The watchman looks smug. It probably comes from spending all day with a gorilla who looks like he's got a weakness for deep-fried food and a couple of dinosaurs with dental-hygiene issues. After all most other restaurant watchmen only get to - yawn - watch customers' cars.
At The Cave, recently opened in Teynampet, he lead us across a dark passage, into a space bathed in faint orange light, a disturbingly happy skull with disco lights for eyes and surprisingly cheery staff.
A theme restaurant, The Cave's a sort of Stone Age meets Madam Tussaud's Chamber of Horrors. We squealed all the way in. But before you accuse us of being world-class wimps, let me point out that it was largely because the dark passage was so unexpected after the blinding sunshine outside. And, well, my friend - let's just call her the Deadly Diva or DD - was faintly traumatised by the cave woman's teeth. "She's creeping me out, ya," whispered DD over our starters, garlicky-chilly potatoes and wickedly spicy Phuket fish. Lifting her manicured fingers to dramatically cover her mascara-laden eyes, she adds, "She needs braces, moisturiser and maybe a facial."
Luckily for Cavewoman, her eyebrows were declared, "excellent, ya. I wonder who her stylist is." Children, however will be far less picky than DD, no doubt. And this restaurant's clearly targeting kids. There's an antelope head that glows in the dark. The room gurgles with water, as a result of many little waterfalls. And there are even weaver birds' nests hanging from the ceiling. For an adult, to be perfectly honest, it's a bit cheesy. Also, if you have claustrophobia, this is definitely not a good place to dine, since the rock ceiling is rather low, and there's so little light it sometimes feels like the room is closing in on you.
That said, it's fun if you're in the right frame of mind, simply because it's so unusual for Chennai. The service is friendly, if a little over-solicitous. The food's good, in a let's-keep-the-masses-happy kind of way. So it's multi-cuisine, of course, with the staples of Indian, Continental and Chinese, and some lashings of Thai. There are all the old favourites: pastas, biriyanis and chicken 65. It arrives fast, steaming and in generous quantities. We have a delicious garlic naan, stretchy in the centre, crisp on the sides and generously showered with aromatic garlic bits. It's teamed with a mutton vindaloo, which is as Goan as Jurassic Park. It's tasty nonetheless, no doubt in part to the generous lashings of oil and garam masala. The Thai vegetables with cashew nuts, however, are a washout, arriving in a gooey unappetizing mass.
The dessert list is disappointingly short, so we settle for a bowl of chocolate ice-cream and one of litchis and ice cream. The ice-cream is excellent. There are however just three litchis served. Perhaps the cavewoman snapped them up on her way to the dentist. DD tries fraternising with a particularly buff caveman on our way out, so we end up having to remove her by pulling at her newly re-bonded hair. Clearly, it's not just children who find The Cave entertaining. If you're up for a giggle, it'll fit the bill .
The Cave is at 486/579 Anna Salai, Teynampet. Call 45544406 or 9840109009 for more details.