After wandering the streets of Pondicherry for a day or two, I wondered if I should go to Auroville on a day trip or stay for a week. The recommended cafés and eateries in the White Town Area of Pondicherry had turned out to be duds and I was happier to go to small restaurants recommended by the locals. I may be a very rustic traveller on the road but thanks to my evolved taste buds, I happen to be a very picky eater.
On a chance phone call with a friend who happened to have been staying in Auroville for over a month, he suggested that I should ditch the Pondicherry idea and come and stay at the huts in Auroville. We had randomly met in Nongriat earlier, and like travel stories that brief meeting in Meghalaya gave enough pointers for him to instinctively tell that I would love Auroville’s greenery. One fine morning, I hired an auto from Pondicherry and arrived in Auroville.
Best Cafés & Restaurants to Eat in Auroville
Before I had even set foot in Auroville, the name Tanto’s had been thrown at me by Auroville regulars. I was told it is an authentic Italian restaurant run by two French brothers (or was it Italian brothers?!). I had first passed by Tanto’s Pizzeria in the auto itself, near the Kuilapalayam Village.
Even though I wanted to eat at Tanto’s from the very moment I reached Auroville, but as they say good things take their own sweet time; it happened as the very last meal of my stay. Tanto’s has a relaxed vibe and an outdoor kitchen with an open-air wood fire oven. It had rained just before we reached, and the al-fresco sitting area chairs were all empty. We sat right opposite the oven and the wafting aroma of freshly made pizzas made me hungrier than ever!
We ordered a pasta and two different varieties of pizza. The base of the pizzas was being freshly made with dough and with a wood fire oven around, we were very hopeful of the quality. We sank in heaven and gobbled up our pizzas in no time! And the pasta was excellent too; and seemed to be freshly made in-house. Their ravioli is said to be sinful!
In Pondicherry itself, I had been given a taste of the Gelato ice-cream in this area when I stumbled upon GMT (Gelateria Montecatini Terme), that is an ice-cream parlour on the promenade in Pondicherry. I was really impressed by their flavours and tried it multiple times in the 2 days I stayed in Pondicherry.
Of course, I had no idea at all what awaited me in Auroville. On the street, I spotted two Italian Gelateria – the cute white & blue Il Cono & Gelato Factory located on the opposite side of Auroville Bakery. I was mentally debating which one of these I could try (especially after the success at GMT in Pondicherry). I walked into Gelato Factory one day, the Italian owner Francesco Carboni was sitting on the other side of the counter. He explained to me the subtle differences between Gelato & ice-cream and the nuances of making it.
What is Gelato?
Gelato is different than ice-cream. Its base is natural fruits and is made with milk having fat content less than 10 per cent.
And as I had my first scoop, the rest is history. Auroville is your best bet for high quality gelato at affordable prices. For a price range of 80-120 per scoop, it is not expensive at all. Gelato ice-cream is 100 % natural, vegetarian, healthy and has a low fat content. The varied flavours of this artisanal Italian ice-cream are sure to delight gelato connoisseurs. Gelato Factory has vegan gelato ice-cream as well.
Naturellement Garden Café
Auroville is such a haven for food lovers that sometimes it becomes difficult to know the right places to eat. One day when I was wandering on my rented scooter (scooty), a pretty French girl asked me for a lift… Even though it was a very funny sight to drive like that, with her dog occupying the front part of the scooter, she suggested that I should try Garden Café and Well Café.
Naturellement Garden Café is located in a secluded area inside Auroville and took some searching to get here. It has all the forest café feels and has many seating options for various kinds of ambience; indoor, rooftop, couple, and in the open air surrounded by trees and pretty lights. They play excellent music in the background too. But most importantly, the food here is freshly prepared and is delicious. I remember trying two or three dishes and all of them turned out to be perfect. Their pesto gnocchi was heavenly!
Naturellement Garden Café also sells natural and organic jams, marmalades, fruit syrups, cereals, pickles and pesto.
Well café specialises in Mediterranean cuisine with excellence in hummus, labana cheese, falafel, salads. The tahini feels very authentic (I was told that the owner is a Greek, maybe thats why!) The Mediterranean platter is highly recommended.
It is located very close to Garden Café and is set in the jungle with interesting decor largely made of discarded stuff. The ambience is peaceful, chairs are spread under a thick canopy of trees whose trunks are covered in colourful sarees. Crafts made from recycled paper are also used for decoration.
Solitude Organic Farm
Where do I begin? Krishna McKenzie’s words will blow your mind away. For the current generation who scarcely cares where their food comes from, this might be an eye opener. Terms like permaculture and do nothing farming will be used, and you will realise the significance only when you are relishing the thali.
It is expensive, at 240 Rupees a plate and won’t look much; but the ragi rolls are out of this world tasty and the dips, chutneys and other accompaniments will keep you happy long after you have finished eating. Juices and smoothies at Solitude Farm are made with flowers and everything at this small café in the farm is grown in-house. Spending some time at Solitude Farm is one of the must have experiences in Auroville. Psst. Highly recommend trying the juices; Radha’s consciousness and also the one made from aparajita flower.
