Exclusive! “Puneri” Radhika Apte shows you her favourite Pune hotspots
It’s a sunny morning when, after a five-hour drive from Mumbai, I finally ring Puneite Radhika Apte’s door bell, not sure what mood she might be in, considering I made her wake up at 6am to travel to the city in the middle of her busy shoot schedule.
But all the tension of what the day is going to be like, vanishes as she opens the door herself, smiling happily, and takes us indoors.
“Come! Have some!” she says, as she indulges in a big, beautiful slice of the famous Pune cake from Kayani Bakery. “My mom gets this when I come home. I can finish all of it!” she laughs.
In that instant, I knew I was with the right person to explore the beautiful city of Pune, and see the city through a local’s eyes. I mean, look, her first morsel is the Kayani cake! Obviously, she knows what she is talking about. She treats us to homemade chai and poha before we step out to explore the 10 best places in Pune for visitors.
1. Fergusson College— Where the coolest students are
“Fergusson road used to be amazing, with nice cafés and so much buzz, as there are seven colleges on the same road,” says Apte. “There is one common tapri behind the college where people used to have bread pakora and bhurji pav.”
As we walk around the campus, she notices the new developments. “It was not so sorted earlier, these trees weren’t there,” she says. “I went to Fergusson because I wanted to do Purushottam − an inter-college drama competition that was a really big deal back then. I’ve spent nights at the amphitheatre during rehearsals. The library of Fergusson is worth spending time in.”
2. Blue Nile for biryani and boy dates
“Biryani!” she squeals, when we get to Blue Nile restaurant in Camp area. She swears by their chicken biryani and caramel custard. And that’s not all! Radhika tells us how Blue Nile used to be her favourite date spot.
“This restaurant has seen all my dates with both the boyfriends I had in Pune. And I used to come here wearing gajras in my hair!” she giggles, and makes me promise I’ll eat here when I visit Pune next.
3. Cafe Goodluck—the best Irani cafe in town
Irani cafés have a charm of their own. We wait for Apte to decide what to eat. “Eat the mutton keema here and tell me if you can get keema as good as this anywhere,” she states. Her husband, Benedict Taylor, also swears by it.
“I used to have bread pudding and keema whereas my friends gorged on bun maska. Our food during theatre rehearsals used to come from here,” she remembers. I could see she was almost sorry when we left the café.
4. Model colony lake for that bit of tranquility
It’s a silent, isolated lake, but this spot holds a special place in Radhika’s heart. When we reached the lake, it was almost time for it to be open to public. Should we go somewhere else? I ask. “Maushi, please!” Apte says to the caretaker. She nods, and Apte is happy to guide me to the spot.
Ducks swim, nibbling at the bread thrown for them, and Apte tells us how this lake was earlier used for Ganpati Visarjan. “The residents of Model Colony area decided against it. This is right behind my house. You don’t expect a lake like this in the middle of a city,” she says.
5. Deccan Gymkhana for the old Puneri charm
Deccan Gymkhana is still an important hangout spot in Pune, and Apte’s favourite memories are of playing basketball with her friends. “My best friend and I hung out there. Even now when I’m in Pune, we meet there to have a cup of coffee,” she says. She believes it retains its old charm and that’s what makes it worth a visit.
6. FTII & NFAI for the best in world cinema
“Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) is beautiful!” she exclaims, as we drive past. “It’s so big. My association to it is different, as I never studied there. But I did do a lot of diploma films with its students. The stories I’ve heard of the place and its campus life from my friends are interesting. So my association is that of an outsider who admires the place.”
The history and charm of the National Film Archive of India (NFAI) makes it even more memorable, because Apte’s association with world cinema started there. “It’s very special to me,” she smiles.
7. Tilak Tank — waterbabies rejoice!
“Tilak tank was not as fancy as it is now,” says Apte. “In my time, it was 25-feet-deep green water with turtles. My school used to take us there every day for swimming. My mom used to give me ₹3 to spend at Baker’s Basket after. We would have rum ball or black forest cake at Baker’s Basket.”
A lot of her love stories also started at Tilak tank, she laughs. “That guy who plays water polo, and that cute crush, you know!” she winks.
8. Bharat Natya Mandir: where the drama unfolds
“Bharat Natya Mandir was an important part of my dramatics time. It’s this old theatre where Purushottam was conducted. We used to literally live there. Marathi classic plays happen there. Theatre is the soul of this place. It’s beautiful, and ancient,” Apte says.
She adds: “You must try this amazing bhel at the bhel shop next to Bharat Natya Mandir.”
9. Burger King (No, not the American chain)
Burger King is an old, dingy burger joint in the city that Apte says drew people from everywhere for its beef burger. “This is not the chain, but an independent burger joint, and you will not find burgers like these anywhere, ever! I don’t know what they serve anymore because beef is banned, but this is one place you shouldn’t miss!” she says.
10. Vaishali: the restaurant you HAVE to go to!
As we pass various restaurants, she exclaims, “You have to go to Vaishali, you just have to!” Vaishali is a South Indian joint on Fergusson College road. “The taste of food at Vaishali has not changed over decades. You have to stand in queues because it’s always overcrowded. They served Dahi Batata Puri when no one else did. Their coffee is out of the world,” she says.
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From HT Brunch, June 25, 2017
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