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EATING OUT

Roma's kitchen

Birds twitter in the tall old trees, while butterflies flit among the flowers, all lending a decided languor to this aroma-laden atmosphere ... . RUPA GOPAL writes.

RUPA GOPAL

Roma's (right) fresh lemon souffle is a speciality

THE world holds many lovely secrets, and "Roma's Kitchen" is one of them — not truly a secret to Pondicherry and many residents of Chennai, but a delicious one for new visitors to Auroville, from all over the world. Here resides a lovely, cheery Sindhi woman, with a terrific love for cooking and serving food, and a large passion for life.

It began when Roma's mother had come down for the foundation stone laying ceremony of Auroville, the dream town envisaged by the Mother of Aurobindo Ashram. So charmed was she by the place, that she decided that this was the place for her family. Roma is a Sindhi by birth, and had earlier lived in Bengal. Even during her adolescent years, she had only wanted to run a restaurant, and it happened one day, during a five-minute conversation. "Yes, Auroville is magic. I always wanted this sort of open ambience, and everyone of my staff chips in with the cooking. I'm a self-taught cook, it's something I love doing," says Roma.

Unique ambience

The restaurant is quite unlike most others — it seems to have the semi-tamed jungle of Auroville flowing into it, so beautiful is its setting.

A huge car park leads to the simple cottage, a very colourfully painted place, with seating in a shady verandah, almost completely outdoors, or inside in the simply furnished interior. Naturally, most folks prefer seating in the open, so completely relaxing is the scene. Birds twitter in the tall old trees, while butterflies flit among the flowers, all lending a decided languor to the aroma-laden atmosphere. A wall-mounted blackboard tempts lunchers to the daily menu. All the food is freshly prepared, and long cool fresh juices can be sipped, while anticipating the promised feast. Here the food is always served piping hot, tasty, with the distinct flavour of home, and in generous proportions, drawing customers back like a magnet.

"We served typically tasty Indian food only at first. Then, with so many foreigners settled in Auroville, and an equal number of foreign visitors coming here, I decided to serve western cuisine too," says Roma.

The cheese is made in Auroville and fantastic bread is got from a bakery here run by the many resident foreign women, who have trained locals too — all this adds to the unique taste of the place. Actually one could well make a meal of the terrific bread itself, with the delicious soups. Pastas are fantastic, so too are the tandoori dishes, with vegetarian and non-vegetarian side-dishes. People are known to travel down the East Coast Road to Pondy — a 2 ½ hour drive, for lunch at Roma's; a long leisurely lunch that stretches into a semi-siesta, afternoon coffee, and then the drive back home. A tete-a-tete with Roma is part of the charm, so vibrant a personality is she. She tends to mobike around Auroville.

With all this bounty Roma is also very happy eating what the staff cook for themselves — rice, rasam and sambhar. You can have this too.

* * *

Some of the favourites to be had at "Roma's Kitchen":

  • Cream of chicken soup
  • Fish tikka
  • Bhendi jalfreizi
  • All kinds of parathas
  • Hyderabadi chicken biriyani, served with mirchi ka salan
  • Spinach croquettes
  • Lemon/coffee/chocolate soufflé (heavenly).
  • Gajar halwa/kulfi (divine).

    * * *

    "Roma's Kitchen" is in Auromodele - Auroville. Ph: 0413-2622032
    Lunch: 12 p.m. to 2.30 p.m.
    Dinner: 6.45 p.m. to 9.30 p.m.
    Closed on Monday.

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