[NOTE ADDED ON DECEMBER 22, 2009 — Deccan Rendezvous has a holiday special menu (in addition to their regular menu) starting today through December 31st. This menu features traditional Christmas/Thanksgiving items such as Turkey, Mashed Potatoes, Gravy and Cranberry Sauce. Tried it today. Pretty good! Had tried this same menu during 2008 Christmas as well…]
I am passionate about good food and always on the lookout for a great new restaurant. However, I try to maintain a small list of regular restaurants that I like to frequent. Over the years, this list has included a few places in Pune as well as in Dallas (where I spent over 10 years…). Vaishali has been a perennial favorite and Clay-Pit in Dallas is pretty amazing as well. In my view, along with great food these places also demonstrate the following impressive qualities: consistency, service and specialization.
Let me elaborate further. I hate change when it comes to my favorite dish! I want it to taste the exact same, month after month, year after year. Take for example, Vaishali’s Idli-Vada Sambar. Some people might call this expectation boring, but for me this is very important. When it comes to service, the usual attentiveness and efficiency are to be expected; however that extra special personalization touch is key. I believe in having a small list of restaurants primarily for this reason. I like to go places where I know the serving staff by name, where I can get to know the manager/chef/owner personally, and where I can provide direct inputs towards continuous improvement. Specialization is also very important. The restaurant should do a perfect job of achieving ‘world class’ in a certain segment of their menu.
Ok, now that I have specified the criteria for my ‘all-time favorite list’, I would like to introduce a new addition, that excels in many of the above criteria – ‘Deccan Rendezvous’, located at the corner of Apte Road and Ghole Road in Pune.
Even though I am a big fan of good North Indian food, it was my quest for nice Non-Indian food choices that really got me here the first time. Coming to Pune after a long stay in US, I used to miss the eclectic multi-national cuisine. Especially Thai and Italian food. Also, living in the Deccan Gymkhana area, I wanted to find something close by, instead of spending 45-60 min in a traffic jam to head to Koregaon Park. Deccan Rendezvous addressed both these constraints. Its multi-cuisine restaurant ‘Glass Window’ offers North-Indian, Italian, South-East Asian, European and other world cuisines.
The appetizer section is interesting with diverse choices ranging from Middle-Eastern to Caribbean selections. Traditional Indian choices are also available. The Jalapeno Cheese Poppers are awesome. ‘Lebanese Maza Platter’ is quite popular, but the Hummus has some room for improvement. The Tomato Mozzarella is an excellent choice amongst the Salads.
Deccan Rendezvous has a decent collection of international Cocktails and Spirits. Many of the usual favorites are very good, but the Mojito and the Margarita need some tweaking. The adjoining ‘Soul Purpose’ bar has a subtle ambience and is amongst the better lounge bars I have been to in India. Most of the other lounge bars, I find too loud for my tastes.
Chef Anand and his team have done an excellent job as far as the various Pasta dishes are concerned. Penne with Pesto Cream Sauce is my personal favorite. The Thai menu is a little limited, but the Red, Green and Panang curries are really good. The Indonesian Nasi Goreng is nice as well. The European dishes are ok, but definitely not Deccan Rendezvous’ strong point. The English classic, Fried Fish & Chips needs some improvement. The North Indian selection is impressive. The Kababs are great and so are the various gravy dishes. The Nans and Parathas are perfectly done. ‘Chicken Tikka Akbari’ and ‘Dal Gilafi’ are my favorites in this category.
The only cuisine that is not up to mark is Mexican. Frankly, I have tried many fancy restaurants in Pune and have still come back disappointed in my quest for good Mexican, Tex-Mex or Cajun food. Many places claim to serve this cuisine, but the taste is no where near (Deccan Rendezvous included) what I have been accustomed to in Texas.
No good meal is complete without a dessert and Deccan Rendezvous excels in this area. The selection is extensive and extremely well done. I guess extending the ‘Baker’s Basket’ heritage (Baker’s Basket – the famous bakery store chain in Pune, and Deccan Rendezvous are part of the same parent company), one can see why this is their forte. I am a big fan of Chocolate desserts and ‘Chocolate Mousse’ and ‘Fudge Brownie with Chocolate Sauce’ are my top picks here.
The service at Deccan Rendezvous is excellent. The serving staff is courteous and attentive. Though a little stretched for space, the restaurant is very comfortable. The décor is simple and modern. On weekend nights, you will find excellent live music here. I understand that there are plans afoot to expand the seating area. That will be extremely helpful. Reservations are recommended; especially on weekend evenings.
To summarize, Deccan Rendezvous offers a great choice if you are looking for a nice multi-cuisine restaurant in the heart of Deccan Gymkhana area. Click here, for the exact location of the hotel (courtesy: www.sadakmap.com).
