Yummy Treats - Karen Anand for Times Food Guide
Pune Times, Date: Oct. 21, 2011: When I returned to what was then Bombay not Mumbai in the mid 80’s, Cream Centre was already a well established vegetarian haunt on Marine Drive. I remember seeing endless queues outside every time I drove by especially over the weekends. Opened in 1958, it had already become ‘the’ place to get the best channa bhatura in the city and by the 80’s were serving all manner of vegetarian, spicy Italian dishes mostly with gooey cheesy sauces. It made no claim to being authentic Italian or Mexican or whatever. And quite frankly, nobody really cared. The one and only USP was that it was totally vegetarian and that it served tasty food. I went in there for lunch only a few years ago. The food was much better than I expected — both the Indian and the Mediterranean. What most people don’t realise is that the North Indian food is excellent, the channa bhatura has stood the test of time, the chaats are truly outstanding and they have extended their menu to include biryani and now a whole range of Italian dishes. The food is tasty, hearty and very reasonably priced. What’s more, now that there are Cream Centres in a dozen cities in India they seem to have done an excellent job of standardising their recipes so whether you go to Pune, Ahmedabad or Patna, the pastas, pizzas, falafel and nachos taste the same.
The Pune outlet is in Kalyani Nagar on the ground floor of a little hotel called Cypress. There is a separate side entrance to Cream Centre but no signage so you will have to look out for Cypress as a land mark. We ordered the nachos, with homemade tortilla chips and drippy cheesy sauce, which was good. The American corn cheese balls and the bambaiya ragda pattice were tasty starters. My falafel stuffed in a soft pitta made a nice afternoon snack although I found the tahini, the Lebanese sesame sauce, quite watery and it tasted more like yoghurt. The pasta was predictable - over cooked by Italian standards so that it had the consistency of noodles but the three cheese sauce was quite extravagant. Cream Centre has extended the menu to include soups, salads and sandwiches, sizzlers and a whole bunch of tex-mex dishes. I wouldn’t call it ‘gourmet’ but it certainly is tasty, very, very fast food. In fact the speed of the service is astonishing. They do home delivery except for desserts and drinks and for fans of this kind of food, you will be happy to note that unlike the Mumbai eatery, you won't have to wait for a table. Service is polite and very efficient. A good place to stop in the Kalyani Nagar area for a reasonably priced variety of vegetarian dishes served in impeccably clean, almost American 'diner' like surroundings. I would imagine this is extremely popular with families and children.
Cream Centre Pune: Hotel Fern Survey No.2081 Lane No.10, Near Kalpataru Residency, Opposite Solaris Gymn, Kalyani Nagar Pune - 411 014 Tel: +91 (20) 40180000
RATING: Food: 3.5 Ambience: 4 Décor: 4 (5) Excellent (4) Very good (3) Good (2) Average (1) Poor