Gina writes:

Sorry for the length, folks. These reviews are mostly meant for others considering or planning a visit to Pondicherry.

Au Feu de Bois

We went here for wood-fired pizza one night. There is seating on the roof, which is nice. The street that the restaurant is on is relatively quiet, so it's a fairly peaceful ambience. We had an Italian salad (basil, tomatoes, and mozzarella) and a spinach and bacon pizza. Our order was ready in less than 15 minutes, which was a good surprise. The salad was pretty good: the tomatoes were ripe and juicy, the mozzarella was plentiful and of decent quality, and the vinaigrette dressing was tasty, but not overpowering. There was very little basil, but it was good to have a taste of home, since this is one of Corey's favorite salads. The pizza was delicious! The "bacon" was more like tiny pieces of diced ham, but oh-so-delicious! The crust was thin and baked to perfection. We ordered the large size pizza and were surprised that it was only a 12-inch pizza (approximately), so it left us satisfied, but not stuffed.


For weeks, we had been talking about our Pondicherry steak dinner. Corey especially was looking forward to a big plate of juicy beef. There were about 5 places that we could have gone for steak, but I chose Satsanga based on some positive on-line reviews. Everything about the restaurant except for the steak failed to meet our expectations. We waited for about 20 minutes before even receiving our menu. The staff were rushed and unorganized. I was looking forward to a glass of wine, but the price of a glass of wine (even the low-quality Indian varieties) was more than the price of a steak dinner (about 250 rupees or 5 USD), so I just couldn't justify it. The soups (French onion and fish) were decent, but the sides (mashed potatoes, French fries) were sub-par. Surprisingly, smoking is allowed. Being a popular hangout for the French, there was smoke all around us. The "blue cheese" topping on my steak was instead some sort of mediocre white sauce (bechamel?). Fortunately, like I said, the steaks were great. The cut of meat was tender and the smoky grill taste was tasty. For some reason, the price of the steaks was the same as the price of chicken dinners, pasta meals, and others, so we were pleasantly surprised at the quality and quantity. Well, we got what we wanted...and nothing more!

Daily Bread

After our long train trip, we arrived in Pondicherry just in time for a late lunch. We decided to walk around near the hotel and find a place that looked to be simple and quick. I thought I remembered reading about Daily Bread, so we went in. Stepping across the threshhold of the restaurant is like teleporting from India to America (or any other Western country). The air-conditioning hits you in the face and delicious baked goods are all you can see. Corey ordered a tossed salad that was so delicious! No lettuce (not really available in India), but cucumbers, green peppers (capsicum), carrots, onions, tomatoes, cheese, and homemade croutons, all topped with a perfectly balanced mustard vinaigrette. The veggies and cheese on a baguette (toasted and melty!) were so delicious, too. On our way out, we chose some pastries to go. This decision hooked us to this restaurant for the next 3 days...the chocolate-filled doughnut literally brought tears to my eyes when it was served fresh out of the oven to me one morning, the eclair was topped with high-quality chocolate that melted immediately when I touched it, the danishes and croissants were flaky and light, the savory options like the chicken bun (spiced chicken filling baked in a white bun) were great for quick meals when we were on the go, the loaf of farmer's wheat bread that we brought home with us was hearty and delicious. Each pastry was only about 20-25 rupees (50 cents) and a meal for the two of us came to about 200 rupees (4 dollars) The only disappointment was when we verified one morning that "classic burger" meant beef burger, then dreamed about it all day until dinner, when we were told it wasn't available! Corey had coq au vin instead, which was a surprise to find, but was done well. I had spinach canneloni that sadly, was not very good. In any case, we were in Pondicherry for 5 days total and probably climbed the stairs to Daily Bread 8 times! Highly recommended!

Hot Breads
Hot Breads and Daily Bread are about 30 feet away from each other, their signs/logos look nearly identical, and their offerings (of pastries at least) are quite similar. Corey and I came up with quite a few scenarios for the similarity. Hot Breads is smaller than Daily Bread and feels more like a coffee shop than a restaurant. One thing they have that Daily Bread doesn't is a list of combo meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The breakfast options (the only combo we tried) was reasonable priced (80 to 120 rupees) and included juice, coffee, eggs, fruit, and toast/croissant/danish. The coffee especially was well-made and beautifully-presented. Also, they seem to have more breads in loaf form for takeaway. (And their chicken bun beats the pants off of Daily Bread's!) All in all, a good alternative to Daily Bread, especially if Daily Bread is running low on some pastries or if you want a sampler platter of a meal. The lunch and dinner options included things like mini pizzas and chicken nuggets, which I would've liked to try, but we didn't get the chance.

