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 forest region of Auroville. Hidden away in the interiors of Auroville, you will find many a treasure 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 lots of hummus, falafel, salads and more. The options are limited 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 too) 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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We tried the Mint Cooler here which was a bit too sweet for us but was minty none the less. 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.

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Vegetable Omelette & Cheese Baguette

Eggplant & Labane Baguette – Labane or curd cheese spread generously over the crispy bread which was then topped with smoked eggplant slices. This was another delight! This was also served with salads, with 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!

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.

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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.

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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. The menu is another surprise. They give you a big handmade paperboard menu that is hand written – art all the way, we say! 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.

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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 and Cheese Sandwich

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

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Mango Lassi & Fresh Lime Juice

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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When you first enter this house, that is what you will feel, you have entered someone’s really well-kempt home and there is no way that a café exists here. But worry not, 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!

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.

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We had similar apprehensions that said maybe, we are at the wrong place or maybe, there is another entrance but the women near the stairs smiled and told us that the café is 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!

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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!

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

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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:

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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Traditional Indian Breakfast

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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Pizza Dosai

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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Black Bean Burger

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 to deposit our bags 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 the 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 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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Paneer Veggie Burger > A thin paneer based patty with lots of veggies – jalapenos, lettuce, tomatoes, capsicum and onions. 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! The cheese literally dripped off the burger and messed our hands as we ate! Totally loved it!
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Paneer Veggie Burger

Veggie Croissant Sandwich > Sounds different right? Croissant and sandwich? This was 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! Mozzarella again stole the show!

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Veggie Croissant Sandwich

We also tried an Affogato here, which was only ₹90, can you believe it!! It was a shot of espresso with a scoop of vanilla. A perfect treat!

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Affogato

Grape Soda was black currant based tangy soda and was refreshing. We asked for Iced Tea but that wasn’t available. Only hope that a few more vegetarian options were available and this would be heaven!

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Grape Soda

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

Boardwalk by Flamboyante [Alibaug/Mandwa]

There is no blue like the Greek blue… this Greek blue and peaceful white drew us to Boardwalk.

Perched on the waterfront near Mandwa jetty, this place screams romance and solitude at the same time. The whites and the blues, the salt sprays and the gush of the wind, the pebbled floor and the sunshade are what one should visit Boardwalk for!

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There is an indoor section as well, but frankly, why would you want to choose it! Getting here is fairly simple. Just hop on to one of the many ferries from Gateway and cover a short distance on foot after you alight at Mandwa jetty. The effort is totally worth it.

We went here for the Sundowner and were mesmerised by the tranquil blues and the perfect sunset! What more does one need!

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The food here is good too, but we did not really try much.

Fiama: Thin crust pizza with lots of chilli flakes, onions and cheese. It was well made and scrumptious.

Amritsari Chole with Kulcha: Chole ki sabzi was really yummy and very mildly spicy. Kulcha was basically aloo paratha, got and butter laden. The tamarind chutney that is served with the dish is definitely worth trying as well. Tangy and sweet, totally loved it. The quantity is just decent, with one Kulcha served. You can call for different types of Indian bread (parathas) as an addition.

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Fiama
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Amritsari Chole and Kulcha
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Strawberry Margarita and Shirley Temple

From the mocktails we enjoyed Fresh Fruit Margarita – Strawberry wich was perfect, just the right amount of sweet and the salt adding a punch!

Shirley Temple is a ginger, mint and orange based fizzy mocktail. Refreshing. Ginger stole the show with the lime wedges adding to the citrusy flavour. This one was my favourite.

We also had Virgin Caprioska and Fresh Lime Soda.

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Virgin Caprioska

The best time to visit the place is around late afternoon, right about when the sun is not too bright and it is not already evening. You get to watch the sunset! 😍

However, the time for which one can occupy a table here is limited. The management does ask you to get up once you have really surpassed your booking time. The place is generally fully booked, with large and small groups and couples alike. They also have sheesha which is another crowd puller. There is generally one or the other group celebrating an occasion by the evening, so the crowd is quirky and fun. A nuisance if you care, so rather let it drown in the sea as you enjoy your time here.

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Overall Experience: Amazing. Being water people, the setting was perfect. Loved every bit of our time here.

The food is good, but on the pricier side. Our bill came to ₹2000 (two people).

Food 🙂

Ambience 🙂

Service 😐

Now you ask why 😐 for service? Read on, every coin has two sides. Only wish it were not true for this place!

