वranda [Pali Hill, Bandra]

When we think of the word veranda, our mind inadvertently takes us to that part of our homes (generally our grandparents’ homes) where we had the best memories. It’s where we sat all evening and watched the rain work its wonder and make everything magically beautiful, where we had the most heart-to-heart conversations and where we played as kids. This verandais one of the cosiest places in our memories.

Our intention was not to get you all nostalgic, the food at वranda will do it for us. Our intention was to just tell you, how beautiful and cosy veranda is. ‘Coz वranda is, it is beautiful, it is cosy, it is charming and it is definitely worthy of every praise you have heard about it.

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वranda is a creation to bring to us desi flavours with a videsi twist. वranda is tastefully decorated with pastel colours and bright floral prints, plants and flowers, beautiful lights and more. Art is deeply ingrained in every nook and corner of the restaurant. There’s chic upholstery, antique vases, bold doors, paintings that depict the many forms of India and Indian culture and more. वranda is a lovechild of an art gallery and restaurant if you ask us! It’s the perfect place for a cosy family brunch as well as a romantic dinner date.

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The menu is limited to serving Indian dishes with a modern twist. So if you are dreaming dahi bada, be ready to experience new flavours in this very simple dish. Heard of sun-dried tomatoes on your pizza right? How about sun-dried tomatoes in your kulchas? They have created delicious aberrations while maintaining the integrity of the core dishes, and that is what we loved about the food at वranda.

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There is another thing we were absolutely fascinated with – the menu is presented on a tab, with videos of dishes being prepared and plated. It got us exploring through the menu which then turned to rummaging. The videos are shot beautifully, and they just make you all the more hungry!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s what we gorged on at वranda –

Raja Dahi Verma – A filmy name for a fancy version of our beloved Dahi Bhalla chaat. Dahi bhallas or badas soaked in curd and sweet-tangy tamarind chutney.  It is served on a bed of green mint chutney and topped with potato salli. Baked yoghurt squares are delicious and soft and the pomegranate jam reduction has a sharp and sweet taste. The overall dish is on the sweeter side but we loved the medley of flavours.

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Raja Dahi Verma

Cottage Cheese Trilogy – Very soft malai paneer chunks, done in three delicious styles – fresh basil, spicy tikka/zafrani one and a saffron based marination. Each one has intense flavours and is delicious.

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Cottage Cheese Trilogy

Veg Seekh Kebabs – The seekh kebabs are soft and literally melt-in-the-mouth. The seekh kebabs have a very strong flavour of cardamom, almost to the point of shadowing other flavours. These are served on a bed of fresh chopped vegetables with a sweet-spicy mint chutney.

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Veg Seekh Kebabs

Rajasthani Gatta Nu Saak – Gatte Ki Sabzi and their delicious kulchas! They nailed the gravy and flavour of the sabzi. Mindblowing aroma and lip-smacking taste. Just the right amount of spices and it took us back to Nanima’s kitchen. The gatte (flour balls), however, were a little too firm, which is bound to happen given the short time allowed for preparation. These were served with sun-dried tomato kulchas and basil kulchas. A mini meal in itself. And did we mention that we are a fan of the tomato kulchas? You will be too, do try them.

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Rajasthani Gatta Nu Saak

Mix Berry Lemonade – A combination of strawberries, raspberries and lemon. It packs a punch with the tanginess. Loved it.

Chocolate Basil Lemonade – Yes, that was our reaction too. Chocolate and basil? In a mocktail? Are you sure? But be sure that you give this one a shot. It an amazing combination. First, there is the fresh flavour of basil and lemon and then slowly you get the chocolatey taste. Lemon and chocolate could be this good a duo, is difficult to fathom.

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Mix Berry Lemonade and Chocolate Basil Lemonade

Gulkand Chocobar – A dreamy preparation with lots of soft and airy chocolate mousse, bits of gulkand and thick, dense chocolate. It is the right amount of sweet with the gulkand adding a mind-blowing edge to it. Sugar coated fennel seeds add a fresh crunch to every bit. Just loved how smooth and light the mousse was. This is a must have at वranda.

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Gulkand Chocobar

Overall Experience – Delicious food, a delightful ambience and good service makes वranda a place you must visit. It may not be easy on the pocket but is definitely worth the money spent.

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Ambience 🙂 🙂

Service 🙂

वranda – Google Maps

Veranda Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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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

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