Puducherry may be rooted in French heritage, but it does not lack in creative quirks, especially in its cuisine, says Ashwin Rajagopalan
Auroville, Aurobindo ashram, churches, beaches, scuba diving and Osudo lake. Yes, we are talking about Puducherry. But do you notice something missing? The food, of course. Puducherry is not only famous for its seafood, but is also considered one of the best when it comes to French cuisine. It’s like a slice of France 7,500 km away from it. Baguettes, croissants or steaks, Puducherry serves them all, and serves them right. But that’s not all that Puducherry chefs have to offer. There are some authentic Creole and Mediterranean restaurants, delicious South Indian fine dining, and even north Indian fare to cater to its growing tourist population. But the one thread that weaves this all together is its quirkiness.
What the chef at Carte Blanche, Hotel de l’Orient’s courtyard restaurant, calls Creole cuisine is an amalgamation of French and Southern American cooking styles that traces its origins back to New Orleans. The prawn green curry, for example, has an interplay of Western herbs such as basil and rosemary, and Indian ingredients such as coriander, mint and green chilli. Southern Americans may disapprove, but this Puducherry version of Creole does not lack in innovative quirks. In fact, it is this that has let chefs outside the shackles of a large corporate hotel chain dare to think beyond the traditional.
Puducherry’s White Town (the old French Quarter) is teeming with unique dining options.
Another example is Rendezvous, which can claim to be the big daddy of Puducherry’s restaurant scene. It now has a loyal legion of fans from Chennai to Bengaluru. A lot of Chennaites make it to Puducherry for a late breakfast on sheer impulse. Rendezvous is famous for its traditional French recipes with, of course, its little twists. Its French onion soup is still legendary, though. Puducherry’s White Town (the old French Quarter) is teeming with dining options. There’s Le MaisonRose, a charming outdoor café with garden seating under a sprawling neem tree, perfect for dessert and coffee any time of the day. Then there’s Villa Shanti, a boutique hotel that oozes French colonial charm. The classic Thai glass noodle salad here uses fresh pomelo instead of the regular noodles.
But not all restaurants are bending backwards to create a small piece of France in India. Le Maison Perumal, a CGH Earth boutique hotel, focusses on local Puducherry cuisine. Its fried rice papads and appams are especially good.
And then there is organic cuisine. What began in the heart of White Town has now spread to beachside luxury getaways, such as Dune on the fringes of Puducherry. The resort has earmarked a few acres for organic farming that allows it to operate on a “farm to fork” model. It’s the resort’s Fun restaurant’s signature millet chicken biryani that is the scene stealer. So if Puducherry’s dreamy charm and French architecture don’t lure you back, its eclectic dining scene sure will.
Then there is organic cuisine. What began in the heart of White Town has now spread to beachside luxury getaways
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