One of the best things about travelling is that you get to taste some amazing food at local eateries. For me, travelling is just another excuse to splurge on food. The last time I visited Ooty, or Udhagamandalam, I was part of a tour package run by KSTDC. That, unfortunately, did not provide much leeway to my gastronomic adventures. We had to eat where the bus stopped.
This time I was better equipped. We had our own car, so I could drive around to any place in Ooty I wished to dine. Also, this time we were travelling with my parents, who are somewhat finicky about food and the place it is served in. So that largely cancelled out the rickety places we generally find ourselves in.
During our stay at Ooty, we tried out several places for food, but the top three that really took the honours are:
1. Nahar’s Sidewalk Café
We reached this quaint little café located at the bustling Charing Cross market after a long, tedious walk at the Botanical Gardens and an equally taxing shopping session. My aching legs demanded some nice calorie-loaded treat for my tummy and I jumped at the sight of a board proclaiming ‘wood-fired pizza’ in front of the café. Nothing that cheese could not cure!
It was a vegetarian place and the menu seemed to be quite extensive as well as a tad expensive. We started out with clear soups, then proceeded towards pizzas and finally the pastas. The portions were quite good and we ended up taking some of the pasta in a doggy bag.
I had called for French onion soup and despite my slight apprehensions it turned out to be quite hearty and flavoursome, complete with the customary chunk of molten cheddar cheese on the crouton. The vegetable clear soup ordered by my father also received his approval.
The pizzas (margherita and the Café special) were generously laden with cheese and toppings and had a crunchy thin base, much to my delight. They filled us up quite nicely and we had to struggle to make space for the mac n cheese and the slightly sweet, wood-fire baked pasta Italiano. The pastas came with cheesy garlic toasts and we nibbled on them, finally deciding to take the pastas home for late night snacking.
Overall, Sidewalk Café is nice little place to appease your pizza-pasta cravings and for a moment you would forget that you are sitting at a hill station in Tamil Nadu!
Address: 52-A, Charing Cross, Upper Bazaar, Ooty, Tamil Nadu 643001
Open: 11:00 am – 10:30 pm
Phone: +91 423 244 2173
2. Earl’s Secret
I stumbled across this place inadvertently while making my birding itinerary for Ooty. Although I did not have much time to delve further, the name intrigued me and stayed on with me. On our second day at Ooty, we were searching for a place to dine when suddenly Earl’s Secret popped up in my mind. We let Google maps guide us to it, entailing several upward bends in the mountain, leading us to suspect that maybe Google was leading us on a wild-goose chase. “Are we really going to reach this place?” was heard frequently. Finally, we reached the top, entered a driveway, parked our car, and drew in a deep breath at the sight of the hotel.
It was beautiful, located in a spectacular setting. Earl’s Court is actually the fine-dine restaurant at the hotel King’s Cliff. It had a glass-house sitting option besides the normal ‘inside’ sitting. The glass-house was full and we had to appease ourselves at the normal tables inside. The moment we settled down, there was a heavy downpour and I must admit that the view through the windows was absolutely refreshing to the senses. It somehow made me feel as if I was sitting at hill-side restaurant in far-away Shillong.
The menu was quite pricey and consisted of food from different cuisines, right from South-east Asian to continental to Indian. The weather was perfect for soups and we ordered a few of them, the Thai one with prawns voted the best amongst them all. For our main course, we ordered a glass noodle dish for my parents and opted for two lamb dishes for my husband and myself. I was a bit lost wondering what to order for my fussy-eater son and finally decided on pasta carbonara with ham.
The orders took forever to come, somewhat spoiling our happy mood, and I had to remind the waiters quite a number of times. The rains had abated in the meantime and we occupied ourselves with clicking pictures of blackbirds bathing in the water pools. At long last, our food came and we agreed later that it was worth the wait.
The pasta carbonara was the best of the lot, going by the way my son polished it off, leaving the ham for us to wolf down. While I did not taste my parents’ noodle dish, I was very happy with my grilled lamb – it was absolutely delicious and juicy. The husband’s shredded lamb dish could not match with mine. The portions were big and we refrained from ordering dessert.
So, in case you want to revel in the beauty of your surroundings and are willing to pay for it, then head to Earl’s Secret. Tip: Type in ‘Hotel Monarch’ if you are using Google maps.
Address: King's Cliff, Havelock Road, Ooty, Tamil Nadu 643001
Phone: +91 423 2452888/9
3. Hyderabad Biryani House
We were nearing the end of our stay in Ooty and finally we could not ignore the calling of our desi khana. I had my fill of cheese and steamed veggies and now all I could think of was hot and spicy food. I had spotted a Hyderabad Biryani House en route to our lodgings in Club Mahindra and decided to have our last dinner in Ooty there. The husband, who had got down to enquire about their timings, came back smacking his lips.
“The aroma is so heavenly!” he exclaimed, his craving for desi khana clearly apparent. “We need to come here fast!”
And we did. The place was quite full even at that late hour of 10 pm in the hills. We ordered a variety of kababs and devoured them even before I could take a decent picture. We then ordered chicken and mutton biryanis along with a chicken dopyaza.
The biryanis were beautifully fragrant and the meat succulently tender. Our taste buds must have sighed with relief, after meeting the wonderful spices. The best part of the meal was – our ‘light’ bill!
So, now you know where to go if you need your fix of biryanis and kababs in Ooty.
Address: Upper Bazaar, Ooty, Tamil Nadu
Phone: +91 94864 49550
Now, how about sharing your dining experiences in Ooty?