, and tend to come back to Pondy again and again.

The third time we visited Le Cafe (earlier this month), we found that the service was better and the waiters more efficient. But their sullenness was visible. Maybe they are underpaid, I am not sure. However, we didn’t mind the slow service  or the fact that what we ordered didn’t arrive at all. We were there for a holiday and to breathe in the sea breeze and we loved this place.

A privately run place Satsanga, which serves continental fare, lacks in service as well. The food isn’t great and we had a bad experience here. When we ordered one of their popular dishes they said they had run out, but foreigners who arrived half an hour later were served the same. This restaurant is owned by someone of foreign origin as far as I know. We were also bothered by a heavily smoking Frenchman sitting at the next table who kept turning his head towards us and blowing the smoke right on to our table so as not to disturb his companions. At that time there was no ban on public smoking (last year). The food as I mentioned, isn’t great. We ordered a very expensive salad with a fancy name but all that they gave us finely chopped cucumber and tomatoes with some lettuce, arranged in a fancy design on a plate. No sauces, not even salt and pepper. I would not recommend this place to anyone. We avoided this place on our recent visit.

There is a restaurant called Daily Bread which is a great place for a snack or breakfast. You get good baked stuff here as well as excellent omelettes and croissants. The place is much plainer than Bakers Street, but the service is as friendly and as fast, and this place costs less. We loved this place, because it was bright and airy and had an informal, friendly atmosphere.
daily-breadreduced

There is a tiny place called Banana which has no more than 6 tables (three inside and three outside) which serves inexpensive French food and salads, both vegetarian and non-vegetarian. For about Rs 80/- you can get a large filling meal, say, of Pesto Pasta. The picture on the left is that of a vegetarian Ratatouille, a French dish. I did not think the quality was great, but the place is clean, and the food inexpensive by Mumbai standards, and it is authentic western. The only problem is that the restaurant is a mite stuffy, even the tiny garden where there are a few tables. On a week-end there is no guarantee of getting a place in the garden and the tables outside make for very dull seating. The service is good.

There is a fancy hotel called Hotel Promenade, owned by the same man who owns HiDesign, on the main seaside road in Pondicherry. Here you can get a very good buffet on Sundays, and this costs about Rs 550/-. Expensive, but worth it if you are really hungry and are looking for a brunch. There is usually some kind of live performance going on here. Music, and entertainment of a sort. When we visited there was a small singing and playing group as well as a man going from table to table entertaining people with a mime performance.

Another expensive place is Hotel Orient, which is affiliated to the Neemrana group of hotels. The place serves excellent continental food. The place is located at the old Governer’s bungalow, a heritage site. It is a beautiful place and the waiters are well trained. The wide variety of food available here is a treat. Again, mostly western food. 

Amongst the Indian restaurants, a popular one is Adayar Ananda Bhavan (J.N. Street), commonly known as A2B, is located at the market place. You get all kinds of South Indian dishes here for under Rs 25/- and also a wide array of sweets and savouries. It is so crowded (at least on week-ends) that it is impossible to get a seat. In any case there are very few tables and most people stand around, often spilling on to the streets. Nearby you will find Indian Coffee House, which is also very popular.

Hotel Surguru is the place to get good quality South Indian cuisne in a great atmosphere. It is an air-conditioned place, is clean and has a clean toilet. Foreigners as well as Indians frequent the place. The service is very prompt.

There are other small restaurants like Madame Shanthe’s and Hotel Chettinand, which serve fairly okay food and fall in the medium price range.

It is important to remember that at all places tourists need to drink mineral water as much of the drinking water in Puducherry may not be tap water, but well water. There is no guarantee of it being filtered adequately. This will be added expenditure in Pondycherry.

I have not given the addresses of these places as they are all within a very small distance of each other. If you stay in French Town then almost all of them are within half an hour’s walking distance. Most of them can be found by asking at your hotel.

