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.

Food 🙂

Ambience 🙂 🙂

Service 🙂

वranda – Google Maps

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

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Summer House Café [Todi Mill, Lower Parel]

The weekend aways makes us happy. But this time, it left us elated! Like any other day, we zeroed in on a location to satiate our growling tummies and went ahead. We had heard the place we had selected – Summer House Café is an amazing one, we just did not know the enormity of the amazingness and hence, were more than under prepared for what hit us once we landed here!

Summer House Café is a dreamy setup, a beautiful place! For us, it felt like another world! Just far away, another country, another landscape, ‘coz surely, something this amazing cannot be right here, correct?

The white and blue facade with bamboo sticks forming a part of the wall reminded us of a shack in some beach country. Then we entered through the doors and were awestruck by the bustling area and it literally took us a few minutes to take everything in.

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During these few minutes, we were informed that a workshop was in progress on the lower level, were ushered to our tables upstairs and handed over the menu.

And not assimilating all this, we were still looking around wondering how the wooden beams and columns fit perfectly, how just the right amount of light enters through the glass windows and how beautiful it would be to stare at the sky in the evening (if only Mumbai skies were clear).

How the clock, which surprisingly wasn’t working, fits perfectly in the scene and how the lampshade next to us is the epitome of vintage chicness! Yup, such are the exaggerated feelings when you are not prepared for something and then are clean bowled by it.

The ambience makes everything look better. The area is huge and very spacious. and superbly lit during the daytime and transforms to a dim lit, fine dining area come evening. That’s the upper level. The lower level is still the den of activity. It is a house to comedy shows, band performances, crazy retro dance nights, book & reading clubs and painting workshops to name few. When we were here, by the evening, a workshop on knife painting led to a colourful chatter here and then, just like in the movies, the entire scene changed to become host to a movie launch party. And we sat there, hogging and marvelling!

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The menu here is a maze! There is so much variety that you are confused and yet the humble staff say that they know the variety is limited! Coming to the staff, the service is prompt and friendly and the Chef surely knows how to win you over, en route your stomach! Here is what we hogged on at Summer House Café –

Yuzu Pineapple Smash – A refreshing combination of lime, yuzu (a citrus fruit giving the drink a slight tart) and basil. Thyme and fennel seeds added a mind blowing aroma and flavour.

Blueberry Twist Smash – A tangy concoction of blueberry, lime and orange. Rosemary adds a very refreshing flavour. This one packs a sure punch!

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Yuzu Pineapple Smash & Blueberry Twist Smash

Jalapeno Cheese Poppers – Crispy batter fried poppers with mozzarella cheese and made spicy with lots of chilli flakes and jalapenos. These are better spelt as ‘perfection’! Pop these and see the cheese oozing out! But make sure you have the poppers before someone snatches them off the plate.

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Jalapeno Cheese Poppers

The Haystack Salad – Sprouts, bell peppers, tomatoes, black beans, cucumber, lettuce, corn and more! And topped or rather stacked with crispy tortilla fingers. There is a slight hint of sweetness in the salad owing to the ingredients and we would have better liked it with a little bit of black pepper if not chilli to ease out the sweetness.

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The Haystack Salad

Nachos with Salsa and Sour Cream – Fresh, crispy tortilla chip loaded with chopped tomatoes, spring onions, jalapenos, black beans, and a tangy salsa sauce. The cheese sauce and sour cream are wonderful!

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Nachos with Salsa and Sour Cream

Indian Vegetarian Platter – The intense and spicy flavours of the dishes in the Indian vegetarian platter were mind blowing. Spicy masalas that do justice to the preparations. There were three items in the platter – Char grilled paneer chunks with a smokey flavour and marinated in strong spices. Pineapple presented in a chatpata avatar that we definitely had not tried earlier. The masalas overshadowed the inherent sweetness of the fruit and left for a delicious preparation on the sticks.

Soya Kebabs were the star of the show in this platter. Soft soya, marinated in a very spicy sauce, stuffed with veggies, paneer and nuts. This one was amazing! It was served with a yoghurt based dip and a non-spicy mint dip.

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Indian Vegetarian Platter

Veg Mezze Platter – Consisted of crispy and delicious falafels, feta samosas and crispy soft pita bread. Sticky rice balls were made with the thicker rice, slightly crisp on the outside and had a filling of veggies and a little bit of cheese. The dips are mind blowing, especially the hummus. We did not really enjoy the feta samosas as they were a bit oily and a little bland for our taste.

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Veg Mezze Platter

Thai Veg Curry – Lots of exotic veggies in a superbly fragrant curry spiced with Thai herbs. It has a mildly spicy aftertaste. We loved the fact that it has just the adequate amount of creaminess and spices. Recommended!

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Thai Veg Curry

Sundried and Cherry Tomatoes, Bocconcini and Fresh Basil Pizza – Thin crusted pizza that is topped with bocconcini. The combination of bocconcini and the tomato based sauce were marvellous. Topped with sun-dried and cherry tomatoes and basil leaves, this pizza is a delight. We especially loved the crusty corners and the fresh aroma added by the basil.

