A collection of organic farms, silent meals, and unique cafes and restaurants in Auroville – including the best restaurants in Pondicherry nearby – to indulge your tastebuds.
Guest post by Vinita Contractor
This post is part of a series to discover India and the world more mindfully in the new “normal”. Please see my detailed safety tips while travelling and recommendations for socially distanced hideouts.
I first travelled to Auroville on a quick day trip from Chennai some 20 years ago, and was surprised to discover this land of possibilities. With my ecological and spiritual bent of mind, it felt like a place so within reach, yet rare to find.
Over the years, I’ve been back in Auroville to volunteer at Sadhana Forest, take a course on raw food and explore the township on a family vacation. Its natural, organic and sustainable farming revolution has led to an explosion of cafes and restaurants in Auroville that are healthy yet soul-satisfying.
Also read: A Slow Travel Guide to Auroville
Whether you’re staying in Auroville, visiting Auroville for a short trip, volunteering in Auroville or just spending a day in Auroville, these are my favorite restaurants and cafes in Auroville:
- Best restaurants in Auroville
- Best cafes in Auroville
- Unique Auroville food experiences
- Vegan desserts in Auroville
- Other places to eat in Auroville
- Best restaurants in Pondicherry
- What are your favorite Auroville food spots? Which of the above would you most like to try?
Best restaurants in Auroville
Maiyam Past Food Restaurant
What first struck me about Maiyam was the signage outside. It read “past food”.
For a second I thought it was a typo, as we are so accustomed to hearing about fast food. But then I realized that this is a special place that serves up traditional South Indian / Dravidian fare, made fresh in small batches.
Maiyam has an earthy feel from the moment you enter. The low seating, chattais (woven mats) on the floor and solid wood furniture give it a very warm, homely vibe, with lots of character. The shelves lining the restaurant are stocked with organic, heirloom varieties of grains and legumes, jaggery, pickles and natural products.
The menu changes every day, with set meals for lunch and dinner, and a small range of homemade snacks. I’ve tried their thinai (foxtail millet), knolkol (turnip), thoran (dry seasonal dish), kozhambu (tamarind based curry) and other dry and curried vegetable preparations, with lightly spiced chutneys and mango pickle. This wholesome, authentic and delicious meal is best rounded up with ragi laddoos for dessert. I even indulged in a rare cup of coffee with coconut milk (without having to customize it), flavored with their melt-in-the-mouth, caramel-like jaggery!
Most of the food is accidentally vegan, but it’s best to double check before ordering. I absolutely loved everything I’ve eaten at Maiyam, and if I ever stay in Auroville long term, this would become my frequent lunch spot.
Satchitananda Raw Food Restaurant
Tucked away in a quiet pocket of Auroville is the Satchitananda Raw Food Restaurant, started by Anandi Vaithialingam. Having been around for almost a decade and known for their commitment to healthy, clean eating, it is considered an institution among those who live in Auroville.
Everything served here is raw, but don’t let that put you off. The set lunch menu, which includes delights like flax seed crackers, tomato rasam, sprouts salad, wraps and patties, raw sabzis, vegan cheesecake and homemade kombucha, is freshly made, and I could actually sense and perceive its aliveness. It’s neither heavy on spice nor salt, so I could enjoy the taste of each ingredient and experience a fullness I could never imagine from food that isn’t cooked!
I’ve been fortunate enough to spend time learning from Anandi in her kitchen, and also to see the Kottakarai Organic Food Processing Unit (KOFPU) next door which she set up. That is where much of the packaged health food like kombucha, herbal teas etc. are prepared and supplied all over Auroville and many other cities in India.
Also read: Auroville: Utopia or Something Like It
The first thing that struck me about Sakura Sushi is the huge mural on the side wall of the restaurant, which shows an old Indian woman, nose ring et al, eating sushi with chopsticks.
Inside this cozy little place is an open kitchen, where you can watch sushi rolls being prepared fresh and feast on them with your eyes first.
I thoroughly enjoyed the cucumber avocado spring onion sushi, grilled marinated capsicum maki, tempeh in teriyaki sauce nigiri, and the red beans with fermented cabbage, among the many vegan options.
The owner Arun used to be a chef in Germany, and has truly introduced a slice of Japan in Auroville. His wife stocks ferments, dips, dressings and desserts at the restaurant. Don’t forget to pick up something healthy for later.
Also read: The Ultimate Vegan Travel Guide to Japan
Best cafes in Auroville
Neem Tree Eatery
This lovely home-style outdoor café near the Auroville Library, is built with exposed redbricks which are so quintessentially Auroville.
I loved sitting under the lovely neem tree to enjoy the fare at this quaint cafe – perfect to while away an afternoon instead of rushing to figure things to do in Auroville. The open kitchen allows a chance to chat with the local staff too.
The menu at the Neem Tree Eatery is pretty varied. Juices, South Indian fare, international food, mini meals, sandwiches, beverages and desserts – all very fresh and reasonably priced. I’ve indulged in the ragi dosa, red rice puttu, mixed veg parathas, appams and vegan chocolate cake, and my favorite might just be the indulgent chocolate dosa!
Bread & Chocolate
If you’re a fan of Indian raw cacao, the Auroville-based brand Mason & Co is no stranger. Bread & Chocolate is their hugely popular cafe in Auroville, so much so that you could be looking at long waiting periods over the weekend – and for good reason!
Their delicately crafted sourdough sandwiches, especially the summertime tartine with oven roasted tomatoes, marinated onions, vegan cream cheese, microgreens and basil pesto is a winner. My sons couldn’t get enough of their homemade vegan ice creams, especially the chocolate orange!
