Shillong is a beautiful city, encircled by tall pine trees, a climate that is dramatically moody and some really good cafés, whose ambience is made all the more better by the various shade of the… More
From the very moment we entered Bayroute, we were mesmerized by its charm…
Bayroute is uniquely conceptualized to capture the essence of Middle-Eastern culture, all the while being very chic and stylish.
The décor makes every corner and every wall #Instagramable. Warm lighting, dust-coloured walls and kaleidoscopic window decor add a wave of calm to the entire experience. The music takes this experience a notch higher. You will definitely be transported to a beautiful and artistic magical land.
Bayroute is not only about the ambience. They have taken care to represent the culture even in the menu. If you pay close attention, the way the menus are read mimic the Arabic style of writing. Such attention to details left a smile on our faces.
Now that we are on the menu, let’s talk about the variety! They have so many options to pick from and so many options within these options! It is quite overwhelming for someone not familiar with the cuisine. We won’t lie, we ourselves knew only certain dishes till date, but we come back with our knowledge expanded and our tummies satisfied.
Here is what we ordered and fell in love with:
Arabic Date and Palm Shake – Dates are a very important part of Arabic culture and cuisine. But for us, this was the first time we tried such a combination. In fact, the newness of the combination and the word Arabic adding a dash of excitement that it is an authentic preparation made us order it in the first place. The shake also had a hint of coffee in it making it a very refreshing drink. It was not too sweet (just how we like), rich and very delicious.
Reyhan – This was a very refreshing drink. The citrus-y fragrance kept drawing our attention while we clicked the pictures. Both Basil and Orange were quite strong in the drink but surprisingly none overpowered the other.
Bayroute Kale and Avocado – A deconstructed salad or should be say deconstructed happiness? Kale, avocado, zucchini and purple lettuce tossed in a basic dressing. The tons of cranberries and the lip-smacking tamarind dressing along with the falafel patties added a lot of funk to the greens.
Muhammara – Muhammara is a Syrian red pepper dip with walnuts, garlic, pomegranate and olive oil. It has a grainy texture and had a spicy undertone. Nothing that makes you cry, but enough to tell you that it is there. We quite liked it. It came with piping hot Pita bread and pickled vegetables. This red dip made us fall in love with it and Google the recipe.
Peynir Pide – Pide is something we have tried earlier and hence knew what to expect and were not let down either. Pide is a boat/canoe-shaped Turkish flatbread with a variety of toppings. Peynir had chunks of cottage cheese and olives topped with Burrata cheese and the famous Middle Eastern spice Zatar.
Bayroute Manakeesh – Manakeesh is another flatbread but this one comes from Lebanon-Syria. A Manakeesh traditionally only had spreads and spices on it.
We tried the one that not only had the traditional spices and flavours from the Middle East but also the more contemporary mix of Nutella, Banana and Caramel.
# Labneh: Thick and creamy yoghurt, made by a technique that strains the curd of most of it’s liquid (hung curd) and renders this creamy yoghurt cheese. Garlic and lime added tanginess to it. Topped with zucchini, bell peppers and olives, this was delicious.
# Za’atar Cheese: Za’atar is an aromatic Mediterranean spice and herb blend. Loved this mix of thyme, oregano and sesame, only made more amazing by cheese!
# Harissa: Not for the faint-hearted, Harissa is the red chilli pepper paste made from a mix of chilli peppers and is most famous in Morocco, Tunisia and Libya. These two slices made us cry. Very spicy!
# Nutella: This one needs no explanation but came as a respite for the hot and spicy Harissa slices.
Overall Experience: Bayroute is an amazing place, perfect in every way. We highly recommend it!
The weekend aways makes us happy. But this time, it left us elated! Like any other day, we zeroed in on a location to satiate our growling tummies. We had heard the place we had selected – Summer House Café, is an amazing one, we just did not know the enormity of the amazingness and hence, were more than underprepared for what hit us once we landed here!
Summer House Café is a dreamy setup, a beautiful place! For us, it felt like another world! Just far away, another country, another landscape, ‘coz surely, something this amazing could not have been here all this time, right?
The white and blue facade with bamboo sticks forming a part of the wall reminded us of a shack in some beach country. Then we entered through the doors and were awestruck by the bustling area and it literally took us a few minutes to take everything in.
Looking around, we wondered, how the wooden beams and columns fit perfectly, how just the right amount of light enters through the glass windows and how beautiful it would be to stare at the sky in the evening.
The ambience makes everything look better. The area is very spacious and superbly lit during the daytime and transforms to a dim lit, fine dine come evening. That’s the upper level. The lower level is still the den of activity. It is a house to comedy shows, band performances, crazy retro dance nights, reading clubs and painting workshops to name few. When we were here, by the evening, a workshop on knife painting led to a colourful chatter here and then, just like in the movies, the entire scene changed to become host to a movie launch party. And we sat there, hogging and marvelling!
