Navigating Plate Reviews

The Princess of Hills and Altaf’s Cafe

Hills are the perfect place to relax and unwind. The landscape, the weather, the adrenaline pump, everything just sets in. But what about the food? Majority of the touristy hill stations in India, apart from the seven sister states, have very few good restaurants or outlets they can boast of. One must make to do with the multiple Maggi options available, bread omelette for a heavy meal and of course a strong cup for ginger tea.

Kodaikanal, rightly called the princess of hills, is all kinds of beautiful. Kodai is in Tamil Nadu and the population there speak Tamizh. Even though we find a lot of restaurants and cafes packed with people, hardly any of them serve food that we would return for. Near the lake, there is a mother-son duo who serve hot Milaku Bhajjis (long green chillies coated with a batter of gram flour and deep-fried), chai (tea) and bread omelette. This is the best you can get within the town. Ooty, Panchgani, and other similar hill stations are no different!

During one of my trips to Kodai with my ex-colleagues at Uber Eats, I was frustrated and took to Instagram for help! From the responses I received, Altaf Cafe saw itself being repeated quite a few times. Altaf Cafe is at Vattakanal, you will have to cover your journey by foot after a point and that makes the experience all the more interesting. A steep walk down towards this quaint and rustic place that sports a serene view of the hills behind, adds to the charm. It was pre-COVID time and the place was packed. We waited for a while to be seated at two extreme ends of the cafe.

Altaf’s Cafe offers a pseudo continental cuisine rather than catering to local dishes, this could probably be to attract the foreign tourists of the area. We placed our order with a service staff who was so light on his feet that it gave me an idea of him being a dancer. Our first choice was to get ourselves a cup of coffee and hot chocolate. The weather demanded that kind of warmth.

Spaghetti with cheese (I don’t quite remember what we ordered), chicken noodle, and a platter of falafel, hummus and pita were served to us. Someone ordered a portion of fried rice too if my memory serves me right. The food was hot, the flavours were decent, but when compared to the below-average food served elsewhere within Kodai, Altaf’s Cafe can easily be considered a blessing.

The next time you are in Kodai, and if you haven’t visited Altaf’s yet, do add it to your list to help you cope with hunger. Food with a view, guaranteed. But, that is the max I can vouch for as a food blogger. With that said, I can’t wait to visit Kodai again.


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