Today half the world is familiar with South Indian food -- paper dosas, idlis, medu wadas, pappadams. Or so they believe. A trip to Madras will change that notion entirely. Madras is the place to sample the real delights of South Indian food that most have not set eyes on. It is the city where one can go on a real eating holiday and never miss having not seen a church or a temple. The umpteen types of dosas. The trillion types of pulaos. The crunchy raitas. Spicy preparations of unheard of vegetables. And the meat cusine -- prawn drumstick curries, the mutton biryanis.


  • 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 of salads.


  • 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.