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On the food trail in Pune
Subash Sangam |
January 24, 2006
We continue with our reader-driven series on must-sample restaurants and eating places across the country.
Subash Sangam uncovers three restaurants in Pune, each with a USP of its own.
The diffident, introverted cousin of India's finest metro, Pune, has long been content with being a follower.
Recently, though, the city of the Peshwas has witnessed high-velocity growth, earning epithets such as 'Oxford of the East' for its educational institutions and 'voice and data back office of the globe' in recognition of burgeoning BPOs and call centres. This has led to the creation of a dining out culture. Though a late starter, Pune has developed a taste for fine dining.
Some traditional thali restaurants are still widely patronised, but the focus of this piece is more towards emerging trends.
Koregaon Park shot to prominence in the late 80s and early 90s after the establishment of the Osho Ashram. Large streams of visiting expatriates saw aspiring restaurateurs set up shop with international cuisines on offer. Now, however, there are many more eating out options to choose from.
For leisurely meals
Among the host of restaurants breathlessly jostling for space on North Main Road, one of my favourites is Prem's Restaurant. Timely service is unheard of here. Neither is it expected. The waiters do not buzz around you trying to get you to vacate your table quickly. The norm here is a leisurely 3-hour meal.
Luckily, the food is worth the wait. The sizzlers and Chinese food is suitably modified to Western taste buds. It is also one of those rare restaurants that offer enough variety for vegetarians.
The Sea-food Soup (in land-locked Pune, this fresh fish dish is a wonder), Mixed Veg Bhuna (smoked vegetables, Lucknowi style), Lamb Sizzler and Shanghai Fried Rice are amongst the fastest moving dishes here. Apple Pie and Lichee Custard are superb desserts.
As for alcohol, Prem's Restaurant only serves beer. But you do get to meet all kinds of interesting folk -- homespun astrologers, soothsayers and handicraft vendors, all entertaining visiting foreigners.
As the place is more like a garden restaurant with a green roof, it is equally suitable for lunch and dinner. A meal for two averages around Rs 400.
Got a large appetite?
My second pick is Deccan Harvest, an approximate 15-minute drive from downtown on the Sholapur highway and on the right turn towards Mundhwa. It is situated within one of Pune's most pioneering townships, Magarpatta City.
The restaurant's design is unique, with an overhead giant antennae-like structure, a wide open space on one side and a pool on the other. Service is friendly and polite, though a few of the stewards display unintended brashness. And yes, the portions are good value for money.
The Tandoori Platter is something my non-vegetarian friends swear by. The Hyderabadi Dal and biryani are also superb, as is the Mushroom Curry.
Don't forget to give the mocktails a try.
In terms of pricing, the average cost of the main dishes is around Rs 90-120.
A meal for four, with soup, main course, side dishes, desserts and mocktails, costs around Rs 900. Be careful while ordering though; the portions are larger than what is served in most restaurants.
Head here for a business lunch
Next stop: Carrot & Celery, Sun & Sand Hotel. The coffee-shop at the erstwhile Holiday Inn property offers one of the finest buffet lunches in the city. I have visited the place often and have never ceased to be amazed by the delightful freshness in terms of range and quality. There is something for everyone, be it soups, salads, main courses, tandoori snacks, or dessert. Priced at Rs 400 per head, it is a good place to take a business associate for lunch.
Situated on the fashionable Boat Club Road, it comes on your right after you enter Pune from Mumbai via the Express Highway. If you're coming by train, just ask for the road to the Pune Central shopping mall at the railway station.
Among the new restaurants that have cropped up, North Western Frontier in the Kalyani Nagar area (specialising in Kashmiri cuisine) and Garden Restaurant in the Chandni Chowk area overlooking the express highway are great stops.
For vegetarians, Ramakrishna is a tastefully designed, fast service restaurant close to MG Road.
Subash Sangam, 33, is the Chief Operating Officer, Delivery Center-India, Telegenisys, a US-based BPO.
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