New Year, new series!
Since I spend so much time in cafes when I travel, I thought I'd start cataloguing some of my favourites, city-wise. Starting this series off with the last place I visited - Pondicherry / Puducherry / Pondy.
So if you're planning to visit Pondicherry, these are the places to go for your cuppa joe (and one place to avoid).
Located in the boutique store Ma Pondy Cherie, Crêpe in Touch is a kitschy-chic crêperie and cafe near the Immaculate Conception Cathedral. I wandered in here on my last day in Pondy and how I wish I had found it sooner! You walk in through the boutique (which has an eclectic collection of clothes, furnishings, and decor items) and the cafe is located in the inner courtyard of the building. There's a level upstairs as well. I loved the ambience with its artfully cool seating and Indo-French decor.
The cafe has a large selection of crêpes of which I picked Brehat (pronounced bre-a), a buckwheat crêpe stuffed with cream cheese, raisins, and walnuts. It was absolutely decadent and a delicious start to the day. You have the choice of ordering either an electric or stovetop espresso; I went for the latter. The cafe uses the local Lakshmi brand of coffee, and the espresso was perfectly brewed - definitely the best coffee I had in Pondy! I also tried a slice of the cafe's house cake, Far Breton, a traditional cake from the Brittany region of France - a delicious flan/baked custard-like cake with a dark, golden-brown top, and caramelised apples on the bottom, what's not to love?!
My rating: 5/5
This one was located right opposite my hotel, so I had several cups of coffee here during my four days in Pondy and I stopped by for breakfast one day as well. A long garden path leads from the main road into a large, quiet courtyard of a house converted into a cafe and a shop. The al fresco seating is perfect for an afternoon cup of coffee or for a leisurely breakfast. I loved the cool blues and whites of the ambience and the quirky animal motifs painted on the walls. Even the door to the loo was quirky! See below, left.
The coffee at Artika was spot on, hot and strong. Service was quick and warm, and on day two didn't even have to specify how I wanted my coffee (espresso with hot milk on the side); the server remembered and brought it out for me. I had a fab breakfast here one day - a flaky croissant stuffed with ham and cheese, with a fried egg (sunny side up) on top.
My rating: 5/5
Actually, Zuka is a chocolateria, which serves coffee from its sister concern Cafe Ole next door. So when I asked for a cortado (how happy I was to see it on the menu!), they brought it in from Ole. The coffee turned out to be perfectly brewed and well balanced with just the right amount of milk.
Since Zuka is known for its chocolate, we tried their hot chocolate, which turned out to be the real deal - melted chocolate with a dash of milk, unlike the milky, pale brown swill that most cafes serve. I was quite impressed with the quality of chocolate itself - a high percentage of cacao and not overly sweet. Incidentally, they also have a cafe/shop in Chennai as well.
My rating 4/5
Unlike other Pondy cafes, this one doesn't have an interesting ambience, neither does it do any French-inspired decor. I was a bit disappointed when I walked in since it looked a bit dingy with its low lighting, and generic tables and seating.
I had read online that this place is known for its waffles so that's what I went for - waffles with peanut butter & cream. The waffles were an excellent balance of soft and crispy, and were delicious even without any topping. The PB & cream toppings were served on the side thankfully, as the combination didn't really go well together. I ordered a macchiato, which was quite nice, no complaints
My rating: 3/5
This is a patisserie rather than a proper cafe, though they do have some seating available. It's located on a very busy street and has a weird signage - the actual name of the patisserie is a small sign while the proclamation "French Delicacies | Concept Store" dominates the shopfront.
The cakes and pastries looked way too creamy for my liking so I decided to stick to a cup of coffee, which was OK. They also have a selection of gelatos and the husband picked the lemon gelato since that was his favourite when we were travelling in Italy! The gelato was excellent and the lemon flavour was quite pronounced - just the way we like it. At the cash register, the couple in front of us ordered 'chocolate escargot'. I was intrigued and asked for one too, imagining a snail-shaped chocolate to be offered to me. The 'escaorgot' turned out to be a pastry roll studded with chocolate chips. It was supposedly warmed up but they didn't seem to have done that. Overall, an OK experience...
My rating: 3/5
This one came up on pretty much every 'best cafes in Pondy' list I read, so obviously I had to try it out. The first day I decided to check it out it was closed (Tuesday is a weekly holiday in Pondy, with many shops and cafes closed). I went over for breakfast the next day. The ambience is quite lovely - a large garden area with a covered bar on one side, and a sprawling 'house' where each 'room' had a different decor and seating area. I was ushered into one of the inner rooms, which looked like a nice, homely living room with a large cut-out of Rajinikanth in one corner. I loved the large windows that let in plenty of sunlight, and the pretty pistachio green side table in the room.
I ordered a coffee and sat down with the menu. 15 minutes later the server came back to tell me that the coffee machine had broken down and it will take another 10-15 minutes for me to get my coffee. I decided to wait (because what else is there to do in Pondy but chill out?) and I ordered a crepe, only to be told that it was unavailable at breakfast time (!!!). I picked another dish but that too was unavailable, because 'we don't have bacon right now'. I finally settled for one of their baguette sandwiches.
While I waited, the cleaning lady came to sweep the place. Now the cafe opens at 8.30 a.m. I was there well past 9.15 a.m. and it's quite a bad form to carry out the dusting and sweeping when you have customers about. After a 20-minute wait (I was keeping track) the server came and practically banged a plate of food in front of me - two sorry looking halves of a baguette topped with a combination of ham, cheese, and tomato, which was under-seasoned and absolutely insipid. And I was also told that the coffee was not going to happen. I managed to down a quarter of the sandwich and went off to Artika for my coffee, made just the way I like it.
The next day, I went back to Cafe des Arts because I had to try their coffee in the interest of this blog post (I'm a glutton for punishment). This time I sat at the bar, right where the coffee machine was placed, and it was working, thankfully. I had to remind the server twice and the owner (who was manning the bar) three times before I was served a disgustingly milky macchiato, which made me instantly regret returning to this place.
While I loved the ambience, the food and service were quite pathetic, and I really wonder how this place made it to so many 'best of Pondy' lists. More style, and less substance, hmph!
My rating: AVOID
So that's my two-bit about the cafes in Pondy. Have you visited this lovely French corner on India> Which was your favourite cafe? Leave a comment below and let us know.