The menu here is a maze! There is so much variety that you are confused and yet the humble staff say that they know the variety is limited! Coming to the staff, the service is prompt and friendly and the Chef surely knows how to win you over, en route your stomach!
Here is what we hogged on at Summer House Café –
Yuzu Pineapple Smash – A refreshing combination of lime, yuzu (a citrus fruit giving the drink a slight tart) and basil. Thyme and fennel seeds added a mind-blowing aroma and flavour.
Blueberry Twist Smash – A tangy concoction of blueberry, lime and orange. Rosemary adds a very refreshing flavour. This one packs a sure punch!
Jalapeno Cheese Poppers – Crispy batter-fried poppers with mozzarella cheese and made spicy with lots of chilli flakes and jalapenos. These are better spelt as ‘perfection’! Pop these and see the cheese oozing out! But make sure you have the poppers before someone snatches them off the plate.
The Haystack Salad – Sprouts, bell peppers, tomatoes, black beans, cucumber, lettuce, corn and more! And topped or rather stacked with crispy tortilla chips. There is a slight hint of sweetness in the salad owing to the ingredients and we would have better liked it with a little bit of black pepper if not chilli to ease out the sweetness.
Nachos with Salsa and Sour Cream – Fresh, crispy tortilla chip loaded with chopped tomatoes, spring onions, jalapenos, black beans, and a tangy salsa sauce. The cheese sauce and sour cream are wonderful!
Indian Vegetarian Platter – The intense and spicy flavours of the dishes in the Indian vegetarian platter were mind-blowing. Spicy masalas that do justice to the preparations. There were three items in the platter – Char grilled paneer chunks with a smokey flavour and marinated in strong spices. Pineapple presented in a chatpata avatar that we definitely had not tried earlier. The masalas overshadowed the inherent sweetness of the fruit and left a delicious preparation on the sticks.
Soya Kebabs were the star of the show in this platter. Soft soya, marinated in a very spicy sauce, stuffed with veggies, paneer and nuts. This one was amazing! It was served with a yoghurt based dip and a non-spicy mint dip.
Veg Mezze Platter – Consisted of crispy and delicious falafels, feta samosas and crispy soft pita bread. Sticky rice balls were made with the thicker rice, slightly crisp on the outside and had a filling of veggies and a little bit of cheese. The dips are mind-blowing, especially the hummus. We did not really enjoy the feta samosas as they were a bit oily and a little bland for our taste.
Thai Veg Curry – Lots of exotic veggies in a superbly fragrant curry spiced with Thai herbs. It has a mildly spicy aftertaste. We loved the fact that it has just the adequate amount of creaminess and spices. Recommended!
Sundried and Cherry Tomatoes, Bocconcini and Fresh Basil Pizza – Thin crusted pizza that is topped with bocconcini. The combination of bocconcini and the tomato based sauce were marvellous. Topped with sun-dried and cherry tomatoes and basil leaves, this pizza is a delight. We especially loved the crusty corners and the fresh aroma added by the basil.
Pesto Tomato Basil and Mozzarella Sandwich – Overloaded with cheese and pesto, this is a simple yet delightful sandwich in a crispy panini bread. The sandwich primarily has lots of tomatoes and a non-spicy pesto sauce.
Tiramisu – Tiramisu here is a must-have! Not only is it perfect, it also has a surprise for you! The creamy dessert is served in a glass along with rum soaked bread. We could not figure out why this bread tasted so good even after we had scavenged it through the deep ends of the glass. The chef then let us in on this secret. The strong essence and flavours that the rum bread and coffee add are mind-boggling!
Mega Brownie Sundae Mug – This should be called Mega Happiness Sundae Mug! Delicious, soft and crunchy brownie with lots and lots of vanilla ice cream that was threatening to melt! Made a hell lot messy and tasty by the chocolate sauce and finished with a cherry on top!
Carrot Cake With Whipped Cream – A soft spongy cake with intense cinnamon flavour, lots of nuts and whipped cream. We loved how gooey and soft it was.
The Ultimate Banoffee Pie – If we were not averse to bananas, this one would have been the dessert for us at Summer House Café. It is without a doubt on the sweeter side, but the toffee sauce makes you want to dig in for just another bite till you have licked the glass and the spoon and maybe even the plate! Heavenly!
Overall Experience: First, the ambience blows you away and then you are washed over by the astonishingly delicious food and delicate flavours! We were looking at each other with baffled expression after every bite! Highly recommended!
We will go anywhere for food. Seriously, anywhere.