Hotel Coromandal

Highly recommended. Just a half-block from Mission Street (one of the main streets), but on a side street, so it's very quiet. The staff are friendly enough, but the owner is really fantastic. He's happy to answer any questions and provide advice. We booked a non-A/C room, but none were available when we checked in, so we were allowed to stay in an A/C room for the first 2 nights at no extra charge! When we were moved to a non-A/C room, we were a little hesitant, since it was so hot, but the room was well-ventilated and had a functional and relatively quiet fan that kept the temperature down. The rooms themselves are basic, but clean. The mattresses are softer than most I've slept on in India. If you want to relax, there's a terrace with greenery and comfortable seating that seems seldom used. The free wi-fi was a great bonus for us! For this level of comfort, the Coromandal was the cheapest that I found (700 rupees per night for non-A/C, 900 for A/C).

After reading positive reviews of in the travel book, it seemed like a good place for a leisurely breakfast. The cafe was closed, though, with vague directions to the other location. Just after we gave up on finding it, we did find it. The interior is gorgeous, dark wood and nice artwork. The ambiance is okay, quiet and calming, but with an undercurrent of pretension. The prices are high (80 rupees for a tiny espresso!). The food is decent, but nothing special. A few days later, we saw the original location was open, so maybe the environment (and prices?) there are more welcoming.

Sri Krishna Sweets
Indian sweets are generally not to our liking. They're usually varying combinations of sugar, butter/oil, and flour, fried and molded into different forms that all taste the same, cloyingly sweet with one-dimensional flavor. So it was on a whim that we entered Sri Krishna sweets, partly because of the possibility of air conditioning, partly because I had read positive review of the place online. Corey had the smart idea to ask to try "whatever their best sweet is" and was rewarded with a piece of mysurpa. While it looks like some other Indian sweets that we've seen, the taste is much more interesting. It basically tastes like fine brown sugar that melts on your tongue and you know while eating it that it must be so unhealthy, but damn, it's good! We ended up buying a small box of it and worked our way through it over the following few days. Mmmmmmysurpa!

I read about Auroville in the guide book and online and thought the "experiment in unity" sounded like an interesting, though kind of far-fetched, idea. I was interested to learn about this community of many nations, trying to live together in peace, keeping in mind environmental issues and spiritual awareness. The village/community isn't marketed as a tourist attraction, so our choices for learning more were to 1) take a guided tour and meet some of the communities or initiatives that interested us or 2) make our way on our own and have access only to the visitor's center. The guided trips that we found were too expensive for us (650 to 800 rupees (about 15 USD), so we hired an auto to take us to explore on our own. The area, 10 km north of Pondicherry, is beautiful and peaceful.

However, Auroville itself is spread out in clusters over a large area, and the visitors center is not near any of these clusters. So in the end, we read about the history and initiatives of Pondicherry (information that I already read online), walked the 1 km to the "approved viewing spot" of the golf-ball temple called Matrimandir, shopped in the various handicrafts shops there, and had lunch at the cafe that I think is mainly for visitors. Disappointing, but we should have known better.

Auroville Cafe

The high point of our Auroville experience was lunch at the cafe. The menu consisted of a good number of continental dishes, like salads and pastas, at reasonable price, even though it was a tourist attraction. Corey chose to order Indian; his veg biryani and chapatti were okay, but nothing special. I ordered a salad (Salad Provencal?) and it was amazing! Lettuce (finally!), the usual cucumbers and tomatoes, but also feta cheese, bean sprouts, beets, carrots, and a light dressing. My drink was great, too. I ordered Radha consciousness juice, kind of as a lark, but it was actually a delicious drink made of the syrup of aparajita flower and some sugar. After lunch, we bought a bottle of aparajita syrup to take home with us!

Cafe des Arts
A review of this place mentioned a ham and cheese sandwich. That was enough to get Cafe des Arts on the list of possible meal destinations. It was Sunday and a national holiday when we finally had the chance to go, so Corey called to make sure they were open and even asked if they had a ham and cheese sandwich! When we got there, we regretted not coming earlier in the vacation, when we were specifically looking for a place to veg out for awhile, because the ambiance is great. There's a variety of seating: outdoor patio tables, rooftop tables, and couches and chairs outside but under an awning/roof. And art everywhere, since it's the restaurant portion of an art gallery. The music was eclectic, but nice. The staff were friendly. The ham and cheese sandwiches really hit the spot. A little expensive (170 rupees), but worth it.