Lucknow, Pondicherry, Malvan or Mangalore- A weekend getaway from your city, to explore through your tastebuds.
What do you look for in a vacation? Beaches to bum at? Mountains to climb? Gorgeous vistas to click at with your Digitial SLR and convert into picture perfect postcards? Or ancient ruins and castles to play pretend histories at?
Some of us travel with our taste buds. For us, travel is a way to expand our culinary horizons. Talk to us about Rome and we will remember the too-sweet gelato that brightened up a hot day and mention Kolkata to see us smile at the memory of chingri malai. The smells wafting from street food are our GPS, and the city’s Zomato listings our Lonely Planet.
If you are like us, you will love these weekend getaways – cities with a distinct culinary viewpoint that you can explore over three meals or thirty. These are holidays for a hungry soul. Bon Apetit!
There are those who go to Pondicherry to meditate, and others who are searching for light. We- we are just searching for beer. Home to nomads and seekers from across the world, Pondicherry’s food scene mirrors its eclectic mix of European influences with Indian tadka. It is not unusual to find menus written in French and ingredients imported from Italy jostle with spicy Tamil curries in the same restaurant. But it is unusual to find a waitstaff who will hurry you into finishing a course or hover around till you empty his table. So sit back, slow down and enjoy the wonderful flavours that the city has to offer.
Start the day with the freshly baked produce at Auroville Bakery (the earlier you get there, the more variety there will be; stragglers are often left staring at a left-behind lukewarm tarte or two). Have lunch in the gardens of Tanto Pizzeria, enjoying a delicious thin crusted wood oven pizza (with locally grown ingredients). End your day at local institution Le Club with a portion of filet de poisson au vin blanc and stay hydrated through the day with plenty of chilled beer.
There is also Auroville to see, and lovely handcrafted knick knacks to hunt for in Rue Suffren, but those can wait for another trip.
How to get there: Only 3-4 hours by road from Chennai, the drive to Pondicherry is also an excellent opportunity to taste authentic podi with idlis at one of the many highway restaurants.
Don’t get a Lucknowite (that’s what they call themselves) started on kebabs or on the differences between Avadhi and Mughlai cuisine. Avadhis pride themselves on their dastarkhwan and can wax lyrical about the supremacy of their kebabs and their biriyanis when compared to other interlopers for hours. And what they tell you is true. No food court in the world can replicate the flavours of the galawati you get in the streets of Chowk, and no fancy 5-star restaurant with liveried waiters can give you the kind of qurma that you find in the streets of Lucknow.
But perhaps to pace yourself for this day of carnivorous delights, you will do best to begin with a steaming hot plate of poori-aloo from your nearest halwai in the morning. (Don’t tell the Avadhis that potatoes don’t count in their 5-a-day. It is practically the only vegetable they care to acknowledge). Lunch has to be at the clichéd Tunday Kababi near Naaz Cinema in Aminabad . The place is a bit of an institution now so you may have to wait a while for your kabab-parantha (the good news is that it takes about five minutes to finish). Skip the overly stuffed Basket Chaat of Royal Cafe and instead have a crisp aloo tikki at Jain Chat Corner late in the evening.
End your day fine dining Lucknowi style at Oudhyana. Yes, the locals will scoff at your chickening out and eating at the Taj. But the crispy goodness of the sheermal and the nutty after taste of the sevaiyyan will help ease the bitterness of their disdain.
Ohh, and make sure you stop for a malai pan or boondi ka laddoo at Ram Asrey somewhere in between!
When you are not busy eating chat or kebabs from every roadside stall, spare some time for the quiet desolation of Residency- a relic of 1857’s mutiny, and for the bizarre knick knacks that populate the halls of Chhota Imaam Bara
How to get there: You can choose to go overnight by train, or take a two-hour plane from Delhi. But if you really want to relax and let go in classic Lucknow style, take a day train and sample the cuisine from stations as varied as Bareilly and Sandila.
