Naans, rich paneer butter makhani, steaming kadai vegetables, the wind in your hair, the bright lights of ECR…hop on Hijackk
We're embarrassingly giggly. As we as drive into Kailash Resort, still proudly advertising their New Year 2011 party, we collapse into laughter at the sight of our restaurant for the evening: a cheerful, towering, in-your-face double-decker bus.
Yes. You read that right. Our mission for the evening is to trundle up and down the East Coast Road chewing thoughtfully on paneer makhani. We fancy ourselves the Bond girls of adventure. After one class of power yoga (which required a week's recovery) we figure we're limber enough to do a Keanu Reeves if the bus goes rogue. Mixed movie metaphors bothering you? Let me stir up the chicken sweet corn soup and add one more. Think “Charlie's Angels”. Except after a long day's work we look more like refugees from the “Titanic”.
Kailash Resort seems appropriately dodgy at that time of the night. It's 8 p.m. and the entrance is swathed with light from a neon board, flashing a dazzling yellow wine glass. Though I'm guessing patrons don't drive all the way for French Bordeaux. We clamber on board the bus with the help of a slightly wobbly stool and three charming waitresses. Hmmm. Looks like we might have some competition for the “Charlie's Angels” image.
The bus begins to move as we climb to the top, thoughtfully outfitted with tables covered by a chic rubber mat to prevent crockery from sliding off. There are romantic tables for two on one side, and tables for four on the other. At the head of the whole set up there's a karaoke machine.
As we slowly slide into the East Coast Road a crowd of gawkers gathers at the tea shop opposite the resort and points relentlessly. My friends are thrilled, and wave at them in classic Queen Mother style, only to be rewarded by appreciative cat calls. (Which delights them even more.)
We settle down to watch the scenery. It isn't exactly the Swiss Alps, but the ECR does have its own charm — a lot of which you miss when you're zipping past late at night on your way to a beach party. Bustling tea shops brightened with big bunches of sweet, yellow bananas. A line of pawn brokers, their shop lit with menacing red lights. Stores filled with cardboard boxes piled with a muddle of export surplus clothes, from frighteningly orange tights to a rainbow of soft t-shirts.
The meal begins with a paneer kebab, finely minced and perfectly roasted. It's teamed with slightly soggy spring rolls crammed with delightfully crunchy julienned vegetables and karaoke. A friendly-looking man seats himself comfortably at the head of the bus and promises us an evening of Hindi, Tamil and Malayalam music. And yes, if we want, we can sing too.
Thankfully, my friends pass since the only lyrics they know by heart are from Lady Gaga's most off-colour songs. (They also have all the rhythm of a swarm of mosquitoes just hit with Baygon.) While we're subjected to a mournful rendition of Tu Pasand Hai (“Dil Hai Ke Maanta Nahin”) we eat a thick, tasteless sweet corn soup.
The main course arrives as we branch off the ECR into Sholingannur and then the Old Mahabhalipuram Road. Hardik Shah, CEO of Hijackk, says that although they wanted to stick to the ECR, the roads' low hanging high tension wires made it too dangerous. Although Chennai's answer to Silicon Valley is fairly pungent in spaces, it also provides entertaining scenery — the best of which involves chubby cows cuddled up besides road dividers.
We eat naans with a rich, tangy paneer butter makhani and steaming kadai vegetables. The food is cooked in a kitchen Hijackk has leased from Kailash Resort. By the time we pass Sathyabama College's flashy gate, we're on dessert — tubby gulab jamuns.
Hardik takes us downstairs to see the clubby air-conditioned interiors of the bus, reportedly popular with the kitty party crowd at lunchtime. It's unabashedly ostentatious, with disco lights and an inexplicable flat screen TV. We head back upstairs to entertain ourselves by waving cheerfully at annoyed commuters until it's time to disembark.
Hijackk makes two trips every night. A ticket, which includes an unlimited dinner, is Rs. 565 and Rs. 765 for vegetarian and non vegetarian food respectively. Tickets must be booked 24 hours in advance. Log onto http://www.hijackk.com/ for more details or call 97108-23761.