Droves of influencers launch Chennai’s Entrance Cafe in a flurry of hashtags. But, how is the food?

You have seen the hashtags. Now we try the gnocchi. Does newly-launched Entrance Café in Kilpauk live up to the hype?

November 30, 2022 03:41 pm | Updated 04:35 pm IST

Service is polite and attentive, despite the seemingly endless waves of food photographers and selfie takers

Service is polite and attentive, despite the seemingly endless waves of food photographers and selfie takers | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Predictably enough, the influencers got here first. As with any new space boasting flattering light and Insta-pretty interiors, Entrance Café was plastered all over social media in an avalanche of pouts, hair flips and hashtags for weeks after the launch. Because #FoodieGoalz obviously. And don’t forget to #TagYourSquad. 

I leave my squad behind so I can sneak in and evaluate the menu in cynical silence. Two girls are busy working on perfect profile pictures at the front door, a project that apparently demands six retakes and multiple reapplications of lipstick. When I am finally inside, I’m pleasantly surprised at how welcoming the space is: over 5000 sq feet divided into indoor and outdoor dining, with a relaxed balcony and smaller rooms upstairs, all lush with palms, orchids and that comfortingly cheery scent of freshly brewed coffee.  

But is the food #DroolWorthy, as they say on the gram? I order the pumpkin gnocchi and a kale salad from a cheerful waitress, who takes my order after running up the stairs balancing an impressive variety of glassware with athletic ease. The menu is thoughtfully designed, offering interesting spins on comfort food and global café staples: Pan seared baos stuffed with banana blossom and mushooms, pickled prawn tortellini and tandoori chicken ‘naanzas’.  

The menu is thoughtfully designed, offering interesting spins on comfort food and global café staples

The menu is thoughtfully designed, offering interesting spins on comfort food and global café staples | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

The gnocchi features sweetly savoury pumpkin in a luxurious sauce, perky with chive. It pairs well with the kale, massaged into soft curls topped with slices of dates and shitaake mushrooms. The espresso that follows is dark yet fruity, evidence that there has been diligent planning behind the scenes — coffee poses challenges constantly, from procurement and roasting, to the exacting process of pulling an adequately creamy espresso shot. I pair it with palmiers, crisp with caramelised sugar.  

Service is polite and attentive, despite the seemingly endless waves of food photographers and selfie takers. As it turns out, this is not just another Instagram café. And Chef Mrinmoy Acharyya — who divides his time between biking around Goa and cooking in Chennai — is determined to create and maintain a menu that is more than just photogenic.  

When we catch up at the café later in the week, he describes his food philosophy as a “simple menu, put together nicely.” Stating that he is confident about food consistency, he says his kitchen team, many of whom are from Mumbai, consists of friends he worked with through the years. “We have a great connection beyond work. And they have a sense of ownership, so this is more a team-led menu than a chef-led one.“

Stating that they make an effort to source good ingredients from across the country — their flour is from Madhya Pradesh, the lamb from Rajasthan and chorizo from Goa — Mrinmoy says the menu has been designed to offer options for everyone, whether you’re vegetarian, vegan or gluten-free. 

Next in line is a bakery, called Yeast Grove, which will showcase chicken tikka croissants, red spinach-mushoom quiche and pepper chicken puffs.

Next in line is a bakery, called Yeast Grove, which will showcase chicken tikka croissants, red spinach-mushoom quiche and pepper chicken puffs. | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

A weekend breakfast menu is in the works, and should launch in a few weeks. “We are trying to make it different, so there will be a bit of Asian food as well,” he says, like okonomiyaki, or Japanese savoury pancakes. All paired with their signature ‘Entrance Blend coffee,’ sourced and roasted by Marc Tormo, Auroville’s popular coffee specialist.  

Next in line is a bakery, called Yeast Grove, which Mrinmoy promises will showcase some “fun stuff, like chicken tikka croissants, red spinach-mushoom quiche and pepper chicken puffs.” Stating that “things will be familiar but thought out,” he says the takeaway-focused space, which will launch in Adyar, will also bake celebratory cakes.  

Meanwhile the chefs at Entrance Café are busy getting ready for Christmas. It promises to be a picturesque month ahead at the café: order the mince pies and don’t stub your toe on an influencer.  

Entrance Café is at 4, 63, Taylors Road, Kilpauk. A meal for two is about 1500. Call 063747 12648 for reservations. 

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