Places to stay:
The places which are very clean, beautiful and yet inexpensive to stay in are mostly either run by the Aurobindo ashram or are associated with the ashram. That is why they have rules like no drinking and smoking on the premises. In some places they also close the gate after 10:30 p.m. We did not find it a problem as we were there only for a few days and we had no intention coming back late. Also drinking can happen in any restaurant where one goes and there are plenty of those there.
We had stayed in a place called Vatika last year and it is associated with the ashram. The rates are around 1200/- for a double room. Food is not included. You do not get room service.
There are other ashram places which you can check out as well. There are similar rules here, at least about the drinking and smoking. We know someone who had stayed at the Seaside guest house, which is facing the sea and they were happy with the place. Some simple non-AC rooms are available for around Rs 600/-.

It’s best to clarify the details with the people themselves, about tea and breakfast, and whether they will provide it. Mostly they don’t and at Vatika there was no facility for hot water for a bath but on asking a man came up with a bucket of hot water for each of us. Mostly foreigners frequent these places.

(All photographs are by me and copyrighted)

Related Reading: Life in Pondicherry – a photo essay
A visit to Mammallapuram
Read all restaurant reviews on this blog
Read all posts on Travel on this blog

25 Comments leave one →
  1. August 27, 2009 6:27 pm

    I have experienced some of the most tasty food in Pondi.It is amongst the most reasonably priced food I have come across.Chettinand is good.

  2. August 27, 2009 7:37 pm

    wonderful!! thank u so much. I was planning to go to Pondicherry on one of my trips.

  3. August 27, 2009 8:43 pm

    Oh we land up at Suguru most of the times..thats the problem with my dad , if he finds a comfie hotel in some place,he sticks to that whenever he visits it..but then we never really explore Pondy..its more of a stop,if we are heading down South..

  4. August 27, 2009 10:52 pm

    Wow! That is such a lot of valuable information. Will bookmark it for future reference. Pondicherry is on our wish list once we get back to India.

  5. vasudev permalink
    August 28, 2009 12:10 am

    overall you seem to have had a plate full of (i repeat) ‘house-niggers’ eh, nita? reminds me of another blog which criticised strongly a certain agarwal’s view that india would have been much better if the britts ruled over us another 60 years. with or without the britts or the french ruling we have dark skinned, famished and ugly looking indian natives of pondicherry ( in tn) and mahe (in dog’s own country) claiming the glory of their french past and expecting some white belle to appear out of nowhere, marry their ugly torsos and transport the same to exotic paris to live forever in a world of nude skin shows and booze aplenty!

    while driving down from chennai to pondy what struck me most was not the beauty of pondy but the misery of the villagers enroute who were so mal-nutritioned and weak that they could not reap their own grains but needed to spread the stock on the road so that the passing cars and other vehicular wheels would do the job for them!

  6. rags permalink
    August 28, 2009 8:14 am

    “while driving down from chennai to pondy what struck me most was not the beauty of pondy but the misery of the villagers enroute who were so mal-nutritioned and weak that they could not reap their own grains but needed to spread the stock on the road so that the passing cars and other vehicular wheels would do the job for them!”

    LOL!! Only you can say something like this. They do that because it makes their job easier instead of having to manually seperate the husk from the grain. Not necessarily because they are poor and malnutritioned!

    • vasudev permalink
      August 28, 2009 9:56 am

      rags
      i am in the mood of malnutritioned india. isn’t the climate affecting you?

  7. Vipul permalink
    August 28, 2009 8:30 am

    Hi Nita,

    Thanks for the detailed info. I am sure to follow your recommendations when i visit.

    One thing though, and may i say I am a bit disappointed – Why on earth did you not tell the smoking Frenchman to F off? I am not suggesting you use that term but am surprised you didnt – To me, you seem like a strong willed person who believes in her rights. So why not?

