Pune @72 hours – Part II

We were taking a late afternoon chair car train so we could be in Pune that same night.

As we waited at Begumpet station, Hyderabad it was still raining, yup even in October. I didn’t know whether to take this as a blessing or a curse, we were cowing under lashing rains from the past 1.5 months with no sign of it waning away and I truly hoped Pune wouldn’t be like that.

Finally we arrived in Pune late night. We meandered through the wide roads in the auto going towards Viman Nagar, a student haven because of Symbiosis institutes and the tons of students living that side.

And there she was waving at us while we were writing our names at the security point of her apartment. The first thing Aanchal asked was do you want to drink and eat or are you too tired? It was almost 12 midnight and we were in no mood to hit the sack considering the little time we had!

Off we went to this place at Viman Nagar, a tiny obscure place with shutters down and its loud board that said ‘Kanak’. Aanchal mentioned that since this area was filled with students, no bar/place could be open beyond 11 pm, well officially that is.

But this is India and there always is a way out and she warned us the place is shady but served good food and drinks.

So once we got through the shutters we saw what this place was all about. Durries, comfortable mattresses, low lying chairs and tables and yep serving fantastic food and drinks on a budget and this was open till 4 am!

A good old comfy bar spread out with no music but filled with people, mostly working professionals and yup it wasn’t shady, it was cool, really cool. At that moment I understood Pune shady meant ‘cool joints’ of Hyderabad 🙂 We chatted till 3.30 am and finally crashed to bed.

I woke up by 7.30 am and relaxed with a book in the living room until the entire building shook at 8 am by the fighter pilot planes literally looming large over the buildings and this continued from morning till night. This was going to be an everyday affair.

The first restaurant we visited was of course Vaishali. Vaishali was known to have the best South Indian food. For me it was an irony considering how we came from down south and end up having the same food in a different state!

But I realized Vaishali was not just about South indian food, it was the vibe, the people that came to the place.

My partner had tons of memories visiting this place in his college days in the 80’s and now it had been passed on to his niece. The place was buzzing, electric, an old world charm amidst the chaos of people, waiters and food. I could see why they loved the place.

We ordered fresh Kokum sherbets and Dosas which was surprisingly good considering how Judgemental I get when it comes to food that is closer to home.

I was keen on trying Maharashtrian food and here is the thing, I have heard extreme opinions on it. From my partner and his niece who loathe it to the time I had an amazing vegetarian Maharashtrian meal in the middle of nowhere in Ladakh!

While Aanchal said she will check online as where we could go for Maharashtrian food, I did the thing I always do, well most of the times. Ask our waiter about it. The best breakfast and lunch and out it came. Mathura for breakfast and Durvankur Dining hall for lunch!

Right after that I had to meet a friend and there is a backstory to it. Of all the places that one could connect, I connected with someone in sub zero freezing cold Ladakh, in Korzok last year.His name was Atul.

Atul was an avid biker and cinematographer working with Power Drift and he was right there with a colleague taking time lapse shots when Pankaj, Babubhai and I bumped into him.

Honestly what he got out of me was not even a peep as he talked and I listened but we definitely had a connection. We were in touch through social media and this time when I knew we were going to Pune, he was the only person I wanted to meet.

I did know quite a few people in the city but this was not the time. I was really excited to spend some time with him.

We had a good two hours time to kill before I could meet Atul so when I told my partner Coffee? He only said are you kidding me?? Where is the beer? 🙂 Yep he was right, we were on a holiday and we had to have some beer!

We found one microbrewery (thanks to Google as always!)and it was close to the area where Atul would meet me. Flambos! It was right next to a big multiplex, we walked in to see if it was open.

They had another half an hour to go before they opened their doors and shameless as we are, we sat at their steps until the shutters went up. I guess the staff took pity on us so they let us inside and gave us beer 🙂

A must visit guys, not just for the beer but for the pretty ambience! It’s what a brewery should be. Good finger food, no loud music and yup great beer! The Belgian wit is a must have! And if you love classic Rock Music, yep this is the place! After two pints I was off to meeting my friend while my partner and his niece continued their drinking.

Atul gave me the name of the place we were meeting. Just 15 minutes away from Bund Garden Road is this old restaurant called George. There since 1936 it was a typical cafe/restaurant. I walked in and saw the old colonial charm it had. Almost every customer was known to the waiters. From Parsi Bawas to Puneris, families, friends, these were the regulars who must have whiled their time here from their youth to the sunset age..

Atul walked in with a big warm smile. How is it that you connect so easily with someone you met a year ago for like 10 minutes? There was no awkward starter conversation nothing, we went on chatting like we were friends forever. It was that simple.

He was a Mumbaikar and had shifted to Pune 3 years ago. Just like me, maybe more so a total nomad, he took up assignments that fulfilled his love of travel. It also helped that his wife was from Pune. He was off to Milan, Italy next month on an assignment. We chatted on Ladakh, our lives, it was wonderful.

I noticed that George was known for Mutton dishes because around me I saw all kinds of chicken and non veg aromas and here were us, Atul with his vegan diet and me with my vegetarian diet! I made a check to get my partner Srini and Aanchal here again.

After a couple of hours Atul sweetly offered to drop me to the apartment and I remember how we drove around the place slowly, talking, connecting more, knowing there were other crazy souls like us around the world 🙂

When I told him I was having beer before meeting him, he was like Oh No, I could have joined you there! So we  got two cans of beers and drove around just like that. It was awesome as we laughed, wondered how we finally got to catch up with each other just after 10 minutes of that meet up in Ladakh! The pieces fitted so well.

Coming back home, we rested a bit and set out in the evening to The Asian Box. We decided to throw away the Indian dictum of drinking and then eating and do it vice versa this time.

The Asian Box located in Koregaon Park or KP is a small place that has the best of Asian cuisine. A small bright place. I was surprised by the quality of food! We ordered almost everything vegetarian except one or two dishes.Dumplings to Som Tum – Green Papaya salad (My favorite), Khow Suey – Burmese creamy veg spicy curry with noodles to Korean BBQ chicken rice. It was a treat!

We started pub hopping from Effingut microbrewery to Mineority Cafe & Bar, but nothing beats Elephant & Co – a gastropub in Kalyani Nagar. In fact this was the same place Aanchal got me during my few hours visit to Pune last time.

A classy and I mean classy comfortable place to chill with friends. It had everything going for it. But for me, what matters the most is the buzz, to hear the buzz of people, to hear conversations and not let loud music overpower everything else. And nope if you think you are too young or too old for this place, let me tell you it is not.

And the crowd, OMG the crowd, the crowd that makes you feel at home, the vibe that makes you feel like you belong here. And you might wonder why I am so particular about this. Let me tell you some harsh facts. Hyderabad has one of the worst crowds ever, yep I know it’s my home town and I shouldn’t talk like this but reality bites you know?

Hyderabad’s ‘nouveau rich’ crowd with their real estate money are a menace in the so called happening spots (that are so much more shady than Kanak  btw). Being a restaurateur I have faced the brunt of that crowd every day.

And let’s face it, Hyderabad is an Overcrowded ‘Gaav’ (village) filled with Mercedes Benz, BMWs but open that car door and what you get is the most sickening form of showing off anything but their brains. Its perpetually non existent.

So imagine someone like me from an overcrowded ‘gaav’ seeing this! It felt home, it felt good and I had a sneaky feeling I won’t see the last of this Elephant & Co.

Filled with Asian food, Popcorn and Beer we ended a long day of eating and drinking and there was more to go with a few unexpected surprises thrown in!

 

 

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