This one was my secret find for affordable local food in Auroville. Sustenance Farm is another farm dedicated to organic produce and is run by Mr. Ramalingam. Lunch is served on a banana leaf and consists of the staple fare of rice, sambhar, rasam, different vegetables and chutneys and a juice made of local produce. Price is kept at a very reasonable 80 Rupees.
Sustenance Farm is a rustic place to eat and footwear must be removed before stepping into the dining area. Breakfast is also served at sustenance farm and there is no fixed menu for it. This place is handy for those looking for a real and authentic taste of local food, and also for long term stayers because other places in Auroville are expensive.
Bread & Chocolate
I had been passing by this fancy looking eatery everyday in Auroville and was somewhat skeptical of dining here because of the very catchy name. As the days went by, among other recommended places – Bread & Chocolate’s name also came up. So, when I was leaving for Mahabalipuram in the morning, there was the possibility of one last breakfast in Auroville and I hitchhiked from my guest house.
Bread & Chocolate is a chić café with gorgeous wooden interiors, aroma of coffee, well groomed staff and a specialised menu. Even their breads are made in-house and I was enamoured by the heavy and lavish breakfast. Plus the chocolate drink is made from a single origin beans grown somewhere around Auroville itself. A relaxed time savouring the various delights here will cost you anywhere between Rs. 400 to 600; but it will be worth it.
An open air terrace with a very relaxed vibe, La Terrace is popular for the meal of the day. Even though it was a warm and humid day, the shade of the huge tree helped us keep cool. My friend tried their sandwich which turned out to be excellent, and the coffee and another smoothie/shake was really tasty as well.
The most popular lunch time eatery in Auroville. It is recommended to make lunch reservations because it is possible that the food is finished before the late entrants can order! Solar Kitchen is run by volunteers and is the community dining hall of Auroville. Lunch is a simple affair of different varieties of rice, dall, veggies and salad – but one must check this place for the Auroville vibe.
Auroville’s most widely recommended place, I was told to try their baguettes and croissants. I tried twice, unsuccessfully; because they are so popular that they get sold out by noon. So the only way to try them is to get there quickly in the morning. That said, when I finally tried the croissant and baguette, I was slightly disappointed. Maybe the weight of expectations did it, but I was frankly not interested.
Apart from breads and cakes, they also make pizzas, quiches, tarts and pies. Auroville Bakery is near Kuliapalayam and is open from about 6.30am to 5.30pm.
Located inside the visitor’s centre in Auroville, Dreamer’s Café is a crowded place because of the convenient location. It is one of the few places open in the evening too and is a good hangout for coffee and cakes.
I also saw a signboard with homemade gelato written; but after the Gelato Factory I knew where I would go for Gelato!
Youth Centre every Saturday – Pizza Night
If one is planning to stay for a week or two in Auroville, then spending a Saturday evening at the Youth Centre is a great idea. It is a quirky space for the youngsters, with cool graffiti, a pool table and two giant wood fire ovens kept under a roof.
The college kids from various parts of the world sing and dance and play music and games, and all play a part in making lip-smacking wood fire pizzas. For 150 Rupees per person, this is another interesting experience in Auroville.
Marc’s Cafe – Roast & Toast
For the best coffee in Auroville, look no further. They also have a variety of products on sale, including coffee beans, dark cacao powder and many other coffee based mixtures. It is a small café serving other foodstuffs too and is located on the main road near Kuliapalayam.
I had eaten smoked tofu from Auroville at a lovely homestay in Himachal in Gunehr and the name had stuck. So, when I was in Auroville, the first thing that I did was to find out where to get it!
AuroSoya is exactly the place to go for healthy food lovers. It is located just before the entrance to Naturellement Garden Café.
La Ferme Cheese
La Ferme is the oldest handmade farm cheese maker in Auroville. They use traditional and sustainable techniques for making cheese. The goat and cow milk is supplied by their own dairy and also by farmers from surrounding villages. Their cheese is made from natural whole cow milk, salts, vegetarian enzymes and seasoning cultures. The different varieties on sale are farm cheese, gruyere cheese, ricotta, parmesan, cheddar cheese, gorgonzola cheese, auroblochon cheese, feta cheese and jeera cheese.
Mango Hill Cheese
Run by a hotel of the same name, Mango Hill Cheese focuses on making natural cheese with ferments from different countries. Their packing comes in 200 gram round shape and the different varieties of cheese on offer are : Blue cheese, Cheddar, Colby, Farmer Cheese, Borsalino, Feta, Mozzarella, Parmesan, Gouda cheese.
Among other places I saw but did not try were Mother’s Grace Café and Farm Fresh in Kuilapalayam. Right Path Café was recommended to me for organic health food. Dharma Swasti has an incredibly beautiful setting and interiors, plus great food options for vegans.
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