The most traditional of Indian metros extends its
hidebound values even into the field of food - thus, Madras is
for those who like their food - south Indian food, that is - the
way mother always made it. The average Madras eatery, thus, is
long on tradition, pitifully short on innovation.
The best bets, if you find yourself in Madras, are to stick to
the ubiquitous 'Udipi' cafes for such typically south Indian fast
foods as idlis, dosas and vadas. And if variety
is the spice of your gastronomic life, check out the speciality
restaurants featuring the cuisines of neighbouring states like
Andhra Pradesh and Kerala.
Intercontinental? Chinese? Sure, you get them, in the restaurants
attached to starred hotels. At least, you get food labelled 'Intercontinental'
and 'Chinese' - but if true-to-type taste is what you are into,
then forget it.
- Amravati, Cathedral Road: Excellent, inexpensive food
in the Andhra tradition. The biryanis are worth the eating.
- Imperial, 6, Gandhi Irwin Road, opposite Egmore railway
station: North Indian food, and steaks. Rather run to seed of
late, but still worth a checkout if you are in the area.
- Maharaja, 307, Triplicane High Road: Popular with the budget
traveller. North Indian dishes a speciality of the house. Better
value for money is the set meal. Open till midnight, which in
early-to-bed Madras counts for something.
- Karaikudi, near Music Academy: Spicy south Indian food in the Chettinad tradition.
- Palmgrove, 5, Kodambakkam High Road, tel # 8271881: Two vegetarian restaurants in one. Oorvasi specialises in tandoor
dishes, Menaka serves up great lunch-platters (thalis,
in local parlance).
- Saravana Bhavan, 77, Usman Road, T Nagar, near Mambalam
railway station: Very popular for authentic south Indian vegetarian
food. The ground floor is inexpensive, and serves up the food
on plantain leaves, the first floor extension is more upmarket
but very affordable. Tip: the food comes out of a common kitchen,
so your choice is between affordability and comfort.
- Woodlands Drive-In, 30, Cathedral Road: Vegetarian snacks,
in a garden setting. Patronised by the mobile - and we mean bikes
and scooters - teen crowd, though there is a table section for
walk-in diners as well.
- Woodlands, Cathedral Road: The home of traditional South
Indian vegetarian fare inclusive of the famous sappad replete
with sambar, rasam, applams and payasam.
- AVM Dasa, Mount Road: This restaurant, run jointly by a movie
mogul (AVM Studio) and a famous hotelier (Dasaprakash), offers
authentic dosa, sambar and chutney to the discerning
along with a host of continental vegetarian fare and an assortment
- Taj Connemara, Binny Road, tel # 860123: Superb buffet
at the Verandah coffee shop, stiffish price. A catchall
menu features vegetarian and non-vegetarian, continental and Indian.
The Rain Tree restaurant, an outdoorsy place, specialises
in the highly spiced Chettinad cuisine and is recommended for
non-vegetarian food. Live classical music performances and Bharat
Natyam recitals add to the ambience.
- Ambassador Pallava, 53, Montieth Road, near Egmore: The
Other Room features north Indian cuisine with a live band
in attendance, and a dance floor for the fiddle-footed. The buffet,
at a shade under Rs 200, recommended value for money.
- Taj Coromandel, 17, Nungambakkam High Road, tel # 8272827:
Mysore restaurant recommended for connoisseurs of Indian
cuisine. Golden Dragon for some almost-authentic Chinese
cuisine. The Patio for its continental food. The Pavilion coffee shop for its buffet breakfast.
- Welcomgroup Chola Sheraton, 10, Cathedral Road, tel # 8280101:
The Peshawari restaurant serves food from the North Western
Frontier Province, and costs a bomb.
The rooftop Sagari restaurant caters to Chinese-food freaks, and is good and expensive.
- Welcomgroup Park Sheraton, 132, TTK Road, tel # 452525:
The Residency is great for Indian, Western and Chinese food.
The Khyber is for the non-veg foodie, and the poolside barbecue
is worth the stiffish tab.
Dakshin is the best of the restaurants, and offers great, unusual veg and non-veg dishes to the accompaniment
of live Carnatic music.
- Trident Hotel, 1/24 Grand Southern Trunk Road, tel # 2344747:
Worth the 20-minute drive from the city centre, if only for some
toothsome Thai food.