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Right up your Rue: Your Weekend Guide to Pondy

The next time the itch to visit Auroville strikes you, but you’re in no mood for haggling for cabs or bikes, board a bus at the Puducherry bus stand.  

Businesses, and restaurants in Pondy and Auroville are stirring awake after the summer break, yet June is still far from frenetic. Try a new restaurant in town or explore the handicraft villages around Auroville this weekend.

Tourist Ticker

Ahoy!: The next time the itch to visit Auroville strikes you, but you’re in no mood for haggling for cabs or bikes, board a bus at the Puducherry bus stand which will take you straight to the Visitor’s Centre in Auroville. The services have been resumed after quite a while, through the efforts of residents in Edyanchavady, we hear. Buses run at 7.30 a.m., 1.30 p.m. and 4.30 p.m. from the Puducherry bus stand. In the return direction, buses are timed at 45 minutes behind each of the above timings.

Quick Fact

What’s in a name? One thing you wont complain of in the French Quarter is the presence of street signs. While it is true that not many will know if you ask for a certain ‘Rue’ (street) by name, the names are all etched clearly in white lettering on a bright blue background. Apart from the colour code, the typeface, styling and font used on the enamel signboards is similar to those of the ‘Rues’ in France and Vietnam-influences of both cultures persist here till today.

Summer Cooler:

If a meal doesn’t sound right without soup, then it gets difficult to continue the ritual for sticklers of that tradition when the temperature is soaring above 35 degrees. Which is why cold soups or gazpachos are easy to find and a must-taste while in Pondy. Though the recipe is originally Spanish, cafes and garden restaurants that serve French food have heartily embraced the light and refreshing gazpacho. Be it Café de Flore on Beach Road or Café des Arts on Rue Suffren or La Maison Rose on Romain Rolland, you will find interesting variations of the gazpacho all around town with cucumber, watermelon, tomato, basil, all starring in the soups. The almond-cucumber gazpacho at Carte Blanche, Hotel L’Orient is in a league of its own.

TUCK IN: Sea breeze, snapper and strictly Asia

The pull of the seabreeze is magnetic in Pondy- little wonder all roads in the city end up at the Promenade. But no where is the breeze perhaps as lulling as from the rooftop restaurant on the hotel which shares its name with the seafront. There is a sense of the surreal while the sea crashes on the rocks a few feet away and below, while only a faint hum of the buzz on beach road reaches your ears, and the Old Lighthouse looms so near, that you could almost reach out and touch it.

But as of last weekend, the Lighthouse restaurant at The Promenade Hotel has a new name and a new menu.  In a city that abounds with French and by that extension Continental cuisines and influences, the ‘Bay of Buddha’ decidedly has nothing to do with Europe- it embraces Asia.

The restaurant was a long-time dream of Jacqueline Kapoor, (who co-owns the hotel with husband Dilip Kapur of Hidesign) and has widely travelled in Asia. For all its European food fetish, Pondy falls woefully short when it comes to Asian cuisine. The Pan-Asian restaurant aspiresto fill that vaccum. The city also has cultural ties with Vietnam and  Cambodia, which were also under French rule, and Vietnamese food from hole-in-the-wall shops were a thing of the past here.

Though seafood was conspicuous by its absence in the special preview held recently, it is the chief boast of the fine dining Pan-Asian restaurant, says chef Prabhu. The preview seemed keen to drive home the fact that Buddha Bay does not intend to make vegetarians feel left out (which is quite the case in many a restaurant in Pondy) with spicy kimchi, corn critters flavoured with kaffir lime, dim sums packed with carrots, pickled cucumbers, sushi wrapped around tofu and delightful grilled mushroom skewers, making for starters.

If you can’t be bothered to choose, simply opt for the set four-course menu (vegetarian or non-veg) which puts together a list of the chef’s recommendations. For those who swear by what the French call ‘fruits de la mer’, there is banana leaf-wrapped red snapper, miso and wine-marinated Japaense lobster, Teppanayaki scallops and more. Desserts are not strictly Asian, but popular continental confections come with an Asian twist — like the crumbly holy basil cheesecake or the lemongrass crème brulee.

Apart from the name, little has changed in the décor, except for a forlorn Buddha surrounded by a water feature, who seems to have been installed to lend credence to the name. But again the breeze is all the ambience you need.

If you’v missed the pancakes at Morgan Café or the Middle Eastern recipes from Well Café, you can rest easy. Both Auroville eateries are back after the summer break. Meanwhile, garden café, Naturellement, will close for a break till July.

WHAT TO DO:

IN AUROVILLE:

Take your yoga a notch higher: There’s a lot of talk about yoga than usual at the moment, with International Yoga Day around the corner. If you’re a yoga enthusiast looking for a weekend that has a healthy twist to it, try a session of Acroyoga at Arka in Auroville. The tranquil settings of Auroville make it conducive for a Sunday morning session of acroyoga, which combines acrobatics with yoga for building strength and flexibility. Sessions are between 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. Call 9047722740 for details.

Fashion something of your own out of bamboo:  Have you wanted to do something that that blends the past with the future? The Bamboo Centre in Auroville offers opportunities to fuse ancient Egyptian techniques with modern design it its bamboo workshops. The centre hosts workshops for people to learn all about bamboo and make use of it in daily life. Learn how to use bamboo to make your own furniture from June 17 to 19; go one step ahead and learn to build with bamboo from June 24 to 27. For details, contact 0413- 2623806 or visit www.aurovillebamboocentre.org

Learn a village craft: The villages around Auroville like Kottakarai, Alankuppam and Sanjeevinagar are hubs of artisans today, who have picked up various crafts from Auroville and, today, churn out their own handcrafted goods. Join Mohanam Cultural Centre for a tour of the craft villages on Sundays at 9.30 a.m. Sign up for cooking classes on Saturdays and where you can learn how to create a local dish made with produce harvested in the neighbourhood. Register by calling 0413 2623806 or visit www.mohanam.org

In Pondicherry:

Food for thought: Indulge in some intellectual banter on Saturday at 6 p.m. at Tasmai, Kuruchikuppam. Author Sachidananda Mohanty will read excerpts from his recent book Cosmopolitan Modernity in Early 20th - Century India. The book may change your perceptions that cosmopolitan attitudes are borrowed strictly from the West or are equated with Americanisation, say the hosts. Listen to Mohanty present an Indian side to the debate, drawing from Tagore, Sri Aurobindo, the Mother and more.

Dance and eat, the Latin way: La Casita on Easwaran Koil Street hosts a social evening on Sunday, which includes food, dancing and conversation. Visitors are encouraged to bring food or drink they’d like to share and enjoy Latin dancing at 5 p.m. and a movie screening at 7 p.m. at the Bueno Fiesta-Social Club evening.  Dress code is any colour on the flags of Latin America!


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Printable version | Jun 23, 2021 3:06:09 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/right-up-your-rue-your-weekend-guide-to-pondy/article7306213.ece

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