    After all, the waiters might treat foreigners differently, but we (if i might say educated, urban and professional) folks shouldnt. Remember, if we call their (frenchman) bull to their face, the waiters might actually take a cue!
    Most so called foreigners in the place are in fact the uneducated, joint-rolling, ‘taking a year off’, ‘India is so spiritual’ screwballs that are hanging around!

    Most Indians might not mess around – but not you? Next time, take them to task – trust me, they’ll fold in a minute. What say?

    • August 28, 2009 9:01 am

      Vipul, you are right and I must say I had to resist the temptation to speak out. The reasons I didn’t was because I was very tired that day from a lot of walking and sight-seeing and I wasn’t sure how the French guy would react. But if it was in Mumbai, on home ground, I would have immediately spoken out. If the guy hadn’t listened, I would have gone up to the owner and complained. The combination of being on a holiday, being tired, being in unfamiliar territory, and a foreigner being the owner of the restaurant all combined to make me just ignore the man. Although we had to keep waving the smoke away from our face and that man saw but did nothing! Also Vipul, there was no law against public smoking then and in India it is difficult even in normal circumstances to protest. By the way we had a similar experience during our recent visit to Pondicherry when we were in Bannana, where a group of foreigners were smoking god knows what. Well, I immediately complained to the manager and he told the foreigner to go out and smoke. I guess at Satsang my mood just wan’t belligerent enough. But you are right, I should have spoken.

  8. August 28, 2009 11:49 am

    Hey voted for you, not because you asked but because you deserve🙂. And I think there is no harm in asking for votes these days, you know earlier even I didn’t like to promote my own blog, articles etc but after seeing some incidents, guess one needs to do all this. It’s a marketing driven (read loud) world these days!
    Coming down to Pondicherry / Puducherry, you know its one of my favorite places. Its so serene and food you get is so yummy and that too at such affordable price🙂
    Did you try the food at Rendezvous? That’s also damn nice!

  9. thinkingindian permalink
    August 28, 2009 2:00 pm

    @ the smoking ass who didn’t stop smoking, and your tiredness:

    Yes, I can understand that being tired and away from home turf etc etc can hinder a snap “Put that cig. OUT, you lazy ass backpacker type!”

    There are a few of these types – escaping from real world responsibilities / running away from legal issues / whatever who actually moderate discussions in *India* on various websites!
    There is one British fellow who does that on (I choose not to name this website here, no free publicity) .com – he is treated like a demi-god on matters Indian. Sold his stuff in the UK and now lives in Chennai with his Indian middle aged wife – which he is able to effectively use as his “India calling card”…!
    ______
    I saw a photograph of a “Foreigners Only” sign on a path to one of the Pondicherry beaches on this website!
    _____
    To make up in a way for your tiredness, Nita: I have ticked off a Pondicherry hotel employee ( Bengali guy) for giving a backpacking (white) foreigner a room which had been promised to me. The backpacker kept quite because my tone of voice was loud and demanding – otherwise I would never had got the last room remaining, that I had pre-booked! He had just walked in off the street – fortunately I was able to intercept the conversation between Bengali receptionist guy and the backpacker.

    We just Have to Speak Up very firmly at times.

    • vasudev permalink
      August 28, 2009 4:08 pm

      your comment juggles my memory on how i put an entire load of swiss tourists into trouble at bhubaneshwar. dunno if i mentioned it here anytime before.

      the incident was there wasa this no hot water in my toilet one cold morning at bhubaneswar (around 5 am i guess) and i called the housekeeper who sent in the plumber and we soon got into discussions in my room when to our utter surprise came charging in a white skin. no knocking. just dadagiri. he rushed in, a puny fella really, and started shouting at me for having disturbed his sleep (he was sleeping in his room!). utterly angry at his mannerisms i told him to get lost and then promptly hollered for the management. when an agitated manager arrived i told him about the issue and asked for the police. i did not heed their pleas and soon the khakis arrived and took down my complaint, accosted that guy to the station and while i was getting ready to go to work and entire bus load of alpine climbers were standing around nuttily staring at me (balefully) while i got into my colleagues car and sped away. dunno if those chocolate makers could stay in tune with their swiss watches to go wherever they intended to go but i believe, they hasd to scrap their visit to puri.

      good and served them well!

