By Juhi Bansal
Food is a very important factor for K and I before we zero in on a place to holiday. Having said that, so far, we’ve never had a bad food experience on any of our trips. While cooking using local produce and ingredients is our usual modus operandi when travelling abroad (apart from a lesson in local culture, it also helps keeping costs down especially in Europe), when we are travelling within the country we like to eat out extensively. That was the case in Auroville as well and oh boy how much we freaked out!
Some things that stand out at the eateries in Auroville:
- The wait staff is more often than not Aurovillians, their kids or student interns who ve travelled from across the world to spend time in Auroville.
- No one is in a rush. The meals are leisurely even if the portions are small. People bring their books or just sit and talk. You hardly ever see anyone on their phones.
- Almost all places close down by 5.00 PM or so. Very few places serve dinner.
- You can find vegan and vegetarian versions of everything. Infact, we saw very few non- vegetarian items on the menu at most places.
- They generally bake their own breads or source them from the Auroville Bakery. They are yum!
- Same case with veggies and cheeses etc.
- They have a tipping box at the counter. They do not appreciate patrons tipping individual staff members.
- Some places only take Auro card so it may serve you well to get one made as soon as you land there.
- A meal for two at almost every place will not cost you more than Rs. 1000.
Auroville has a range of eateries from cafes to restaurants to bakeries to canteens. Here’s our list of 5 that we loved (and frequented more than a few times during our short stay there). In no particular order:
- Naturellement Café
This was our favourite, favourite place in Auroville (including Iy’s). It was our go to place most afternoons, especially because we were staying right next door at Afsaneh. They have an interesting menu and a kiddie corner which was Iy’s permanent place to be. Must trys include their open Scandinavian Sandwich, Tajine and Gnocchi.
- Well’s Café
Another open- air café, it is actually a gallery cum eatery. Set in the wilderness with the deco largely made of discarded stuff, the décor is very interesting. Another favourite place of Iy’s because people bring their pets to the café. The menu is largely Mediterranean and very healthy. Must trys: Mediterranean platter, Lebanese Omlette and Sabich.
- La Terrace
Situated on top of the Solar Kitchen, there is a large tree that welcomes you to the café. The menu has items from all cuisines but I must urge you to have the meal of the day. The café appreciates self service (I like how you have to separate your dishes, spoons etc and segregate your waste into dry and wet). You all but clean your dishes here.
PS: The café only accepts Auro card for payment. Must trys: Meal of the day, Galettes.
- Solar Kitchen
This is the Community Dining Hall at Auroville. While the food in itself is not very elaborate (it is cooked and served by volunteers), the spirit and the energy at the kitchen is palpable. They serve lunch (only) to about 300 people in person. You have to book atleast a day in advance and payments can only be made through Auro card. Don’t miss the meal for anything! It is only open for lunch from 12.15 PM to 1.15 PM.
- Dreamer’s Café
This is one of those few places which are open till late (meaning 9.30 PM). This was our daily evening coffee hang out place. Iy would sit and colour and have gelato while the husband and I had coffee (and cakes- they have an amazing cake selection). It’s amazing how much you have to talk about when there is no deadline or set routine to follow!
Psst: they offer a 20% discount on Auro cards. But, cash and other cards are accepted as well. Must trys: Coffees, muffins, cakes.
- Tanto Trattoria
The pizzeria had to make it to the list. One because of the pizza crazy husband and two because it was probably the only place that was open for dinner every single day. We did our customary several visits to the place. You must try the buckwheat bases and ravioli there.
There are several other must visit places like the Auroville bakery, Marc’s Café, Right Path Café, Solitude Café and ofcourse food served at the various International Centres. We tried this traditional meal at the African Pavillion and loved it!
Auroville is delightful. People serve you with a smile on their faces, remember your names and most importantly, indulge your kids.That’s too much kindness than I am used to and definitely more than I deserve!