For the love of a sandwich


Fika in Adyar has been dominating Chennai’s Instagram feeds for a while. Does the food live up to the hype?

On a weekday afternoon, it is fairly easy to get a table at Fika. Which is saying something, because the garden party-esque, pink-and-white-and-sunlight restaurant has been keeping diners waiting in line by the hour every weekend since it opened three months ago.

This is partly because of its (very) Instagrammable interiors and the consequent buzz it has created on social media. And partly because they opened with an inexplicable system that keeps walk-ins waiting, even when the reastaurant is practically empty.

The very first thing I order from their considerable menu is the pork chop. The second is a filter coffee. The first, I am told, is unavailable. The second arrives beautifully styled, just like a cappuccino. It tastes a lot like cappuccino too — perhaps the only filters Fika approves of are those on Instagram.

So far, my meal is underwhelming — but the next dish turns the tide, and in record time. My smoked chicken spaghetti arrives before my coffee is even half-finished, keeping to the clock with a regularity that the kitchen constantly lives up to, dish after dish.

The serving portion makes it a comfortable dish for one. Mild and creamy, with the chicken smoked just enough to keep it from being bland, the dish is as comforting as it is fun. As far as flavour goes, the real colour comes when you bite into an olive, which will almost always be accidental. This one dish alone almost makes up for the previous two disappointments, and then the next one tips the scales completely.

The Fika special sandwich is a hearty open sandwich of thick bread, with lettuce, tomato, chicken, bacon and a seasoned, soft-boiled egg. It is just about as satisfying as you can expect a messy sandwich to be. The chicken is simple, with no bells and whistles. The egg is beautifully seasoned with a liberal dose of pepper and a few other spices. A number of herbs are sprinkled atop, giving the dish the look of a messy little summer garden. The bacon is just short of crunchy, indeed nothing gives a harder bite than the bread itself. The softness of tomato, the mushiness of egg, and all the layers in between, give it a lovely mix of textures.

  • Hits: Fika special sandwich, smoked chicken spaghetti
  • Misses: Filter coffee, fish and chips
  • Meal for two: ₹2,000
  • 9962200662

I had to battle against my will to choose between this sandwich and one of Fika’s extensive offering of pizzas, and it is a decision I do not regret. If you have a larger appetite than me, however, I suggest you try some. Chef Willi Willson, best known for introducing the city to stylish, modernist cooking when he was Executive Chef at The Park hotel, after which he worked with a string of successful city restaurants, is a noted authority on wood-fired, thin crust pizzas. Says the chef, “We do our full wood-fired pizza here and are heading into unique pizza toppings that are a little different from what I make elsewhere.”

The fish and chips that follows, on the other hand, is meh. To be fair, the fries are beautifully golden-brown and halfway between crisp and soft. The fish, however, is not the batter-fried fillet I expected, but three seared pieces fried to be reminiscent of pakodas. Once I bite through the batter, the fish is bland and falls short of even salt. There have been plenty of attempts to give popular street foods the urban chic treatment before. This one fails.

Yet, Fika is definitely worth a second visit, especially for long tête-à-têtes on lazy afternoons. The chef promises to have some new treats waiting — “I am working more with burrata, a creamy-centered mozzarella which I love. One of my favourite dishes coming soon is the chicken breast with burrata and bacon,” he states invitingly.

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Printable version | Dec 12, 2019 1:05:34 AM |

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