I have pretty much tried everything on the menu – and love everything about it: the portion sizes, the food plating aesthetics, the high quality ingredients and of course, the food itself. I dream of the Miss Saigon Abundance bowl, the breakfast board, the Elvis and the Cocoa Granola!
Don’t leave without a glimpse of their separate take away section, where homemade chocolates are available per piece; the almond praline is divine!
Dreamers Café Auroville
Chances are, you’ll wind up at the visitors centre, looking for places to visit in Auroville. Stop by at the busy and popular Dreamers Cafe if you manage to find a table. My family and I spent a lovely afternoon there, gazing at people walking by, while enjoying our succulent smoked tofu sandwiches and refreshing lemonade.
The Right Path Cafe
Just a few metres away from Dreamers Cafe is the Right Path Café – with the largest selection of thin-crust vegan pizzas in all of Auroville (it could give Tanto Pizzeria Auroville a run for its money)!
Think vegan cheese, along with a large range of international and Indianized options. Who knew having too many choices of pizza can be a problem?!
Unique Auroville Food Experiences: Organic farms, health stores and silent meals
Krishna McKenzie’s Solitude Farm is based on permaculture, where homegrown organic produce is used to create delightful, wholesome food. Farm to table in the true sense!
Their lunch thali is the real deal. A complete winner for a person like me who loves simple, healthy food, in the natural setting of a farm.
I especially loved the interesting mix of greens used in the salad – ‘chicken spinach’, sweet potato leaves, guava leaves; so refreshing and different from the usual salad leaves like lettuce and arugula.
If you’re thinking of volunteering in Auroville, opportunities are available for those who’d like to learn more about permaculture and sustainable living. If you already live / work in Auroville, Solitude Farm offers a weekly farm produce subscription!
For me, Goyo has been the most unique dining experience ever!
We pre-booked a meal, then went on something like a treasure hunt to look for the place. Along the way, we met a few others seeking to experience it too.
We were served a welcome Korean green tea, while sitting on rocks and logs under a beautiful tree. Then led to the main dining area – aesthetic, soothing and eclectic, all at once.
The community table was laid out with Auroville earthern ware, and the hostess settled us in. She then explained the concept of a “silent meal” and shared some words for us to ponder on while we eat.
The meal was laid out on the table and everyone served themselves. We savoured the meal in blissful silence. The unexpected riot of tastes, the ambience and the music playing in the background all made for a truly unforgettable experience.
Energy Home serves raw health food and doubles up as a health-conscious store. Their shelves and walls are filled with health powders, medicated / essential oils, crystals, and natural and organic products. I spent hours pouring over the many things this gem of a place has gathered.
For breakfast, I tried the raw idli and raw upma – which definitely take time to grow on you. The winner was a herbal drink with 9 different leaves and herbs, and for that alone, I can definitely recommend a visit to this family-run place.
Vegan desserts in Auroville
Gelato Factory was like heaven for my kids (and me!) with an array of 18 vegan ice cream flavours to choose from! Think hazelnut, pistachio, chocolate orange, stracciatella, sorbets – served up in vegan ice cream cones.
Even though on holiday, we made sure we had lots of fruits, salads and wholesome food through the day – so an ice cream a day is permissible, right? We went there every single day on our five-day family trip!
Other places to eat in Auroville
There are plenty of other interesting, vegan-friendly cafes and restaurants in Auroville, which are very well known and never fail to please. Each is unique in its own way, symbolizes the philosophy behind Auroville and serves incredible food. Some of these include:
Try the Moroccan chickpeas tagine, smoked tofu burger, fruit sorbets and coconut carrot cake at Naturellement.
The menu at Marc’s Cafe consists of an extensive coffee list, and includes sandwiches, juices and smoothies. I liked their vegan biscotti and balmadi coffee.
La Terrace Café
The hummus plate, marinated mushroom salad and vegan chocolate ice cream at La Terrace Cafe are worth a try!
The Solar Kitchen
Serves only lunch, needs to be booked a day in advance and offers simple meals made by volunteers, that change every day. Only the Auroville card is accepted here.
The homemade bean burgers, falafels, hummus, salad – everything on the Mediterranean menu at Well Cafe is to die for. They also work to empower women from nearby villages and retail upcycled, handmade accessories.
Also read: 6 Offbeat Experiences Near Hampi
Best restaurants in Pondicherry
Vegan Zeals is Pondicherry’s first all-vegan restaurant, which serves everything hearty, from pasta to noodles to parathas and varieties of rice. I tried their vegan zeals veggie pizza and mushroom stragonoff, and while the food could’ve been better, it was lovely to attend a movie screening there over a light snack.
Surguru’s South Indian thali, with several dry and curry preparations, as well as a la carte tiffin dishes are finger-licking good. Vegan options are not marked, but once you explain your dietary preference to the staff, they will happily omit any dishes that are not suitable.
Earth Story is a popular store selling organic and sustainable products, and has outlets in several parts of Southern India now, with the most recent one in Pondicherry. Housed within the Vegan Zeals restaurant, you can grab Papa Cream’s creamy vegan ice cream, smoked tofu by Aurosoya, oat and cashew milk by GoodMylk and many other vegan delights.
What are your favorite Auroville food spots? Which of the above would you most like to try?
*Cover image: Maiyam Past Food.
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About the guest author:
Vinita Contractor is a holistic nutrition and lifestyle coach, traveller and free spirit, who believes in conscious living and simple eating. She founded The Leaf E-academy with an aim to make healthy cooking accessible to everyone. She believes in making mindful choices as they impact our planet, other sentient beings and our own health. Her Youtube channel offers plant-based recipes, easy-to-make substitutes for dairy, and useful tips and inspiration for those looking to transition to a plant-based lifestyle. Connect with her on: Website | Instagram | Facebook | Youtube