Everything that is wrong about Boardwalk: The management is notoriously arrogant. It is a pain trying to get a table here. We had to call them continuously for 10-12 days and leave multiple texts to finally get through to them.

Another issue is the total lack of any consideration or hospitality on the part of the management. After making a booking almost a month in advance, they do not ensure that we get a flawless experience. Our table was near the edge, right next to the beach, and people kept flogging all three tables by this side for pictures. They would climb up the wall and pose endlessly, totally ruining our experience, while the management stood there doing nothing, saying nothing. Only when another couple raised their voice against this did the management ask people to vacate the area. The manager got into a tiff with around 5 customers in a span of three hours, which just goes on to show how irresponsible and uncourteous the management is. Thankfully, our servers were good.

Also, we were overcharged for our mocktails. They charged the cocktail prices for them and refused to accept that the prices are different for virgin drinks.

The only reason we would go back for would be the ambience and the view. The feeling of being far away in a beautiful place. If you ignore everything else, then you will definitely come back feeling refreshed and happy.

The Battle: I think I have said it enough number of times already 🙂

Boardwalk by Flamboyante – Google Maps

Boardwalk by Flamboyante Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Kiki’s Café and Deli [Alibaug/Mandwa]

Imagine your closest friends, a cup or two of coffee, infectious laughter and the soothing music of the waves splashing against the coast right in front of you.

Nope, not a dream. Just get on the ferry to Mandwa and head to Kiki’s Café and Deli to enjoy a peaceful view with some good food. The cafe is located near the jetty and serves some quick bites and beverages along with an amazing view.

The interiors are fun, colourful and funky with bicycles hanging from the ceiling and a thela/cart with colourful glasses and ceramic ware.

The indoor seating is spacious with different seating to accommodate a small as well as a large group. However, the outdoor seating is the real deal, with the view of the beach, this is just amazing for a morning breakfast or an evening coffee. The cafe opens at 8 am, which is just perfect! We visited the cafe early Sunday morning for a lazy breakfast and came back happy, although a little light in the pockets!

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Here is a peep into what our Sunday morning looked like, or rather, tasted like!

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Egg Kejriwal

 

Egg Kejriwal: I am no master on this dish, but it tasted as good as it looks! Two runny fried eggs with lots of chillies, salt and pepper.

The bread was toasted to the perfect golden brown shade and the dish overall was yumm!

 

 

 

 

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Cappuccino
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Strawberry Freakshake

 

Cappuccino: Just the perfect combination with the waves and the view!

Strawberry Freakshake: This one is not exactly a freakshake and more of strawberry milkshake with ice cream.

Not overly sweet, thick and consistent, a good option if you are a strawberry fan.

We also had Cold Coffee and Fresh Lime Soda, both of which were good, but did not exactly do justice to the cost!

 

 

The Allibugger Pizza is one of the items you should definitely give a shot. Thin crust flatbread, with mildly spicy green chutney (mint) as the base, which gave it a mouth watering aroma. The toppings included potatoes (surprising, I know), capsicum and onions with lots of cheese! Loved it!

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The Allibugger Pizza

Green Garlic Paneer: Soft malai paneer pieces, made crispy on the outside by shallow frying them. The paneer melts in the mouth at the first bite. Tossed in a semi-dry garlic and spring onion mixture, this one was well made. The quantity is really little, though.

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Green Garlic Paneer

Kiki’s Cafe and Deli is a place to chill and unwind, away from the cacophony and pollution of Mumbai. Although it does lack music and maybe a few games to keep people more engaged, there is an option of enjoying some basic water rides at the beach. Apparently, they also arrange for speed boat rides to and fro Mumbai.

The cafe is not really light on the pocket, but a splurge that is well justified. Just imagine the view and ambience in rains! Mindblowing!  😍 😍

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Overall Experience: The ambience is good and the service is friendly.

The food is not extraordinary but a few things are good. Their pizzas especially are a good deal. Our bill came to a total of  ₹ 2910.

Food 🙂

Ambience 🙂

Service 🙂

The Battle: You will seriously not want to leave the place if you happen to be here at the right time!

How to get here – Take a ferry from Gateway of India, Colaba for Mandwa. The prices range between 110 to 180, with multiple options like the upper-deck and AC sections as well in certain ferries. Speed boats are also available. There are ferries every 30 minutes but the last ferry back to Mumbai is at 7 pm.

Kiki’s Café and Deli – Google Maps

Kikis Cafe & Deli Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato