By Amruta Shetty
Puducherry, fondly termed “Pondi” is often frequented by seekers of solitude, history lovers and leisure travelers alike. Steeped in a rich colonial history with traces and impact of the Dutch, English and the French evident even today, Puducherry is a magical melange of old world charm and modernity. Apart from its awe-inspiring beaches and distinct colonial architecture that transports you through time, it also plays host to several cafes that transport you back to a time when the breaks were longer, meals savored, food loved. A lazy day at a quintessential French cafe is undoubtedly among the most fulfilling pleasures in this lovely town. Unfortunately, the slow-paced lifestyle is slowly disappearing and so are the cafes. Before you start yearning for a simpler time where you could make a whole day out of visiting a cafe, here is a quick guide to all the charming French Cafes that capture the essence of this seaside city.
There might be plenty of cafes in Puducherry that may claim to be ‘iconic’, but Le Cafe is among the few that stands true to its testament. A beloved local staple, it invites patrons to enjoy the salty sea breeze and savory treats in its relaxed seafront setting on Promenade Beach. While here, nibble on a flaky croissant, smear generous portions of butter on your baguette and wash it down with a steaming hot cup of organic South Indian coffee. The menu also features decadent cakes, quick bites and an extensive variety of teas. Their outdoor patio is a perfect spot to soak in some sun and admire the views of the glimmering blue water lapping against the shore.
Pro Tip: The cafe tends to get crowded as the day progresses so make sure to head here early in order to grab the best seat. Also, their cheesecakes and brownies are worth drooling over.
In a neighborhood brimming with gorgeous cafes, Chez Francis (erstwhile Carte Blanche) might well be among the most wonderful that White Town has to offer. Situated in a beautiful 18th-century restored hotel, it is a tranquil oasis that transports you back in time. The harmonious blend of white and green is a soothing sight for jaded eyes and the layout of this cafe is reminiscent of the bygone Colonial era. Flanked by pristine white pillars on either side, the wrought iron seating placed under lush trees and the antique memorabilia hung on the walls lend an old world charm to the place. The menu is an interesting fusion of French and South Indian food and their signature creole fare beckons people from far and wide. Chez Francis is an ideal place for spending an afternoon reading leisurely or ending the day with a romantic candlelight dinner.
Pro Tip: Try their flavor-packed Creole Prawn Curry and Saffron Panna Cotta.
Although its name suggests otherwise, Satsanga is a fuss-free French establishment at heart. Soaked in a laid back vibe, Satsanga is warm and inviting at once and boasts a legion of fans. From local patrons who regularly visit for its scrumptious food, to the weary tourists who end up here for a few moments of relaxation after a day of sightseeing, Satsanga makes everyone feel at home. Brimming with character, it has a rustic, worn-off-the edges appeal and there is a high chance of meeting interesting people from all walks of life. Prepared using organic and fresh produce, the seafood delights and meaty delicacies are great but don’t discount the vegetarian food.
Pro Tip: Try their perfectly seasoned Beef Steak and Spaghetti Ala Bolognese. Keep an eye out for the occasional art exhibitions held here that showcase the work of local artists.
Cafe des Arts
Charming through and through, Cafe des Arts is another of the city’s favorites. Although bright yellow walls featuring quirky artwork reel in crowds of curious travelers, the inside of the cafe is quite a contrast to its cheery appearance. Inspired by the timeless classic French style, the tiny door of the cafe opens to a narrow path that leads to an aesthetic white colonial house. The utterly cozy vibe, somewhat vintage look and the delightful artwork may well be reason enough to recommend it, but Cafe des Arts has a lot more going for it. From the croque dishes, crepes to the baguettes, everything on the menu is delicious. An enchanting outdoor garden and a small library at the back where you can curl up and read to your heart’s content add to its appeal. It is the best place to settle down with a laptop, or perhaps a notepad if you are more old school, and write meaningful prose on life. All you need is a large cup of their well-made coffee for some inspiration.
Pro Tip: Kickstart your day by digging into their sumptuous breakfast items.
Crêpe In Touch
Off most tourists’ radar, the cheekily named Crêpe In Touch offers some of the best sweet and savory crepes in Puducherry. Colorful cushions and quirky wall posters liven the place without making it seem pretentious and the cafe’s cozy and homely atmosphere might tempt you to linger longer than you intended. In addition to an extensive variety of crepes and galettes, the menu also features a full line of coffees, teas, and other refreshing drinks.
Pro Tip: Their signature Far au Breton cake is absolutely decadent and a must have when here.
Go ahead and lose your heart to Puducherry!