One of the more intriguing aspects of food is the window it opens to an unfamiliar culture. Flavour profiles, lineages of dishes, techniques employed to manipulate local produce and the aesthetic of plating, often signal to the past and its fate in the hands of the present. The recently opened Chateau de Pondichéry has assumed the responsibility of exposing the culinary influences of the laid-back town’s erstwhile colonisers.
The French-inflected food of Pondicherry, or ‘Pondy’ — as it is affectionately known — fills the concise menu at the restaurant, that has luckily found a snug spot away from the relentless bustle of Adchini.
Its transterior decor and simple furniture are as much reminiscent of Pondy cafes as are the plated flavours, which hover between the finesse achieved by a professional hand and the comfort of home-cooked food. A limited, but promising, choice of soups and salads can precede the small plates — a section on the menu where the interest in the food truly begins to peak.
Pink of Health, a salad of threaded beetroot and carrots are piled on top of lettuce with cashews and “home-made cream cheese” that mimics the texture of feta, producing a cacophony of squeaks and crunches. If you listen carefully, you will hear a battalion of soldiers march in your mouth, with the pomp of the Republic Day parade rather than the anxiety of the border.
Keeping the complex Mimosa Muthaiy — that on the menu promises to be devilled eggs with a prawn stuffing but actually turns out to be a chettinad prawn perched atop a devilled egg — company was Medusa Devi, which unlike the ogre it takes its name from, was rather benign.
A mild curry — Meen Assad — with a helping of Riz au Beurre (butter rice) exemplifies the Creole food of Pondy, which, though a mix of Indian and French culinary traditions, gives more evidence of the former — composite dishes are made with gravies using spices and produce. The mellow curry, with sole resting in it, paired well with rice coated in France’s blue-eyed fat — butter. It has started to vanish from France’s shelves after reports that the French consume four times more than the Americans.
While they don’t have a separate dessert section, they do offer sweet crepes, that are called French Dosai on the menu and have outsourced a section of the restaurant to a young pâtissière, who makes generic, but time-honoured desserts — lemon tarts, black forest, and carrot cake, among others. The comfort of whipped cream, toffee and bananas in a banoffee tart, rarely disappoints and here, only adds to the joie de vivre the restaurant Chateau de Pondichéry has already brought to town.
Must Try: Meen Assad & Riz au Beurre
Meal for Two: Rs 1,600
Address: 84, Aurobindo Marg, Adchini, New Delhi