Around the city in 48 hours

As the city turns 376 today, there’s nostalgia in the air, with people looking back at what Madras was like. Black-and-white pictures resurface: a desolate Marina Beach, an almost vehicle-less Mount Road with a bullock cart gently ambling along, trams and tram lines near the Madras High Court… There’s ample reading material on the grand old city that it was. Some of those components still exist — kutcheris, old sari shops selling Kanchipuram silks, traditional restaurants that have withstood the onslaught of fancy cafes, magnificent temples with vibrant gopurams... But the city today also has a flurry of offerings that are trendy and fun.


8.30 a.m.

Wake up lazy bones, the outdoors beckon. The roads can be a nightmare, but how about running through a narrow, meandering trail with greenery on either side? For that, there is the Theosophical Society. Feel a refreshing breeze on your face, watch colourful birds flutter past, and look out for a section where bats hang upside down; catching up on their sleep, perhaps?

9.30 a.m.

After you’re done with your run/trudge/walk, hunger pangs are sure to set in. Hop over to a nearby Murugan idli kadai for plump cloud-like idlis or a ghee-soaked crispy dosai, teamed with an irresistibly fragrant tumbler of kaapi. Or bacon, pancakes and sausages at neighbouring Mash cafe, where you can watch the busy beach and calm sea over breakfast.

11 a.m.

Let’s go shopping. Maal Gaadi, a quirky boutique in Besant Nagar, has a collection of designer goodies — clothes, ikat bags, multi-coloured bowties and fun fascinators. Then there are Ashvita's funky Chennai-themed artefacts, set in a bright boutique in the next street. These include bags emblazoned with bright yellow autos and Rajinikanth’s face, USBs in the form of a cute Iyer man andTamil pulp fiction. They also stock upcycled, organic brands such as Goli Soda, offering notebooks made of cow and elephant poo. Alternatively drive down to Chamiers, which stocks Chennai Gaga for more coasters, T-shirts and memorabilia that celebrates the city. While at Chamiers, sit back in theire quaint wooden café, grab a cappuccino and then look though Anokhi's collection downstairs for some summery block-printed outfits.

Alright, so shopping doesn’t excite you. Looking for something unusual? How does taking a boat into the sea and trying your hand at a game of fishing sound? Go on, throw that bait and let’s see if you land a big catch. Proceed to one of the city's many sport fishing centres and fall for it hook, line and sinker.

1.30 p.m.

It’s an action-packed day, so we suggest you grab a quick spot of lunch at one of the popular cafes. Chilly cheese toast, sugarcane juice and carrot cake at Amethyst, perhaps, or a lovely grilled chateaubriand at European-styled L’amandier close by. Alternatively have a moment with the intense chocolate brownie and the really tiny chocolate cake at Sandy’s. After, of course, you’ve devoured that lamb burger.

3 p.m.

Stop acting like Garfield and get off that couch… you’ve a movie to catch. We are a spoilt lot, used to buying movie tickets online. But how about standing in a queue to buy a ten-rupee ticket, for a change? City theatres sell ten per cent of their seats for that incredibly cheap price. The front row seats may not be the most comfortable for your neck, but what the heck, it’s sometimes fun to be in the midst of all the whistling and clapping. Don’t forget your tub of liberally-buttered popcorn.

6.30 p.m.

What next? Well, we may not have a Central Park or Covent Garden, but there’s the Semmozhi Poonga if you want to treat your eyes to greenery and take a break from the blaring horns and pollution. A waterfall, lily pond, stone pathways, a variety of plants, waddling ducks are all part of this oasis of calm.

It can get humid outdoors, so head to home-grown gourmet ice-cream brand Amadora, just a few minutes away on Khader Nawaz Khan Road. The mami’s filter coffee ice-cream should take care of your evening caffeine fix. In case gluttony gets the better of you, we suggest the gheelicious cake ice-cream as well. Still hungry? Try the gooey under-baked chocolate cake.

9 p.m.

It’s the weekend and that means you most certainly can’t slip into dowdy pyjamas now. Put on your dancing shoes because it’s time to party. Illusions, the Madras pub, is a good place to start, with its selection of Madras Special cocktails. The Pallavan Rider (Bacardi, basil, lemon juice and honey) is a favourite.

