I’ve always loved Bombay. So when I moved here a year back, I knew I had to make the most of my 3 years here. In no time, I felt like I could call the city my own. Baroda, my hometown, will always be a special city for me but Bombay had managed to encapsulate me in its realm. Jeet Thayil had once rightly said, “I found Bombay and opium, the drug and the city; the city of opium and the drug Bombay.” Bombay was a drug and it managed to woo me completely. I was of the opinion that no other metro city could compete with Bombay. I believed in the “Mumbai is a city, Bombay is an emotion” ideology.
Last month, I happened to visit a really close friend in Pune. I’d heard so much about Pune: of the abundant educational and employment opportunities, of how it was a great place to settle and of how it had preserved its culture in a way that Bombay had not. Before the trip, I knew I wanted to explore Pune, but I was certain that I could never love Pune as much as I love Bombay, I knew I would still think Bombay was better, I thought Pune was just another big city trying to compete with Bombay. But I couldn’t have been more wrong.
One thing I hated about Pune was the explicit lack of road sense. People drive haphazardly on the roads without any fear. But then, Pune doesn’t have the traffic that makes people in Bombay go crazy. You never get stuck in Pune for hours and as you drive, you can see trees and gardens around you, you see temples and synagogues around and things like these are delightful to watch.
One misconception that a lot of people have about Pune is that it is a ‘dead’ city. So many people have told me that Pune is boring and that there is nothing to do during the weekends and that they can’t wait to go to Bombay or Delhi and party. During my trip, I found Pune to be an extremely lively and welcoming place. I went to quaint little cafes, legendary eateries and high-end restaurants and pubs; I even had anda bhurji and maggi from roadside stalls in the middle of the night. I saw the quiet of Pune and the chaos and it wouldn’t be wrong to say that the perfect balance of these two was what made me love Pune in the first place.
As far as food was concerned, it was a very mushroom-y weekend for me. I tried a lot of mushroom dishes and I loved them all. Pune is a highly underrated destination as far as food is concerned. I discovered some very good places to eat in Pune and I was satisfied with most of my findings.
Here are some of the best places I visited in Pune:
- The Urban Foundry:
Urban Foundry is a newly opened resto-pub in the Balewadi High Street, which now houses some of the most interesting places in Pune. The seating area is large and the ambiance is very intriguing. A lot of thought has gone into designing the place. The USP of the place, however is the food. The fusion of new and old dishes has been done very well and some of the fusion dishes found here cannot be found anywhere else. I tried the Thecha mushrooms; Thecha is a spicy Maharashtrian chutney which is eaten with bhakri. Urban Foundry serves stuffed mushrooms topped with Thecha chutney. This dish made me grab a glass of water right after the first bite, but it was delicious and after some time, I didn’t mind the spice. Urban Foundry also has a 6 bottle pack called ‘pop and chug’, which includes 6 premixed cocktails in small bottles. This was also very good and well-priced.
2)11 East Street Cafe:
11 East Street is housed in the centre of the city, in Camp. It has been running successfully since the past 8 years and I could see why. It is a cafe, restaurant and bakery, all in one. The ambiance gives out a typical London vibe and the dessert bus adds to it.I continued my mushroom tasting session here by ordering a dish called ‘Mushroom with love’, which is mushroom curry with rice. It was delectable to say the least. I also ordered a Bombay mojito which was very well-made. The desserts stole the show though. We had the red velvet pastry, the banoffee pie and a really good dessert called ‘Drops of Jupiter’ wherein caramel sauce is poured on a ball of chocolate. The waiters here used to perform Uptown Funk very often and they performed that night as well,on popular demand. Conclusion- must-visit!
A visit to Pune is incomplete without a visit to Marz-o-rin. It is to Pune what Candies is to Bombay. It is a very simple yet cosy cafe which serves tasty, reasonably-priced food. It was almost full when I walked in, but the service was up to the mark. I had a grilled sandwich which was very good. The view of one of the busiest markets in Pune added to the experience.
