Given the Indian and French influences, it's hardly surprising that Westerner's feel spoiled for choice in Pondicherry, and space constraints are the only reason the following restaurants are not reviewed in full. Almost all of them, incidentally, are walking distance from one another. When night falls and temperatures are balmy, you'll definitely want to dine alfresco: Aristo's rooftop is a good inexpensive and authentic choice; on the other end of the spectrum is The Lighthouse Grill, the rooftop restaurant at The Promenade : a sexy, atmospherically lit evening space, with a slick bar/club-type atmosphere.
For casual restaurant dining, it's a toss-up between two Pondi stalwarts: Satsanga or The Bistro (38 Rue Dumas St.; tel. 0413/222-7409; www.leclub-raj.com), located in the gardens of what had become (though currently being revamped) the rather run-down heritage Hotel de Pondichéry. Set beneath a thatched roof, with roll-down blinds, cane furniture (green plastic seats for the spillover), and lots of potted plants, The Bistro (aka Indochine) has a lovely, laid-back courtyard-garden atmosphere somewhat spoiled by the awful piped Western music, and probably the biggest cocktail menu in Tamil Nadu (this, along with the cheap prices account for its popularity with young backpackers). You could also try Rendez-vous Café (30 Rue Suffren; tel. 0413/233-0238), where tables laid with checkered cloths give a cheerful continental atmosphere; try the pork vindaloo; the seafood platter (huge) is also good. There is A/C available if it's unbearably hot; if not, sit on the rooftop terrace. For a slightly more cosseted old-fashioned romantic atmosphere, head over to the leafy, candlelit courtyard at Hotel de l'Orient. Local chefs, working with the French executive chef, change the menu at Carte Blanche pretty regularly but the concept is to keep fusing French recipes with Indian ingredients (predominantly coconut and curry leaves); there's limited space here so book if you're not staying here.
For a more informal vibe, and very cheap fare, Sea Gulls, located on the beach (near Park Guest House) is also a short stroll away. Food is nothing to write home about but portions are huge. Better still, if all you're wanting is a light snack-type meal of salads and whole-grain bread (and with the heat this is often ideal), head upstairs to the shaded roof terrace at Kasha Ki Aasha (23 Rue Surcouf; 0413/2222963). It's predominantly a gift shop; while the all-female staff is helpful and kind, be warned: Service is interminable, so take a book and relax.
Finally, if you find the French-influenced cuisine a little pretentious here on the subcontinent and prefer the deadly hot spices of the local Chettinad cuisine, an alternative to Aristo's A/C room is nearby Appachi (8 Rangapillai St.; tel. 0413/222-0613). It's very popular with locals, so get here early or be prepared to wait for a table.
Tip: If you're looking to escape the heat after shopping in Mission Street by stepping into an A/C refrigerator, or simply have a sweet tooth, Sri Krishna Sweets (86 Mission St.) is a spotlessly clean multicuisine canteen-style restaurant-cum-sweet shop, with a tempting array of traditional treats behind gleaming glass counters.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.