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Sundried and Cherry Tomatoes, Bocconcini and Fresh Basil Pizza

Pesto Tomato Basil and Mozzarella Sandwich – Overloaded with cheese and pesto, this is a simple yet delightful sandwich in a crispy panini bread. The sandwich primarily has lots of tomatoes and a non-spicy pesto sauce.

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Pesto Tomato Basil and Mozzarella Sandwich

Tiramisu – Tiramisu here is a must have! Not only is it perfect, it also has a surprise for you! The creamy dessert is served in a glass along with rum soaked bread. We could not figure out why this bread tasted so good even after we had scavenged it through the deep ends of the glass. The chef then let us in on this secret. The strong essence and flavours that the rum bread and coffee add are mind boggling!

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Tiramisu

Mega Brownie Sundae Mug – This should be called Mega Happiness Sundae Mug! Delicious, soft and crunchy brownie with lots and lots of vanilla ice cream that was threatening to melt! Made a hell lot messy and tasty by the chocolate sauce and finished with a cherry on top!

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Mega Brownie Sundae Mug

Carrot Cake With Whipped Cream – A soft spongy cake with intense cinnamon flavour, lots of nuts and whipped cream. We loved how gooey and soft it was.

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Carrot Cake With Whipped Cream

The Ultimate Banoffee Pie – If we were not averse to bananas, this one would have been the dessert for us at Summer House Café. It is without a doubt on the sweeter side, but the toffee sauce makes you want to dig in for just another bite till you have licked the glass and the spoon and maybe even the plate! Heavenly!

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The Ultimate Banoffee Pie

Overall Experience:  First, the ambience blows you away and then you are washed over by the astonishingly delicious food and delicate flavours! We were looking at each other with baffled expression after every bite!

Food 🙂

Ambience 🙂

Service 🙂

We guess that enough explanation for the love affair we had with Summer House Café to make you wanna check it out for yourselves? We surely hope so, ‘coz we wouldn’t want you to miss out on this amazing place! Highly recommended!

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The Battle: The battle is having to get up and leave from here! Can’t we just get mattresses and sleep here?

Summer House Café – Google Maps

Summer House Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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

Café 792 [Dadar]

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Café 792 is a dose of fresh air amidst chaos and cacophony.

It is, quite literally, hidden away in a cozy corner in Dadar’s Parsi Colony. If not for the bold red circular sign at the entrance that reads Café 792, no one would be able to guess, that this heaven exists!

Café 792 is a small, quaint and peaceful café that can and will make you smile in awe. The circular sign that we spoke about stands next to the entrance of a building, in whose backyard lies this wonder. On the concrete wall is painted Café  792 in a way that you cannot miss. A gravel laden path leads us to a few tables and further to the entrance of the café. We have walked 10 steps on the gravel path and we look at each other with a broad smile. A smile that affirms the thought that we have found treasure!

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Café 792 is a Parsi owned and run café that serves an impressive variety of food from the Parsi staples to sandwiches, wraps, salads, mawa cake and more! They are the sort of place that makes a few things fresh while some are pre-cooked, heated and served. The café being a Parsi one, there are very few vegetarian options, basically, one-two in each category, so better not be very choosy if you are a vegetarian. The café also has a pre-decided lunch menu that is set for the entire month. This is majorly because they have a whole lot of deliveries and a set menu helps.

The people who run the café are soft spoken and friendly.  You will find a lot of patrons who come, give the order, patiently wait and head away with their parcels. You will also find people just sitting in a corner, sometimes even on the small wall near the plants and just sipping on tea and going about their work. The green canopy, the chirping birds and the setting of the café as a whole are welcoming and consuming. You will not want to get up and leave this place.

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Cheese Croissant

We tried a few items from the menu and were more than happy with most of them! Cheese Croissant left us with a warm, fuzzy feeling. It was perfect with oodles of cheese, just yumm!!

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Veg Mozzarella Wrap

Veg Mozzarella Wrap was excellent! Scratch that, it was beyond excellent. Lots of veggies, from broccoli to capsicum and a whole lot of cheese. Sounds meh? But what added the magic was oregano. Not only did it add a mouth-watering aroma, but also made the simple wrap a lot more interesting.

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Veg Burger

Veg Burger with a crunchy and delicious patty, cheese and veggies was a delight. It wasn’t extraordinary, but basic is all you need at times!

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Cold Coffee

Veg Slider was a mini and hipster version of our desi vada pav! Small, soft buns with a patty and cream cheese, it is something you will want to gobble down in tens!

Veg Puff was sort of confusing for us. It was more like a quiche and had a stuffing of spinach and other veggies. We liked the stuffing nonetheless!

Cold Coffee was unfortunately just average but what helped was the Lemon and Mint Iced Tea.

 It was the perfect blend and super refreshing.

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Lemon & Mint Iced Tea

The peaceful ambience made us want to spend the rest of the day, curling up in a corner, sipping on iced tea and reading a book. Who are we to say no to that need? So we spent hours here, reading, occasionally chatting and always sipping or munching on something!

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If you are tired of the mindless chatter and need a break, head to Café 792, but shhh… don’t tell everyone! Let this be the hidden gem that it is!

PS: With multiple orders of the iced tea and all that food, our bill came to a mere ₹665. We did mention this place was pocket-friendly, right?

Café 792 – Google Maps

Café 792 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