Brugge is a tiny cafe within a chocolaterie.Brugge sells its own chocolate and mind you, they have a lot of variety. Upstairs, there is an extremely pretty cafe where one can have coffee or macaroons or a quick bite. I felt like sitting there all day, reading a book and sipping a cup of coffee. The macaroons that they serve can be skipped but do try the coffee and the chocolate at this place.
5) Effingut Brewerkz:
Effingut is located in the affluent Koregaon Park. It is one of the best breweries in Pune, a city that is known for its breweries. The interiors, although a little dark, were interesting. They have 8 different types of craft beer, of which I tried and liked the strawberry cider and the German wheat beer. I again ordered a mushroom dish here, a mushroom alfredo pasta. Now I’m usually not a fan of alfredo sauce but I loved this one.
6)Alto Vino, J W Marriott:
We went to Alto Vino after Effingut for dessert and it was a great decision. Although quite pricey, the tiramisu was one of the best I’ve had. They have a big bowl of tiramisu ready and they cut up a huge piece and serve you on the plate, which is quite different from how it is served at other places. Every dessert-lover should visit Alto Vino or Pune Baking Company(Also in Marriott)
Raasta Cafe is the perfect place to chill with friends on a weekend and enjoy good music. When I visited Raasta, a Sufi music night was going on. Now this is something we don’t get to see in Bombay very often. Bombay either has Bollywood nights or it has EDM music playing. I thoroughly enjoyed the Sufi music even though I’m not a big fan. The moment the singer started with ‘Agar Tum Saath Ho’, I knew I loved the place. The food is good and cheap and the interiors are minimal yet comforting.
I visited other places like Agent Jack’s(which runs on the same concept as Bar Stock Exchange), Swig in Koregaon Park, which I felt was slightly overrated and Bombay High, a club which has good music but is quite expensive. I would also recommend everyone to visit Dario’s which is one of the best Italian restaurants I’ve visited. I ate at Dario’s around a year back and I loved it.
My Pune trip would have been incomplete without exploring the historical monuments that the city is famous for. I visited Shanivar Wada first, since I’d been fascinated by it, thanks to Sanjay Leela Bhansali. The place, although magnificent, was not well-maintained. A lot of people had written their names on the walls, a practice that I hate. It was also quite dirty since people has recklessly littered the place. The monument still looks very beautiful but the soul of the place has been messed with.
Another place that I visited was the Aga Khan Palace and Museum, where Gandhiji and his followers had been kept. This place was extremely well-maintained and has a wonderful quiet to it. I could hear the pleasant sounds here, no noises; there were no chocolate wraps thrown around, nobody was shouting, everyone was reading about the history of the monument and examining the artifacts . I’m no fan of M.K. Gandhi but this visit was surely fruitful.
Pune also has a very beautiful synagogue, in Camp, which I could only see from outside since it is difficult to obtain permission to see it from the inside. Some travel groups, though, organize walking tours of the city, which includes a visit to the synagogue.
As I left Pune with a heavy heart and some indelible memories, I realized that I had developed a newfound love for Pune. It’s not like Bombay, but maybe that’s the reason I loved it. Unlike other mega-cities, Pune doesn’t seem to be running in the rat-race. It is developing slowly, at its own pace. It is a developed city, has so many opportunities for students and professionals, yet it has maintained its roots. It is cosmopolitan and welcoming yet one gets a Maharashtrian vibe from the people. It is not congested with buildings and skyscrapers, but has open areas and gardens. It is the perfect mixture of the old and the new. It is not fast but at the same time, it’s not ‘dead’. I always thought of myself as someone who could settle in Bombay, but Pune cast its own spell over me. I still love Bombay but time and again, Pune keeps on seducing me with its splendour. And sometime, when I feel like rejuvenating my self, I’ll know where to escape to. Pune is a place for those who love life and wish to celebrate every single moment, without compromises. It is a place every Khanabadosh must visit every now and then,to escape from reality while being surrounded with it. Visit Pune for Budhani’s cheese wafers, for Marz-o-rin’s sandwiches, for the spicy anda-bhurji near the station, for all kinds of fusion dishes at Urban Foundry and for a quiet walk in Aga Khan. Visit Pune to experience a normality that is wonderful in each aspect. Till then, be Khanabadosh.