If you can’t stop dreaming about the masala crab, pomfret and prawns that are an essential highlight of your annual holiday to Goa, it’s time you made a pilgrimage to Malvan. This charming coastal town located mid-way between Mumbai and Goa offers its own variant of Konkani cuisine that makes liberal use of coconut, dry spices and kokum.
Start your day at your hotel with a breakfast of egg bhurji or anda pakoda. For lunch, head to Athithi Bamboo or Sagar Kinara for a sampling of Kombdi Vade (rice vadas served with Malvani chicken curry), Bangda Fry (mackerel) and usal (beans curry). Wash down the spices with the bubblegum pink solkadi – the local drink made of kokum and coconut and garnished with ginger or garlic. With its open air seating next to the beach, local favourite Dariya Sarang provides the perfect setting for dinner – order the pomfret thali which comes with the catch of the day cooked in a spicy curry, crispy fried pomfret , rice, roti and solkadi. Chaitanya also serves up a mean prawn curry and some fantastic seafood, but they now have a branch in Mumbai.
Spend the time between your meals visiting the iconic Sindhudurg Fort, admiring the Portuguese architecture of the old bungalows and buying local sweets and spices. The more adventurous can also work up an appetite by going snorkeling and scuba diving or taking a dolphin safari.
If you have the time, explore some of the other towns in the vicinity, in particular Ratnagiri, the mango capital of Maharashtra; Kunkeshwar, where we had the best misal pav of our life at Abhiruchi Restaurant; and Chiplun, whose Hotel Abhishek serves up big fat vade that are best enjoyed with Malvani mutton curry.
How to get there: You can take an overnight train or bus from Mumbai to Kudal, which is 30 km from Malvan. The town is also well connected with Pune and Goa. But the best way to do this trip is by road, driving along the beautiful Konkan coast and enjoying the ancient forts, virgin beaches and mouthwatering food along your route. Here is a recommended itinerary for this road trip.
The poor man’s Goa is one of the most prosperous and sought after business destinations in India. Apart from pristine beaches, charming bungalows and good infrastructure, the port city of Mangalore offers a mind boggling array of delicious food that represents the various communities who have made this town their home – from Tulus to Mangalore Catholics, Saraswat Brahmins, Bunts and many more.
There is so much to eat in Mangalore that two days are just not enough, so gear up for an early start! Start your day at New Tajmahal Hotel for an authentic Goud Saraswat Brahmin breakfast and the best coffee in town. Have a mid morning snack of flaky mutton puffs at Vas Bakery – you’re sure to get a few extras packed for later. For lunch, head to Mangala Hotel for a bite of the Freddie, the restaurant’s world famous specialty. Leave some space for sanna-dukra maas (pork curry with sannas or rice idli), chicken stew and squid tawa masala. Evening is for the piece de resistance – a seafood orgy of kane rava fry, anjal masala fry, crab/prawn sukka and prawn ghassi, polished off with endless plates of appams and neer dosas. If you, like us, believe that heavenly delicacies such as these warrant a fancy place, then head to Cardamom at the Taj Gateway; but if you want great taste at a great price, then Machali is where you should be. Round up the day with gadbad ice-cream at Ideals Ice Cream Parlor in Hampankatta, the most famous eating joint in Mangalore.
Somewhere in between all this, you need to find the time to sample Bunt style ghee roast, Kori Rotti, Mangalore buns, Patrode…we did warn you two days won’t be enough!
How to get there: You can take an overnight train or bus from Bangalore, or make a roadtrip of the 350 km distance. Our favourite way to make the journey is by taking the Yesvantpur Mangalore Expess day train – the thrill of riding on seemingly airborne bridges and diving into dark tunnels (not one or two, but close to 50!), with the scintillating beauty of the Western Ghats all around, is unmatched.
This article was originally compiled for Holiday IQ; a travel website for discerning Indian travellers.
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