11 p.m.

Blend beckons. Ask any seasoned partygoer and he/she will tell you, ‘you always go to Blend fashionably late’. That’s when the party people trundle in. Word of warning: this space does tend to get crammed. On the plus side, they host some of the city's most interesting DJs.


Call a cab and head to the popular Q Bar at Hilton. The open-air, rooftop bar is a fabulous place to wind up a party night, lolling on one of those pretty cabanas under a starry night sky. But if you have had enough of Guetta/Hardwell and want to groove to Baby Doll and Bollywood chartbusters, the F Bar with its glitzy interiors grandly awaits you.

1.30 a.m.

We are not done yet. How, oh how, can we call it a night without a crispy asai dosai from Mathsya? Followed by a podi or bajari dosai. Or fried idlies? You get the drift, right? Yeah, I suppose a meaty burger or clay pot of biriyani at 601, The Park, won't hurt either. This is the post party circuit, so be prepared to socialise.


6 a.m.

Irrespective of whether you managed to get home and catch some shut eye or now, we recommend you now hop out of your beds and head to Covelong Point for a morning of surfing. The scenic drive through ECR should wake you up, or else there’s always Murthy, the ever-enthusiastic celebrity fisherman-turned-surfing coach. Once you manage to prop yourself on that precariously wobbly surf board, nothing can prevent you from feeling like Superman. Well, other than the next wave which sends you crashing down.


The cafe at the surf school has a limited but interesting menu. Pastas, salads and grilled fish? Yes, no, maybe? If you choose to drive back towards Neelankarai, stop at Shiraz Art Café for an Iranian brunch. Here’s where you find out what bademjan, apricot chicken and chicken-tomato-saffron taste like.If frozen martinis are a requisite for sultry afternoons, Kipling Café has colourful concoctions to keep you cool.

3 p.m.

And how are we with adventure sports? It’s a great way of letting off steam. So strap on those helmets and protective vests, because this is a great time for a game of paintball, followed by some off-roading. The stretch of Besant Nagar, Thiruvanmiyur and the East Coast Road house a few outdoor gaming facilities, which provide everything from parasailing and scuba diving to zorbing and rock climbing.

5 p.m.

Knackered after that adrenalin rush? Our way of rejuvenating is a session at one of Chennai's many spas. Foot reflexology at Oryza, a soak in floral water, maybe even a quick sauna.

7.30 p.m.

Deciding where to dine is always a challenge in Chennai. The city’s burgeoning food scene accommodates myriad cuisines — Japanese, Korean, Thai, even Russian. Winter Palace, the Russian restaurant, is a charming place with romantic outdoor seating.

The food includes charming surprises such as fish in fur (tuna with mashed potatoes, carrot and beetroot; that’s where the gorgeous colour comes from), chicken kiev and little blinis.

Alternatively try North East Kitchen, a quiet diner with a home-like ambience, offering plates of piping-hot momos, thukpas and smoky pork curry. Chennai also has a range of Japanese restaurants, from the authentic Momoyama to the more accessible Jonah’s Goes to Japan.Korean food is also popular thanks to a large population of Koreans working in Chennai.

The unassuming and loud Inseoul, with its quick service and delicious bul go ki (sliced and seasoned grilled beef), ra jo ki (stir-fry chicken in hot sauce), can make you so happy that you will want to spend all evening loudly clinking glasses of soju in sheer delight. If you are in the mood for something more dramatic, The Flying Elephant with its seven-level dining experience is the place to head to. It is a bit pricey , but their galouti kebab are worth it.

9 p.m.

Finally, it would be fitting to wind up with a ride on the metro, Chennai’s latest attraction. Caution: the last ride leaves at 9.40 p.m. from Koyambedu and culminates at 10.03 p.m. at Alandur, post which you might be facing a Cinderella-like situation.

But then, we don’t have to bank on a pumpkin when there’s Uber, Ola and the gleefully-yellow autos.

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Printable version | Apr 15, 2021 11:29:40 AM |

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