Friday, September 26, 2008

Chennai Snapshots

The Park ChennaiFor nearly thirty years from 1940, the Gemini Studios of Madras (now Chennai) was one of the most influential film-producing studios of India. The Gemini emblem of two small boys with bugles adorned many a classic movie made between the 40s and the 60s. My hotel this time, The Park in Chennai, stands in the middle of where the studio once existed.

The Park brings back the magic of Indian Films in a rather interesting way: The corridors and rooms are decorated with original posters of movies made in these studios a long time back - in Tamil, Hindi and even Bengali.

The Park Chennai
The Park ChennaiI had landed late in the evening on a Kingfisher flight from Pune. By the time I checked-in it there was only time to have a quick dinner before retiring for the busy day ahead. 601, their all-day dining restaurant, serves buffets but I ordered some local dishes off their menu. The restaurant was quite busy but quiet - until a number of giggly-chatty Thai girls walked in, probably an airline crew letting their hair down.

Mutton Sukha and Appam at 601
Chocolate Brownie with Ice Cream at 601
The mutton sukha varuval made in Chettinad style with shallots was hot and spicy and was a delight to have with the freshly made appams. They also served a side of crisply (batter) fried okra which was pretty interesting too. Then the waiter insisted I end with their chocolate brownie topped with ice-cream - apparently very popular here.

Saravana Bhavan ChennaiDuring the two days at Chennai, I tried the lunch buffet at Trident Hotel (excellent) and a dinner buffet at the Radisson (very good). However, the highlight was clearly my lunch at Saravana Bhavan. A reader of this blog, Anu, first pointed me to this restaurant chain which now has outlets in Delhi, Dubai and even Silicon Valley. The eating area was crowded but they opened a new section for us. Pictures of Hindu Gods drawn in a South Indian style adorned the walls. The South Indian thali I selected was very good (and filling too!). Unlimited (vegetarian) food for only Rs:150 (approx USD 3=00) per person; I don't think you can get better value for money than this!

Special Thali at Saravana Bhavan
Special Thali at Saravana BhavanThe food was very hot and spicy and contained a multitude of veggie preparations along with chutneys and spice mixtures to dip into.

During this trip, I also discovered how expensive this city has become. Rents for apartments are almost double what they are in Pune; drivers, maids, and such help are more costly too. Water continues to be a problem even though the good rains in the recent past have helped. Every road is jam-packed with traffic - this I guess is happening everywhere (read Thomas Friedman's latest, Hot, Flat and Crowded; it makes some excellent points on where we are headed).

I left Chennai with large packets of Sambar powder, kai muruku and Mysore Pak - thank you Bala and Geetha! With this, flavors of Chennai will grace my dining room for some more time.

8 comments:

Priyank said...

Ah sounds like you had a wonderful time in Chennai! The thaali looks gorgeous, with so many preparations its overwhelming!

Lakshmi said...

You have kindled not just my hunger, but the passion for my city..Saravana Bhavan is one of my fav haunts and Park is just a stones throw from my old off..so did u check out Leather bar ? Next time do stop by at amethyst..its a nice charming coffee shop

indicaspecies said...

I can see 16 'vaatis' (is it a Gujarati word?) in one plate, and the puris/chapatis and rice is yet to arrive!

Thankfully we have Udupi restaurant here which satiates our craving for veg Thali food here.

Deepti said...

The thali looks mouth watering .. :)

HAREKRISHNAJI said...

Meals at Saravana Bhavan looks very tempting.

Shantanu said...

@priyank: Actually it was a pretty hectic two days; but then I only write about the fun parts!

@lakshmi: I poked my head into Leather Bar, but had to retire early so I could be ready for the day ahead.

@indicaspecies: Vati in Gujrati, Bati in Bengali...and yes, Udipi is the Karnataka equivalent of Saravana Bhavan.

@deepti, @harekrishna: Doesn't it? :)

Cuckoo said...

Your thali left me drooling .... so attractive. I am hungry now.

Where do they serve rice/chapati etc. ?

Shantanu said...

@cuckoo: Actually I didn't photograph the rice, paratha and puri. They accompanied the thali.