That explains why we took an hour-long ride in the hot sun, after a scuba session () to reach the depths of Auroville. Hidden away in the interiors of Auroville, you will find many a treasures and Well Café is one such treasure.
Wilderness is that word that defines this place the best.
Why we recommend this café?
Firstly, the food is insanely good. It is simple yet amazing. The café specialises in Mediterranian cuisine with limited options and the food is prepared fresh by the local women.
Secondly, the ambience is amazing. An open garden café with random chairs strewn under a thick canopy of trees whose trunks are covered in colourful sarees. You will find crafts made from recycled paper hanging from above. Chirping birds, a dog or two, and a few really colourful insects (we did not know God made these, this colourful!!) are your company. But don’t let this worry you, sometimes, such an ambience can do wonders!
Thirdly, the café and the entire WELL centre (that includes a handmade paper shop, art gallery, etc. ) is managed by women for the empowerment of women in this area. This place gives you a peek into their lives. Spend some time and chat with the locals and they will share their stories with you! There also is a homestay next door and in case, living amidst a thick cover and with locals is your calling, you should definitely check out this place.
Fourthly, this café also hosts musical nights and other events from time to time. The ambience is then transformed to one of those mid forest camping-party style places which makes it even more awesome.
What we absolutely love and still lust over are the Vegetable Omelette & Cheese Baguette and the Eggplant & Labane Baguette.
First I burned my tongue fighting over the super hot vegetable omelette and now I am drooling all over my laptop at the thought it. This cannot be good!
Vegetable Omelette & Cheese Baguette – The vegetable omelette was delicious on its own. Thick and so well spiced, it had onions, coriander and more. The curd cheese that was spread over the crispy pieces of bread was heavenly. Yup, we did lick it off the plate! If only we could fill like a jar or a room with it and bring it back to Mumbai!! These were served with three salads, a beetroot and cream based, a mixture of cabbage, beetroot, carrots & more and another one which had a little tart due to the addition of vinegarette.
Eggplant & Labane Baguette – Labane or curd cheese spread generously over the crispy bread, topped with smoked eggplant slices. This was another delight! This was also served with salads, a pepper spiced cauliflower based salad being one of the portions served.
Well Café is a place you would enjoy as much for the food and courteous, smiling service as you would for the peaceful escape it provides from all forms of chaos!
If you are ever in Auroville, this is definitely a place you should check out!
P.S.: Trust Google Maps, even if you feel it has lost its mind! It will bring you here.
First look at Artika Café and you feel like you are in a slow-motion video of some lost town. Time probably, literally stops here! Artika Café is one of the best places to laze around in Pondicherry.
It is essentially a black and white shot, with a random table or two adding the colours. Dry leaves and white bougainvillaea decorate the courtyard, giving the feel of a never-ending autumn. The quietness here can be the brand ambassador for Pondicherry’s ‘Peaceful Pondicherry’ tagline! This peacefulness is what drew us here and kept us here and what made us never want to get up and leave!
A narrow and beautiful shrub covered path led us to the graffiti and mural-covered courtyard. There are a few tables in the open courtyard and a few lounge chairs in the shade covered area to just stretch and relax.
There are a few tables inside as well, in an old, pretty worn-out house but we chose outside, obviously!
There is an art gallery and a shop inside, which sort of seems like the thing in Pondicherry!
Once we had taken in the amazing surroundings and rested for a few good minutes, we asked for the menu, which is another surprise. They give you a big handmade paperboard menu that is handwritten – art all the way!
There are quite a few breakfast options, sandwiches, baguettes and crepes to pick from.
They have some really good combos to pick from. The food ranges from affordable to average pricey but one can easily find something
according to their budget.
Another good thing here is the free WiFi for as long as you want.
The service is prompt and super friendly.
We had a Ratatouille and Cheese Sandwich. The aroma of the ratatouille being prepared made our mouths water! The sandwich was delicious, non-spicy ratatouille with lots of veggies like zucchini, bell peppers, tomatoes and more with lots of mozzarella cheese! It was lip-smacking!
We also had Mango Lassi which was more like thick mango pulp smoothie! It was very refreshing and filling!
Artika Café and Gallery should be where you head to, to chill on a hot summer day or to get your work done in peace. And if nothing, a few hours of peace don’t hurt!
We had an amazing time at Artika Café, do tell us about yours!!
“I think I am in the wrong place!”
“Nope, definitely, this is someone’s home. We are in the wrong place!”
This is how the conversation will go when you first enter Kasha Ki Asha – that you have entered someone’s really well-kempt home and there is no way that a café exists here. Pass by those rooms with handicrafts and khadi kurtas and bags and you reach the centre of the home which again reinforces your belief that this is someone’s home and you are trespassing!