Hotel Website: http://www.deccanrendezvous.com/
Address: Apte Road, Shivajinagar, Pune 411004
Directions (courtesy sadakmap): http://www.sadakmap.com/p/Deccan-Rendezvous/
Contact: 020 2561 2345
In this second article in the series on Pune History Trivia, I am continuing with a set of 20 new items related to the past couple of centuries. As always, any feedback and answers to some of the open questions would be extremely helpful. I still continue to be amazed at how difficult it can be to find real basic facts about our recent Pune history! Readers who haven’t reviewed the first article in this series should definitely checkout it out: Pune History Trivia – 1
Similar to what I had noted in the first article on this topic… I cannot make any guarantees regarding the exact accuracy of these facts. It is unfortunate that we don’t have 100% accurate versions of our recent history in Pune. If you would like to correct/add to any of the points below, please write a comment and ideally provide a good source. I would be more than happy to edit and update the post. You can also provide more open questions in this area for me or the other readers to research!
Over the years, I have browsed numerous books, links, and articles/papers to learn more about Pune history. I do want to highlight two great books that I find very valuable:
1) ‘Pune – Queen of the Deccan’ by Jaymala Diddee & Samita Gupta. Published: 2000
2) ‘Pune: Krishnadhaval’ (Marathi) by Mandar Lawate. Published: 2008
Phule Mandai, the major vegetable market in Pune was originally called as Reay Market. It was constructed by the British in 1885, and named after Lord Reay, then governor of Bombay. Prior to the opening of the Reay Market, the city vegetable market used to occupy the open area in front of Shaniwar Wada. When the stall owners were asked to shift to the new market, there was some resentment owing the high rents the British were charging them. Lokmanya Tilak’s Kesari took up the issue in support of the agitating owners. Mahatma Jyotiba Phule started an agitation to take up their cause. For some length of time, this building also served as the head quarters of the Pune Municipality.
2. Oldest Running Stores in Pune
I don’t have one single answer here. Also there are various criteria that can complicate this issue (name changes, transfer of ownership, change of location, etc.). Instead of identifying one store, I will list a few old stores by area. I would like the readers to contribute to this list.
a. There used to be a bakery on a cross road connecting East Street and Main Street in Camp. I don’t remember the name, but as recently as early 1990s, I remember reading the board there that said, “Established 1836”. I am not sure if that Bakery is still around.
b. I think the oldest store in the Deccan Gymkhana area is probably International Book House located right next to the post office. It was established in 1931. The D.G. Post building was setup in 1924. (I guess, immediately following the 1921 inclusion of Erandwane into Pune Municipality).
c. Poona Drug Store is over 100 years old and is located on East Street in Pune Camp.
d. Naro Appaji Godbole Book Store in Appa Balwant Chowk is probably the oldest running store in that area. It was established in 1858.
e. Dorabjees was established in 1911 and is amongst the oldest food stores in Pune. It is still extremely popular today. It was prominently featured in one movie scene from Raj Kapoor’s Sangam, in the early 1960s. Given that Sangam was one of the first full length color movies in India, the shot of Dorabjees store exterior and the road alongside it, is probably one of the first color footage of Pune!
Parvati was established in 1750s by Nanasaheb Peshwe. It was built as a complex of temples. A small palace was also built on top of the hill (presently it is the Nanasaheb Peshwe museum). The Parvati Lake at the foothills of Parvati was also created around the same time. According to one story, Nanasaheb Peshwe died on Parvati of shock, soon after hearing the news of the Panipat defeat.
4. Oldest college in Pune – Deccan College
The Deccan College is the oldest college (amongst colleges of modern era) in Pune and amongst the oldest in India. It was established in 1821. Mount Elphinstone the then governor of Bombay Territory took the lead in establishing this institution. Originally, it was based at the Vishrambag Wada. In 1868 the present grand building was built and the college shifted to the new location.
5. How many Peths in Pune?
This should be a very straightforward fact, right? I am not so sure! Any comments would be helpful.
The ones I am aware of are (the names in brackets denote the original name of the Peth at the time of formation). They are listed in the chronological order of their creation:
Kasba Peth, Shaniwar Peth (Murtazabad), Raviwar Peth (Malkapur), Somwar Peth (Shahpur), Mangalwar Peth (Ashtapur), Budhwar Peth (Mohyabad), Shukrawar Peth (Visapur), Guruwar Peth (Vetal), Nagesh-Nyahal Peth (this Peth was setup in 1755, but gradually dwindled and was eventually merged into Somwar Peth), Ganesh Peth, Narayan Peth, Bhavani Peth, Muzzafarganj (Setup in 1768, gradually became extinct by late 19th century), Sadashiv Peth, Ghorpade Peth, Rasta Peth, Nana Peth, Ganj Peth, Navi Peth.
