Cafe Pramadham opens in Chennai with white butter dosas and fresh ground coffee

Serving Nellore-inspired food, this cafe on Greams Roads has a short, curated menu featuring classics from across Tamil Nadu, with some unexpected tweaks — like chilli oil on upma and dosa with mozzarella cheese

May 03, 2023 03:21 pm | Updated May 04, 2023 12:35 pm IST

A view of Cafe Pramadham at Angson Centre, Greams Road, in Chennai.

A view of Cafe Pramadham at Angson Centre, Greams Road, in Chennai. | Photo Credit: R. Ravindran

The butter bun is your first hint. In Chennai, a city of bun-butter-jam enthusiasts, thereis a reassuringly staid approach to the formula – white fluffy buns, a generous pat of butter and deep red mixed fruit jam.

Here, the bun is toasted to a flattened, sweet buttery crunchiness: an unconventional and no doubt divisive approach. Clearly Café Pramadam wants to be more than just another neighborhood dosa joint.

Podi dosa

Podi dosa | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Nevertheless, the newly opened space combines some of Chennai’s favourite things; in addition to those buns. They serve dosas, of course, from the simple version lush with Uthukuli white butter to a decadently cheesy version, spiked with an intense kozhambu that is chunky with mellow pods of garlic. 

And then, there’s coffee. Playing on the power of nostalgia, Pramadham roasts and grinds its beans at the front of the large café, filling the sunshine-filled space with the potent scent of coffee. This old school approach, along with a judicious blend of beans (which includes chicory for strength), results in a rich creamy brew.  

Vignesh KR, who runs Pramadham says their focus is on serving comfort food, pivoting around classic ‘South Indian tiffin’ in a contemporary casual dining format. The menu is deliberately short right now as they test the market. With competitively priced meals, home style cooking and quick service the aim is to create an everyday dining experience for office-goers in the area.

“All our masalas and podis are made in-house, so that our food reminds people of home,” says Vignesh, adding that the response so far has been enthusiastic. Explaining why they are sticking to a limited menu, which will be tweaked in response to customer feedback over the coming weeks,  he says, “We feel that when it comes to dosas, most people tend to order the classics, so we decided to concentrate on consistency instead of spreading ourselves thin.”

Poondu kozhambu

Poondu kozhambu | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

They do however break away from the typical idli-pongal-upma-vada format by tweaking some of the classics. The idli comes blanketed in a thick coat of podi. You can opt for chilli oil to top off their upma.  And desserts include ivory-coloured pal kesari, which tastes more like a fudgy milk sweet.

You may not like everything — and you do not have to. Rather than aiming to please a large swathe of people with a predictable menu, the objective here is serve up a compact set of varied options for customers, who can then pick and match their favourites.

If you prefer a mini meal for lunch, they serve a hefty plate of sambar saadam, thayir saadam and poondu kozhambu saadam, along with crunchy vadagams, pickle and pal kesari. While each of the varieties of rice is tasty, it is a rather carb-heavy plate, which gets monotonous. Hopefully some vegetables will be added to the mix as the menu evolves.

Freshly made dosas at Cafe Pramadham.

Freshly made dosas at Cafe Pramadham. | Photo Credit: R. Ravindran

On the whole, Café Pramadham is a refreshing addition to a landscape dominated by Saravana Bhavan and Sangeetha-style chains, since the smaller format allows their kitchen the flexibility to pivot. In keeping with the spirit of the space, the decor is functional, but also fun, punctuated withstainless steel tiffin carriers hanging from the ceiling.

Their challenge will be competently balancing traditional cooking and contemporary tweaks. The stakes are high, since this is also an extremely competitive segment.

Hopefully, they can pull it off because the busy neighbourhood benefits from a quick, reasonably-priced restaurant. Especially one that can execute white butter dosas and filter coffee so elegantly.

Cafe Pramadham is at Angson Centre, 54, Greams Road, and is open from 7am to 10 pm. A meal for two costs about 300. Call 044 47776999.

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