With a small central verandah with lots of flowers, a metallic statue of the dancing God and a few females going about their business, it has got to be a home, no?
Well, it is, but it is a home converted to an art gallery and also houses a café upstairs.
Breathing a sigh of relief that we have to be hungry no longer, we climbed up the narrow staircase to come face to face with the rooftop café and then… and then we smiled!
Kasha Ki Aasha is a dream we all had but never got. A terrace with cane furniture to laze on, lots of plants to keep it cool…. a space where we could relax and spend all our days and evenings and maybe even nights! Away from the chaos and cacophony, one can chill and be at peace at this café for as long as they want. And delicious homecooked food doesn’t hurt either!
We spent hours here, hogging and just sitting, doing nothing, at some points not even talking…just being quiet! That is the type of place Kasha Ki Aasha is. And if you love such places, you will love this one!
The women who run the café come upstairs from time to time to ask for any order or you can go to the stairs and holler for someone but apart from that, they let you be. No one keeps poking asking if you want anything more, something we Mumbaikars, or for that matter, metro-dwellers are not used to!
Coming to the food, they have a small menu and also serve some specials apart from the menu. The quantity is decent and one cannot help feel that the prices are a little high. That kept aside, the food is delicious! Their European and Thai thalis are hot selling and pretty famous! They also serve beer and wine. We stuck to mostly Indian options or Indian with a twist. Here’s what we tried and loved:
Traditional Indian Breakfast – Soft steamed idlis with a bowl of sambhar and a groundnut and coconut based chutney. The sambhar is non-spicy but had the perfect maa-ke-hath ka taste! The quantity of sambhar is a little less and you may have to ask for another bowl. The chutney is delicious too, with no hint of spiciness.
Chappati & Dal Fry – Two large and soft chappatis with slightly crispy centres and a small bowl of dal. Dal again was non-spicy but yummy with lots of onions and ginger. This preparation is again served with the chutney.
Pizza Dosai – Before we tell you what it is, we will tell you that it is delicious!! Two plain uttapams with lots of veggies on top – chopped tomatoes, onions, capsicum and more. This is then finished with lots of cheese! It tastes very slightly sweet owing to the tomato based sauce used to mix the veggies and the batter but the combination overall is amazing and something different!
Onion Dosai with Chutney – Crispy and thin onion dosas. These were again bang-on yummy and can be had even without that chutney!
Black Bean Burger – The black bean burger has two black bean based cutlets with a slightly charred and smokey flavour, topped with tomatoes, capsicum and onions. It is served with a cold macaroni salad that is spiced with black pepper and is delicious. Each of these can be had separately and the combination is lip-smacking.
The café is open only until 7 p.m. which is really sad considering the ambience is perfect for spending your evenings!!
All in all, Kasha Ki Aasha is an amazing place with good food and should find its way to your list of places to visit in Pondicherry!
Sometimes, wrong roads lead people to the right places.
One such wrong road led us to discover Canteen 18. We were headed towards our hotel and we saw a small little eatery, at the corner of a street, just in the passing. Little did we know a split second would have that much impact. The moment we were fresh and ready to feed our growling tummies, the first place that we mentioned, together, was that small eatery at the corner – Canteen 18!
We walked to the eatery, located in the lane behind a very busy MG Road. A sharp contrast from the chaotic main road, this street and Canteen 18, both, are a solace. First look, and you are bound to smile. A small cooking area, with 3 tables and a capacity to seat not more than 10 people, this place is charming in all certainty.
The place is run by two people and sees an influx of locals and foreigners alike. The menu is not very large in general and really small, like 5 items small, for vegetarians. And yet we recommend you go here, even if you have to pick the same combination in a burger and a croissant (this is for vegetarians, others have options), we still strongly recommend you do not miss out on this one! Have a bite of their burgers or croissant sandwich and you will know why!
We tried the Paneer Veggie Burger and totally loved it! The patty had a slightly charred and smokey flavour and went so well with the molten mozzarella. Add to that their lip-smacking Barbeque sauce and it was heavenly!
We also loved :
Veggie Croissant Sandwich > A slightly crisp and buttery croissant that was stuffed with veggies, sauces and mozzarella, just like a sandwich would. But it tasted soooo soo good!
Affogato, which was only ₹90 – a perfect treat!
Canteen 18 is a dreamy place and definitely something you have to treat yourself to. Imagine a quiet road, open-air cafe, aroma of delicious food filling the air. Doesn’t seem much like India? Well, that’s where Pondicherry will surprise you!
We don’t even wanna imagine how beautiful this setting would be in monsoons! Another Pondicherry trip seems like a great idea at this moment!