    • August 29, 2009 11:03 am

      thinkingindian, thanks for sharing that. I have heard such stories about Pondy. It is sad, the colonial hangover of some people.

  10. thinkingindian permalink
    August 28, 2009 2:02 pm

    * … kept ‘quiet’ ….

  11. August 28, 2009 3:08 pm

    Nita:

    An old friend of mine gave up her fancy i-banking job and has been living and working in Aurobindo Ashram for about 14 years now. Your post is a good nudge in trying to make good on my intention to visit her. Sometime soon. Thanks.

  12. August 28, 2009 7:13 pm

    Hey…

    I am fascinated by everything in Pondicherry. I have been there 3-4 times and am in love with the place. Among the restaurants you reviewed, I have found Promenade to be the best. Specially the brunch is awesome. Never found so much variety for such a price in Bangalore.

    There is one more restaurant called Le something (my memory fails me when it comes to names, but the restaurant is in the lane behind Promanade). Its a french restaurant, managed by a full blooded frenchman and serves some great french dishes. I simpply loved the ambience and the quality of wine and food they served.

    Paritosh

  13. wishtobeanon permalink
    August 28, 2009 7:26 pm

    Nita, there was a tv show here in the US that mentioned that the French are the world’s worst tourists – they are supposedly very rude and cheap! Well, I guess they got the reputation because of people like the Frenchman you were talking about.

    • Vivek Khadpekar permalink
      August 28, 2009 8:30 pm

      Wishtobeanon:

      In my experience the French, more than most other westerners visting ‘exotic’ places, do a good deal of homework before setting out. They bone up on the culure, climatic conditions, local etiquette, the economy and so many other things about the places they plan to visit. This makes them less vulnerable to, and better prepared to resist, attempts by locals (cabbies, touts, waiters, tourist guides etc.) to pull a fast one on them or to rip them off. Maybe that is what earns them their reputation for rudeness.

      As to being ‘cheap’, I am not quite sure what you mean. A backpacker keen to gain maximum value for money is bound to scrimp, irrespective of nationality. [S]he cannot be expected to be genrous like a corporate honcho on travelling on an expense account.

      • vasudev permalink
        August 28, 2009 9:17 pm

        hi vivek. long time.

      • wishtobeanon permalink
        August 28, 2009 9:50 pm

        Vivek, it is not my opinion – I was just stating what suddenly came to my mind when Nita talked about the rude Frenchman. About cheap, yes that is what I meant – scrimping on money.

  14. August 28, 2009 10:41 pm

    I have been planning to visit pondicherry for quite sometime now. Thanks for all the information Nita, It is sure going to be of great help🙂

  15. August 29, 2009 3:29 am

    Hey Nita,
    Nice to see a post like this from you. I thought your observations were interesting.🙂 As for the recommendations, I’ll pass them to some friends who are going there soon (they are foreigners!).

  16. August 29, 2009 2:18 pm

    Congratulations! Our selection committee compiled an exclusive list of the Top 100 India Blogs, and yours was included! Check it out at http://thedailyreviewer.com/top/india

    You can claim your Top 100 Blogs Award Badge at http://thedailyreviewer.com/blog/11216

    Cheers!

    Angelina…

  17. September 3, 2009 2:58 am

    I have shared this post in my Reader, a useful post when I visit Pondicherry.

    thanks Poonam.🙂 – Nita

  18. September 4, 2009 5:54 pm

    Hey Nita, congrats on having been selected among the top blogs of India (refer above comment).

    I always used to eat at Mahabalipuram (Hotel Mamalla) while going and coming back as South Indian dishes are quite important for me! While there, I used to eat at some South Indian restaurant again – forgot the name. I am suffering in Bangalore, so much that I have started cooking! I made tomato rice today🙂

    Destination Infinity

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