To a lot of East Punekars like me, Camp is quintessentially Pune, more so than the Peths! The Parsi bakeries and cafés, the numerous Udipi joints, the walking down broad footpaths filled with hawkers, the beautiful old buildings staring down at you, constantly reminding you of the past, the sound of traffic rushing down M.G. Road mingling with the cries of the hawkers, the mosques, the temples, the gurudwara and the synagogue; this is a place that manages to encompass so much of Pune in so small an expanse.
We carry on our Camp food trail to unearth some more of its gems. This just gets better and better…
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Prepare to be greeted by the naughtiest of owners at the Parsiest of bakeries. Unarguably one of the best old bakeries of Pune, City is solely run by the family that owns it and rivals its more renowned competition in every sense. Oozing old world charm, this modest bakery’s spinach khaari, chocolate chip and hazelnut cookies, jam tarts, rusk and heart shaped biscuits have no match at all. None whatsoever.
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There aren’t many kathi rolls in Pune better than this one. This joint has been around since the beginning of time. Constrained to selling from a window now as opposed to the large bustling restaurant that it was in its glory days, the food is just the same nevertheless. A double chicken roll will satiate your longing for meat like nothing else. The veg kathi rolls are worth a mention too.
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Just around the corner from Olympia as you walk from East to Main street lies a legendary handcart serving the most delectable bhel. If you can take a bit of heat tell him to make it teekha and feel your insides burn as you ascend to chaat heaven. Apart from the bhel, the ragda, pani puri and SPDP here are right on the money!
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Among the last remaining iconic Parsi cafes of Pune, Café Yezdan is breakfast heaven. A cheese omlette with a bun maska and a sweet Irani chai is just the fuel you need to kickstart your day. It is also one of the few places to get Pune’s own brand of fizzy drinks – Ardeshir.
One of several Udipi places Camp houses, Priya has been around for a while. Their dosas are quite good but the winner here is the veg cutlet. Made of beetroot and served with wonderful green chutney, it is an absolute must-have. They also happen to have a veggie burger with a deep fried bun! Not for the faint hearted that.
Back to some non-vegetarian now, Walia’s is a small joint on the footpath diagonal to Thousand Oaks. They make a mean tandoori chicken accompanied by crispy naan. My favourite though is the Hyderabadi tikka. Head over to Walia’s after your fix of drinks at T-Oaks and glutton out.
How this place is not more famous is totally beyond me. Contracted as a Cadbury chocolate factory in the past, Kay’s now produces its own brand of chocolates. They have a little shop adjoining their factory right next to J.J. garden in which on display is an immense range of chocolates. The fruit flavoured ones in particular are to die for. So are the little butterscotch toffees they sell at an extremely reasonable price.
Probably one of the most well known restaurants in Pune, Blue Nile has built its reputation over the years by serving top quality Irani food. People queue up in hordes over weekends to have their fix of Blue Nile’s Biryani and chello kebab. The well thought of and quick parcel counter at the entrance is super-convenient.
Just next to Blue Nile, Nawab serves the best Butter Chicken and Daal Makhani in Pune. Owned by a Punjabi family, they sure do know their Punjabi food!
Pasteur Ice Cream Parlour
Ice cream craving? On the ground floor of the Marz–O–Rin building is Pasteur Ice Cream Parlour, which also serves a wide range of snacks. Their softies, natural ice cream and chaat attract big crowds in the evenings.
Matki Bhel outside Westend
Regular camp-goers will know about a tiny bhel stand outside Westend Talkies serving some killer Matki bhel. With all his paraphernalia laid on a tiny table, this bhel vendor cooks up a spicy and tangy monster of a bhel in no time and at a pocket-friendly forty rupees!
Close to Pulgate, Imperial is another old Parsi bakery, of wnhich Camp seems to have by the dozen. Imperial always seems to be crowded, selling its famous brownies, jam rolls, delectable soft cream rolls (big favourite!) and cakes like, well, hot cakes! They are also one of the few older establishments who are not behind in trying new age products; so do not be surprised to find a Red Velvet cake here!
Pani puri outside Hanuman Mandir
As you turn to Sachapir Street from Main Street, you will invariably run into a dense crowd devouring pani puris or waiting their turn at a stall outside the Hanuman Mandir. That this stall sees more customers than the Mandir sees devotees is no big surprise.
Years ago two brothers moved to Pune from Mumbai and opened a small Indian Chinese handcart near Babajan Chowk in Camp. More Indian than Chinese, Raje has now grown into a restaurant and serves a ‘masalafied’ version of Chinese food that is as far as can be from the original. The masala lollypop here is a total must have. One of the best #Chindian food Camp has to offer!
Amidst the bustle of Shibaji Market, Radio Hotel has catered to Pune’s meat lovers for decades. Renowned for their Kheema, Seekh Kebab and Tawa Ghosht and not for their ambience, Radio is an integral part of Pune’s culinary map. Also, keep an eye on their daily specials, which vary as per the day of the week.
India Ice cream
On Jan Mohammed Street, India Ice cream is Pune’s own brand. Folks from Bishop’s School can probably name every India Ice cream flavour in their sleep. The factory, which churns out the delicious flavours, is right behind the little shop. The pineapple ice-lolly and the mango scoops are recommended. Highly.
South-Indian food in a non Udipi ambience. Ramakrishna serves up some pretty good dosas and uttapas and is probably the most popular South-Indian restaurant in Camp. Steer clear of the Punjabi menu here though.
Slightly cramped but totally worth the wait for a seat, Jai Shankar is an old Chaat house near Babajan Chowk. I know folks who drive all the way from Wakad to have a plate of Jai Shankar’s pani puri. Apart from a smasher of a pani puri, the special Bombay chaat at Jai Shankar is pretty special.
Every Punekar I know swears by Burger’s burgers! If that phrase sounds a little odd it is because Burger, which was formerly Burger King, had to strike off the King owing to the entry of the international Burger King in the Indian market. Goes without saying that the international Burger King does not have a patch on it’s former Puneri namesake. The classic Jumbo Chicken, the Mixed Chicken Surprise, the ever popular and juicy Steak Burger, it is difficult to go wrong at Burger once you get through the usually long queues!
And we’re not even close to done with the food heaven that Camp is! Stay tuned for Part III, Punekars! Until then, drink, eat, repeat.