I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve traveled to Pune for work and play, conferences and recreation. Ever since my maternal grandparents moved to Pune over a decade ago, a lot of weekends were spent there with family which included movies, shopping and most importantly stuffing our faces with food so that we’d come back five kilos heavier. Anything lesser, and my grandmother would take it as a personal insult. I was back after almost a year, and this time I was looking forward to trying out my old favorite eating places again. And trying out the newly recommended and read about foodie joints. So in absolute random order, here is my Pune food diary – including the old and the new. (Keeping it short and sweet here. Listing out only my absolute favorites from the trip, along with a few pictures. I could do an elaborate review also, but then that would result in me having to write a book. Any publishers interested? Lol.)
1. Dorabjee and Sons:
Every time someone asks me for Parsi food recommendations in Mumbai, I tell them to take a bus to Pune and eat at Dorabjee’s. My visit this time around, was consistent with all previous times; hearty food, memories, tradition, and the same waiter serving me who has been working at Dorabjee’s since 30 years! This institute of a restaurant, established in 1878 is situated on a picturesque street that screams out – Bawa! This place proves that good food comes first in the restaurant business, everything else later. Go on a Sunday and try out their mutton Dhansak (Rs. 250/-) and Patraa fish (Rs. 200/-) which is unavailable on other days. Round it up with an awesomely caramelized Lagan nu Custard (Rs. 50/-) which transported me back to a Parsi wedding. Jamva Chalo Ji!
2. The ‘Mastani’:
A Mastani is local to Pune with many stalls scattered across the city, and I doubt you find it anywhere else. It is a combination of a super thick shake, and an ice-cream both of the same flavor. My first tryst with the Mastani was when I was a child, I remember being huddled up in the back seat of a car with my cousins on a dark, cold night savouring my Mastani. Cut to, many years later, the Mastani tasted the same. I absolutely love the Mango flavour which at 50 bucks for a small glass fills your stomach, yet greedily makes you want more. I’m Deewani for this Mastani. (I apologize for this shitty pun, but I just had to!)
Everyone seems to call this place, the ‘Candies’ of Pune and I do see some resemblance between the two. Shitty self service queues that go on forever, and mad scrambles for a good seat, but delicious VFM snacks that make up for everything. The sandwiches, puffs, rolls, pastries, cakes, burgers, sundaes, juices, and more are so so reasonably priced. Yet so so delicious. The 30 rupees chutney sandwiches tasted exactly the same as they do on every visit of mine.
4. Kayani Bakery:
Pune is filled with bakeries but Kayani stands above all the others. Whoever comes to Pune comes with ‘Shrewsbury biscuit from Kayani’ on their shopping list. Everyone braves the serpentine queues, military rules, and erratic timings to get their share of biscuits and cakes. I’m partial to their Mawa cakes the size of an adult fist, that I eat for breakfast along with ‘Choi’ or milk. Continued that tradition this time around too.
This place is not new in any means, but new for me as I visited it the first time inspite of all my trips to Pune. Originally called Burger King, and later re-christened to Burger, after the fast food chain took legal action against them. The owner is clearly a crazy Beatles fan, bordering on OCD, with so many posters all over the place. Burgers are the king here – but these are old school burgers with large patties, soft bun bread, and an overdose of mayo and tomato ketchup. We were told to wait atleast 30-40 minutes for our order, or else buzz off, which was an alien concept for me. Aren’t burgers fast food after all? But it was well worth the wait. Our King Beef burger (Rs. 80/-) was bigger than my face and eating one will ensure you’ll be too full to eat your next meal. The Chicken Hot Dog (Rs. 60/-) was macabre looking and completely avoidable. We loved the Chicken mix surprise (Rs 80/-) which came with roast chicken, chicken sausage, chicken salami and left us pleasantly surprised. If you ever visit Pune, don’t be an idiot like I was all this time and leave without visiting Burger
2. GoodLuck Cafe:
Each visit I ensure going to a new Irani cafe which the city is generously blessed with. After a lot of recommendations from Twitter folk, I trek upto GoodLuck Chowk where this cafe sits, for some good ol’ sweet, Irani Chai and generously buttered Brun Maska (Rs. 40/-). Our Omelette Pav (Rs. 60/-) and Bhurji pav (Rs. 50/-) were yummy and the soft bread overpowers even the egg here. The breads were good enough, just to be eaten plain. Don’t ever return from Pune without a visit to an Irani cafe, or else face the wrath of this Irani!
This beautiful restaurant situated in the heart of Koregaon Park has the most romantic outdoor seating, especially with Pune winters adding to the charm. I almost did an about turn when I realised it was pure vegetarian, but I’m glad I didn’t. I had an amazing Italian meal paired with delicious wine under a canopy of stars, and I didn’t miss the meat one bit. Our Tortellini Zarba (Rs. 500/-) was the best tortellini I’ve ever eaten. The stuffing of mushroom and cheese was absolutely delectable, in a cheese sauce that was so rich. Our ‘White pizza’ (Rs. 460/-) with potatoes, onions, cheese, sun dried tomato, proved that you don’t need tomato sauce as a base to make a really good pizza.
4. Independence Brewing Company:
You don’t visit Pune and not visit one of Pune’s famous breweries. This time I went to Independance Brewing Company, and sampled all their in-house beer brews. Whenever you’re there try something called a ‘Beer Flight’ which for a measly 60 bucks enables you to try 100 ml. samples of all six of their beers which is an absolute steal and great way to try newer brews. My favorite of the lot was the milder, citrus-ey Belgian Wit Beer. (Rs. 240/- for 500 ml.) With respect to breweries, Pune kicks Mumbai in the butt!
With that I wrap up my Pune Diaries. This in no way is a comprehensive list, and only tops off a few of the places I visited this time. There’s a limit to how many meals one can eat in a day, unfortunately. Sigh! The next time I go back, I’ll add on to my list. Suggestions are always welcome. And I’ll surely be back to Pune soon. After all, I leave a tiny piece of my heart in the city everytime I visit.
(The author dined anonymously and paid for her own meals.)