Address: Vasudha House, Near, Kamaan, Baner Gaon, Baner, Pune, Maharashtra 411045 India
Time: 11AM to 4PM, 7PM to 11PM
Meals for two: Rs. 1,000
Cuisines: Kerala, South Indian
Facilities: Breakfast, Home Delivery, Vegetarian Only, No Alcohol Available, Wifi, Desserts and Bakes
Regional cuisine, especially from other parts of the country, is not a mainstay in the city. For a taste of fare from the Southern states, the limited options include the lovely and slightly upscale Savya Rasa or Kooky, off-the-grid hole-in-the-wall joints. Kerala Cafe, a new import from Mumbai, is a much-needed addition in the city for those who crave some Mallu food in a decent, casual setting.
Kerala Cafe, Baner, Pune: DECOR
Located on the main Baner road, the exterior is fashioned on the lines of traditional houses ubiquitous to Kerala. The inside area with its low-ceiling and black walls covered with prints of elephants with mandala designs is quite quirky in its approach compared to the traditional facade. It’s cosy and comfortable, nonetheless.
Kerala Cafe, Baner, Pune: FOOD
You can smell the coconut oil, curry leaves and pepper in the air here. A good sign! The menu predominantly ruled with chicken, buff and seafood also has some interesting vegetarian options like the veg liver roast. Green moong dal chops that look almost identical to the real deal is roasted in a thick oniontomato gravy and is nose-wateringly spice owing to the generous dash of black pepper. The texture or taste isn’t similar to the liver but it’s an enjoyable albeit fiery dish. Of the appetisers, the chicken thengavaruthathu—roasted pieces of chicken tossed with thin strips of deep-fried coconut—and plump mandeli fish fried with curry leaves called kozhva varuthathu are both enjoyable. But what you should order here is the thattukada buff fry. Tender pieces of meat doused in spices and finished off with a squeeze of lemon, their rendition of Kerala classic is delicious. Best enjoyed with a flaky parotta.
There is kappa (tapioca) on the menu in multiple forms and the kappa puzhukka – mash tapioca tempered with curry leaves, mustard seeds and a few spices served with a raw mango chutney is absolutely delightful.Another winning dish of the night was the ulli theeyal. Shallots swimming in a gravy of dryroasted coconut and tamarind pulp, best lapped up with a steaming bowl of rice. The prawns mango curry with pieces of raw mango as the souring agent almost sucker punches you with an unexpected dose of tang, but the thick-coconut-based curry grows on you.
While the appetisers and mains had us singing paeans, most of the desserts we had were a letdown. The kaipola (a pancake made with banana and egg was dry and chewy) and both the payasams of the night – palada (rice chips and milk) and parippu (moong daal) weren’t great shakes either. But saving the night was the flan-like silky jaggery coconut custard.
Kerala Cafe, Baner, Pune: PLUS AND MINUS
A really good option in the city for Keralan cuisine. For those unfamiliar with the fare, most of the dishes can veer on spicy territory—an indicator to mark the fiery quotient of the dishes on the menu might be a good idea.