Hot on the vegetarian restaurant trail in Pondicherry

It might actually be a great idea to savour the vegetarian side of menus while you hit the East Coast Road to Pondy. We invited food blogger Pallavi Gupta to suggest a few charming eateries in and around Pondicherry and Auroville that celebrate the uniqueness of its peculiar cuisine

Surguru Spot
For authentic South Indian food, Surguru Spot, a vegetarian restaurant, is perfect for a quick bite. Service is super fast service and its menu is a delight for southern delicacies. Order their Surguru Special Thali to get a taste of different curries and rice preparations or go authentic with plain Dosa, Masala Dosa or Rava Masala. Served only for dinner, the Chilly Parotta is a must-try.
Call: 413-4308084

Cafe Des Art
Cafe Des Art in the French quarter offers fresh food and has a quaint, quirky vibe to it. Pic/Pallavi Gupta

ECR Dhaba
Located near the crocodile bank on the East Coast Road, ECR Dhaba is a great stop for north Indian food. With a good variety for vegetarians, the restaurant serves a big menu of Indian and Indo-Chinese cuisine. Try the Gobi Manchurian, Dal and Paneer, accompanied by naan, tandoori roti or the regular chapati. Priced a bit on the costlier side, ECR Dhaba boats of a rustic ambiance.
Call: +918056011121

Unwind at La Maison Rose
Unwind at La Maison Rose. Pics/Pallavi Gupta

Villa Shanti
A hotel with contemporary French architecture, this restaurant and  bar has a fine selection of vegetarian food. An open courtyard surrounded with plants and lanterns, it is perfect for dinner. Start the evening by sipping on their cocktails, accompanied by the Green Papaya Salad or Masala Fried Vegetables (a tweak on Masala Fried Chicken listed on the regular menu). Vegetarian curries and Dals are flavourful but for a Continental flare try, the Zucchini Pancakes with walnuts or the Mr. & Mrs. Smith Pasta. Sign off your meal with the Orange & Almond Cake or Crepe Suzette.
Call: 413-4200028
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Villa Shanti

Tanto is the only place that serves wood-fired pizza between Pondicherry and Auroville. It tends to get crowded over weekends and holidays. Try one of the pizzas from their huge variety accompanied by fresh salads or pastas. End the meal either with the Panna Cotta, Tiramisu or a Fresh Fruit Sorbet.
Call: 413-2622368
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Cafe Des Arts
Tucked on Rue Suffren in the French pocket — Cafe Des Arts is a charming find. A historic Franco-Tamil house converted into a cafe, the place has a whimsical vibe. All dishes are prepared with fresh ingredients. Try their  Tabbouleh Salad with fresh juices or else opt for their Crepes or Toasted Baguette Sandwiches.
Call: 413-4210540
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A panoramic view of Pondicherry with the Promenade Road that faces the Bay of Bengal. The union territory offers a surprisingly wide variety of vegetarian fare

La Maison Rose
A beautiful café located in a restored building, it’s ideal to relax over good food. Located in a courtyard surrounded by plants, trees and a fishpond, it offers dishes from across the world. Vegetable Couscous and Grilled Zucchini Carpaccio are great vegetarian choices. Accompany your meal with their La Maison Rose special drink (gin or vodka with lychee juice, soda, mint and ginger) and end on a sweet note with the New York Cheesecake.
Call: 413-4210806
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Naturallment Cafe
Tucked away in the foliage of Auroville, Naturallment Garden Cafe is a quaint space with a variety of pastas, salads, fresh juices and breads. An al fresco style-cafe surrounded by a lush garden it’s ideal for brunch or lunch. All food is made with local, organically grown ingredients. Try their Bruschettas, Gnocchi with Tomato Sauce and Cheese, Herbed Crepe with Tomato Sauce and Tiramisu. Naturallment also has a wide selection of jams, jellies, granola, syrups and pickles all produced in-house. A must-visit.
Call: 413-2622034
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Hotel Mamalla
One of the most popular tourist spots is Hotel Mamalla. Located near the famous spot of Mahabalipuram — Mamalla is a vegetarian restaurant serving traditional South Indian cuisine. This air-conditioned restaurant (always a relief with high temperatures here) offers quick service and prices are extremely affordable. Try their authentic Dosas, Uttapams or Thalis — the flavours are bound to give you a gastronomic welcome to the region.
Call: 044-27442060
Log on to:  www.mamallahotels. com/motelmamalla

Pondy: The melting pot of cuisines
The union territory of Pondicherry was once called ‘The French Riviera of the East’. It was a French colony till 1954 and hence offers a huge French influence in its culture and cuisine. Apart from fresh seafood, it boasts of charming French cafés that offer coffee and baked delicacies. The Tamil cuisine gives equal competition to the French food along with the Creole cooking that make Pondicherry a melting pot of cultures and food.
Time: It takes roughly 3 hours to reach Pondicherry from Chennai.
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