Is this Pondicherry’s best restaurant?
Very often, day trippers from Chennai arrive in Pondicherry with time and room in their tummy for just one big meal – typically lunch on a weekend. The usual question – if I have time for one meal in Pondicherry which is that one restaurant I should visit? I still remember the time that Rendezvous was Pondicherry’s default stop with a menu that combined their version of French/Continental cuisine with Indian fare. A lot has changed ever since, driven by Chennai’s relationship with White Town – a tiny piece of Pondicherry that still invokes this town’s French connection. ECR made it possible for Chennaities to drive to Pondicherry on impulse just to sample their favourite dessert or steak.
First it was restaurants like Le Club and Sat Sanga and more recently other fine dining destinations like Le Maison Rose, Carte Blanche (at Neemrana’s De L’Orient) and Dune where everything from Creole (at least that’s what they call it here) to Millet Biryani to French Onion soup is in the mix. Villa Shanti is one of the many charming heritage villas that have morphed into cozy boutique hotels. It’s the hotel’s restaurant that has become it’s calling card.
Some restaurants in Pondicherry try too hard to be French or Continental – probably the pressures of being in White Town. I first visited Villa Shanti in 2013 and aside from the ambience, the menu stood out. No lame attempt to look French but just great food that didn’t try hard to fit into any cuisine type. I’ve been there at least thrice ever since and despite the occasional stutter in service (especially on a busy weekend), the food quality has not slipped.
The Prawn and Pomelo salad is one of the reasons I keep coming back. It’s a clever rework of a Thai glass noodle salad – the pomelo fills in for glass noodles. And then there’s the sinful (‘flourless’) orange and almond cake with served with a chocolate mouse – outstanding textures and flavours. The menu finds the balance between comfort food and innovations; perfect for those who mix adventure with caution. The figs with betel nut leaves salad, the Meen moilee and chocolate eclair are all terrific. Villa Shanti is probably that one restaurant you should visit if you have time for just one meal in Pondicherry.
Villa Shanti is at Suffren Street, Pondicherry. (Open from 10 am – 11 pm everyday). Phone: (0413) 420-0028. Meal for 2: Rs 1500-2000 (Without drinks)