As mentioned in the list above, a couple of these Peths: Nagesh-Nyahal and Muzzafarganj are extinct (they got merged into other Peths in the 19th century.
The oldest Peth is Kasba Peth. The newest one is Navi Peth.
6. Sangam Bridge (Wellesley Bridge)
After 1818 as British got complete control over Pune, one of their early tasks was to build an alternate Mutha river crossing to Lakdi Pul. At that time Lakdi Pul and an old causeway that stood near the present Dengle Bridge (opposite Kumbhar Ves) were the only river bridges in Pune.
They built a bridge next to their residency in Pune (near today’s Sangam Bridge/COEP) sometime immediately after 1818 (exact year not known). This bridge was strengthened in 1840. It was completely rebuilt in 1876 to its present form and called as ‘Wellesley Bridge’ (presently known as Sangam Bridge). This bridge had some damage in the Panshet floods of 1961 and underwent repairs.
Wellesley Bridge and Wellesley Road (presently known as Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar Road) were named after Arthur Wellesley, the famous British Official of the East Indian Company in the early 1800s. He was instrumental in defeating Baji Rao II in 1803, and then re-instating him as Peshwa under British control. Incidentally, this is the same ‘Wellesley’ who later on went to defeated Napoleon in the campaign of 1812-1813 and later served as British Prime Minister for two terms.
7. Old Railway Bridge
The present road bridge that is right next to the railway bridge on Mutha River near Pune station was built in 1857. It was the original railway bridge. Railway operations between Pune and Khandala started in 1858. In 1928, when the Pune-Mumbai railway line was electrified, the present railway bridge was built right next to the old one. Some time later, the old railway bridge was converted to a road bridge.
8. Vishrambag Wada
Vishrambag Wada was one of the last major Wadas built by the Peshwes. It was built between 1803 and 1809. After the defeat of the Peshwes, it served multiple purposes – including the first college in Pune in 1821 and the first location for the Pune Municipality after it was established in 1858.
9. Fergusson College
Fergusson College was established in 1885. It moved to its current campus only in 1895. Prior to that, the classes were held in Gadre Wada and a few other city locations. It was named after Sir James Fergusson, the then governor of Bombay Province. The original land for Fergusson college was acquired from the Shiroles (who owned large tracts of land in Bhamburda).
Lokmanya Tilak, Chiplunkar, Agarkar were amongst the people who took the lead in setting up the college. Gopal Krishna Gokhale was also actively involved in D.E.S. (Deccan Education Society), the parent society of this college and New English School (setup earlier in 1880).
Principal Wordsworth, the grandson of the famous poet, was the master of the ceremonies at the inaugural function of the college.
10. Shivaji Bridge (Nava Pul / Lloyd Bridge)
Shivaji Bridge was completed in 1923. Originally, it was known as Lloyd Bridge. Ever since it was built, it has always been more commonly referred to as ‘Nava Pul’. I am not sure how this name came into existence, but can conjecture that this was the first ‘new’ bridge in the old city after the Lakdi Pul. Hence maybe the locals started calling it as the ‘Nava Pul’. (‘Nava’ in Marathi = New)
One legend (not confirmed) says that the bridge was purposely built at this height and location, right opposite the Shaniwar Wada, to spoil the imposing view of Shaniwar Wada.
11. Senapati Bapat Road
The Panshet floods resulted in massive changes in Pune city. The resettlement process of thousands of people who had lost their homes resulted in creation of many new residential areas such as Sahakar Nagar and Gokhale Nagar. As Gokhale Nagar started growing, a need was felt to connect it to the Erandwane side of the city. This was achieved in 1963 by excavating a portion of the Hanuman hill, thereby creating the present ‘Khind’. The original road was a rough and unpaved. The current Senapati Bapat Road was setup sometime in late 1960s.
12. Pune Railway Station Building
The original building and station setup was in existence through the 1920s. It was a fairly small station building and consisted of 3 platforms. Roughly at the same time of the electrification of the Mumbai-Pune railway line, the station building was also rebuilt into its present form.
13. British Clubs in Pune & Empress Garden
The Poona Gymkhana (now called as Poona Club) was setup in 1880. The original race course was set up near the river bank (near present day Boat Club Road), and was later moved near the Cantonment Parade Grounds, to its present location. The present building was constructed in 1918. The Boat Club was constructed sometime in the 1870s to take advantage of the backwater created by the bund. Note that the Cantonment Parade Grounds and the Race Course were located adjacent to the Empress Garden. This was amongst the oldest botanical gardens in India and was originally owned by Sardar Purandare. It came under British control in 1838 and changed its name to ‘Empress’ Garden when Queen Victoria was proclaimed as the Empress of India. The British soldiers used to frequently visit this garden, earning it another popular name, ‘Soldiers Garden’.
