On January 18, a grumbling stomach was all set for a lot of hogging and be a part of the Old City Food Trail. For a food walk organised by Pune Food Trails and The Western Routes, I was part of a group which would explore the traditional eating joints of Pune. The places we visited have been known for serving delicious food for more than 60 years. My decision to skip dinner during the previous days to ensure I was hungry enough in the morning proved to be beneficial.
We met at Mahatma Phule Mandai at around 8:30 am and with Jayesh Paranjape acting as the guide, went on to explore a Pune most of us never knew or had not visited in a long time. Before pouncing on the food, we decided to explore the Mandai. Jayesh gave us a short information about the building and the structure, which was built under the British Government. The place was a hub for vegetable vendors and is still one of those places where Punekars buy vegetables in wholesale, at a very reasonable price.
We would then walk to our first destination, Sri Krishna Bhuvan. Located in Tulshibaug, the joint was established in 1941, serving Punekars amazing misal in the Puneri style. It has poha, batata bhaaji and is covered in shev and kanda (raw onions). It is served with two bread slices and tarri, more famously called ‘sample’. The misal is tasty and quite different from the Kolhapuri specialty. Although it was not as spicy as one would like, it left a wonderful taste in the mouth. We were also served dahi (curd), taak and shira along with it. Each dish was fresh and complemented the misal well. We had to stop ourselves from overeating, as there was a lot more to come.
On our route to the next destination, was Vishrambaug Wada. We went inside and the beauty and splendour of the old heritage structure left us wide-eyed. We explored the structure for sometime and walked to the next place, New Sweet Home, on Kumthekar Road. There we had sabudana wada, suralichi wadi, upvas kachori, khajur laadu and gulkand laadu. I ate most of the sabudana wadas on the table and tasted some of each dish. My stomach was giving a ‘are kay chalue kay aaj?’ grumble, telling me ‘baas ata! Enough eating’.
Most of us were almost full by now and so, the long walk would help. We would walk almost a kilometer to reach Poona Guest House. From the outside one would go, “Eww, he kuthe aloy!” but climb a floor and you’ll find clean tables and the smell of wonderful food. We ordered thalipeeth, dadpe pohe with mirgunda, puran poli and gulabjaamun. I did not even touch the gulabjaamun (not because I don’t like it, I knew I was full and avoided the sweet-sweet dish) but everyone seemed to like it. The thalipeeth and puran poli were delicious, very close to our gharcha khana. Dadpe pohe and mirgunda, however, were the best dishes there. I loved it!
Lethargy had now seeped in and all I wished to do was go home and take a nap. Duparchi masta zop! However, there was still one place left to visit. Not too far from where we were was Gujar Mastani House or Cold Drink House as the sign says. Tucked away in the by-lane near Mandai, the place has been operational since 1923. One will be transported back in time, thanks to the paintings, old photographs and advertisements at the place. Even the bulbs there gave you a vintage feel, which I remember seeing in my grandfather’s wada. Those bulbs that came in weird colours like blue, green, red, etc. The main reason for the visit though was the mango mastani, and it was tasty again. Even though I am a huge fan of Sujata Mastani, I would vote this one as the better Mango Mastani (Sujata has other varieties which are kamaal!). Without drawing unfair comparisons and making it a race for the best mastani, I would say do give this place a try.
And now, we were done. The hogging finally came to an end. We bid goodbye and went our separate ways. The trail was wonderful and in just 3 hours or so, we explored not only the food and heritage of the old city, but I was also reminded of how little I know my own city. For a mere Rs. 500, the walk takes you to various places one wouldn’t normally go to. Do experience the walk the next time it is scheduled.
Pune Food Trails Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/punefoodtrails
The Western Route: https://www.facebook.com/thewesternroutes
Photographs by: Vidyuth Singh