The city has grown into a vibrant, social hub over the last few years. We bring to you five of Chennai’s most inspired, popular and young hangouts that offer a relaxed yet edgy ambience coupled with the prospect of bumping into old friends. By Akanksha Bhatia, Akshatha Iyer, Shruti Thoonoli, Sreshtha Tiwari, Karthika S. Photos: Shaza Sherin, Sreshtha Tiwari, Mathanghee

D-Café

35A, Bazullah Road, T Nagar

One of D cafe’s standout features is the worn-out pathway leading to the cafe and cane sofas in the backyard that are alluring yet soothing; it calls out to your whimsical self. “Restaurants today, are not as profitable as they were. In spite of this situation, D-café, owing to its food and ambience has made a significant mark for itself,” says Greg, the executive chef and manager. This café serves sumptuous Italian, Mexican and oriental cuisine. D-café has recently extended its premises to include a party hall and also rents out its studio to customers. “In spite of being set up in an open area, it’s a shady and pleasant place. The most exciting part for me is the open kitchen where you get to see the food being prepared. D-café has good food, excellent ambience and is a wonderful place to unwind with friends,” says Revathi Hariharan, a college student. The most fascinating part of this café actually is the intriguing buttons that adorn the tables and walls that have been designed exclusively by Durai, the owner. “When I had newly set up D-café in 2013, I came in everyday to make sure the ambience was; today I’m proud while interacting with the customers. When I ask them to describe D-cafe in a word most of them say it’s ‘romantic’. We have a group of girls and few couples who visit our café regularly,” he says.

Coffeetales

7th Cross St W, BharathiPuram, Shenoy Nagar

At Coffeetales, quirky comic book patterns that run across the ceiling and dim yellow lights give it an unruffled ambience. Known for their mind boggling varieties of Maggi noodles (they have over 40 different ones) and of course, coffee, Coffeetales is all about comfort and simplicity. “Where others stop thinking is where we start. I knew I had to do something related to Maggi because everybody loves it and is lifesaving. Coffeetales, had to be some place where people would make friends and lasting relationships,” says Manoj, the owner, who is often found chatting up his customers. From paneer masala Maggi, to Ferrero Rocher and baby corn Maggi, name it and Coffeetales does it. “Coffee Tales is one of my favourite spots in Chennai; it’s a great place to relax with a cup of warm coffee and a good book. I love the warm hospitable staff and the homely atmosphere,” says Saumya Chawla, a regular. Coffeetales is definitely ‘the’ place to chat and catch up over cups of coffee and plates of Maggi.

Sandy’s Chocolate Laboratory

16, Wallace Garden, 2nd Street, Nungambakkam

Sandy’s unique laboratory theme receives a lot of sceptic looks at first, but once you get accustomed to the ambience you’ll find yourself making your way to the experimental ‘photo booth’. It’s an innovative idea that has given many youngsters their most ‘Liked’ profile pictures on Facebook and Instagram. The photo booth offers colourful wigs, witty placards and bizarre sunglasses while you stand behind a table don a lab coat and act like an eccentric scientist. "I often visit Sandy’s with a few friends. Their Tiny Chocolate Cake and chocolate milkshake are definitely our favourites. And the OMG is a must have, especially the way they serve it,” says Aneesh, a regular customer. Located in the hustling part of Chennai, Sandy’s stands strong even after five years. Maybe it has something to do with the highly original and oddball way of serving beverages in beakers and test tubes; holding true to its theme. The most eye catching dish is ‘OMG’, a startling combination of two chocolate brownies, three chocolate chip cookies, six scoops of ice cream of which three are vanilla, three chocolate, a generous pouring of fresh whipped cream topped with caramel, butterscotch, white and dark chocolate sauces accompanied by a sparkler in the place of a candle that fires this 2.2 kgs of a dish! Sounds like quite a mouthful, doesn’t it? “Many people come in twice a day; they love the whole laboratory theme and of course, the tiny chocolate cake,” says Thilay Nadhan, the manager.

Illusions – The Madras Pub

No. 105, 1st Floor, Dr. Radhakrishnan Salai

Fittingly put by one of its most enthusiastic customers Karun Raman, Illusions makes you feel like you’re at home. It’s a pub, lounge and a resto bar put together that gives out a happy vibe. With live music on Thursdays, karaoke nights on Fridays, and even happy aura it gives out on rather stuffy Tuesdays, Illusions is packed with events. At the first look, the place gives the illusion of being expensive and harsh on a student’s pocket. But for the ambience and services it offers, Illusions is reasonable, especially when compared to pubs in five star hotels, the only other alternatives in the city. “The energy of this place is great. As a singer, Illusions is one of my favourite places to perform. They gave us our first break,” says Christleda of Sugar Rush band. It isn’t called “The Madras Pub” without a reason; the place has various Chennai-themed cocktails like ‘Thousand lights’ and ‘Queen Mary’s’. “People come here to feel young. Despite the fact that alcohol is served here, the women feel safe. It’s amusing how I cater to two generations. Sometimes girls come up to me and say, ‘Hey! My mother knows you’,” laughs Arasu Dennis, the owner of Illusions.

That Madras Place

34/29, 2nd Main Road, Kasturibai Nagar, Adyar

“This is my way of saying how much I love this city and how proud I am to live here,” says Mathangi, the owner of That Madras Place, a chef specialised in French cuisine. Although the restaurant offers European cuisine on the menu, it pays a sincere tribute to the city through its walls. Filled with black and white graffiti of anything that is authentically Chennai, from Tasmac to Rajnikanth, the food is served in authentic Tamilian platters. It is to be noted that the place welcomes stand-up comedy acts, workshops, the most recent one being Book cub and also encourages live performances by undiscovered talent. “That Madras Place is a quirky in every sense. My favourites are the mushroom ravioli and the opera cake. The ambience, lighting, service and interiors are so warm and equally lively; it’s a perfect place for youngsters like us,” says Diksha, a college student.