14. Bund Garden
Prior to setting up of the Khadakwasala dam, the river was dammed by a bund in 1850 to supply water to the cantonment area. It was made possible by a grant by a Mumbai merchant – Sir Jamshetji Jeejeebhoy Bart. Hence the bund was named after him.
In 1868-69 a garden was built around the bund. The backwater provided a great opportunity for water sports and the Boat Club (Royal Connaught Boat Club) was setup there around the same time.
A bridge was built just below the bund in 1867-68. It was originally known as the Fitzgerald Bridge (known to many in Pune as ‘Sinhacha Pul’… due to the characteristic lion statues on the bridge). This bridge provided a crucial link from the cantonment area to the western Yerawada area and onwards towards Nagar.
15. Shivajinagar (Bhamburda) Station
The Shivajinagar railway station was setup in 1925. It was originally known as the ‘Bhamburda’ station to reflect the name of the area.
The station was built to support the rapid expansion of the Pune city towards the west of the Mutha River.
16. Pune Municipality
The Pune Municipality was setup in 1858. The process had gradually begun in 1854 and the final acceptance was done by 1857 – however the 1857 Independence Struggle pushed it out by one year. The first elections for the Municipality were held in 1883. The municipality occupied the Vishram Bag Wada for a few years and was then shifted to the Reay Market Building (present Mandai). After independence, in 1950 the Municipality was converted to Municipal Corporation and the present PMC building was constructed, opposite the Nava Pul.
17. First Major Vaccination Drive in Pune
The first major vaccination drive against smallpox in Pune apparently occurred between 1806 and 1810. British & other European Doctors who were based at the Pune Residency (near Sangam) were offering this service to the local population. In spite of religious and other orthodox beliefs, many locals did take advantage of this service. According to one story, Dr. Coats introduced vaccination to Pune and between the above periods, he and his team vaccinated more than 10,000 people. It was reported at that time that smallpox was nearly eliminated in Pune and the surrounding regions.
18. First Cinema in Pune
Prior to 1914 traveling cinema was introduced to Pune. In 1914, the first permanent Cinema – Napier Cinema was established in Pune. This was later renamed to Westend Cinema. (Present Aurora Towers). This Cinema used to screen silent films. It was only in 1931 that it became a ‘talkies’.
19. Pune Telegraph
The first telegraph line between Mumbai and Pune was setup in 1854, thereby inaugurating a fast new way of communications. It is interesting to note that the complete intercontinental Kolkata – London telegraph line was operational by 1870. Siemens of Germany was the contractor in charge of building this vital communication link of the British Empire.
20. Parvati Lake, Saras Bag
During the reign of Nanasaheb Peshwe, Pune witnessed rapid growth. The old Pune city was concentrated between the Ambil Odha and the Nagzari. The Ambil Odha was a source of regular flooding. To control this flooding, the Odha was controlled by a system of dams and sluices. This altered its course to the present course. The old channel was further excavated and this led to formation of a series of lakes. The major one, being the Parvati Lake. Hira Bag was developed as a retreat garden where lotuses were grown. An island in the island was developed as Saras Bag with a Ganpati temple on it.
Other random/interesting trivia facts that interested me…
I am still trying to find when Kamala Nehru Park was first established. I conjecture (more of a rough guess) that it was sometime in the late 1930s/early 1940s.
This guess is based on the two primary people whose names are associated with this park – Kamala Nehru and Dr. S V Ketkar. There is a memorial to Dr. Ketkar in the park. The road that accesses this park is also named after Dr. Ketkar. Kamala Nehru died in 1936 and Dr. Ketkar died in 1937 – hence it is quite possible that a park opened around the same timeframe could be named to honor their memories.
[NOTE added June 21, 2010: I found one more validation for the above theory. In one of Acharya Atre’s speeches from the 1960s, he mentions how the Pune Municipality took the lead in setting up Sambhaji and other gardens(incl Kamla Nehru Park) in 1938 – they were completed much later, but its quite likely that they got their names assigned in 1938 – in which case, the above theory is probably correct. ]
The oldest house in the Deccan Gymkhana society was built in 1922, prior to the official establishment of the society. While many of the old houses in this area have given way to newer buildings, this one is still around. It is located near the Suvarna Smriti Hall.
Continue reading more Pune History Trivia: Pune Trivia – 3