Showing posts with label Local. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Local. Show all posts

Monday, 11 February 2013

Spoonbill!!! Isn't that a really fancy bird? But what is a spoonbill doing in a bustling city like Chennai. Well for those of you lost in your thoughts, the Spoonbill that was spotted on TTK Road, Alwarpet is not a birdie. It is an amazing initiative undertaken by Street Food lover Charlie to bring authentic street food from Europe to namma Chennai. Still confused at the name of the restaurant or assuming it is named so because of the spoon shaped mouth of the bird. Well you got it half right but the exact reasoning behind the name is owing to the fact that Spoonbill’s are predominantly habituated in Europe but migrate ever year travelling across vast lands to our very own Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary located close to Chennai. It is this similarity and Charlie’s passion for birding that he felt appropriate to incorporate the bird's name for his restaurant. Charlie has taken meticulous effort and risk in bringing the same authentic taste of European street foods to patrons in Chennai, a task akin to migration of birds.

Having traversed the globe, Charlie has always had an immense liking to street foods available in European countries. In most countries in Europe, street food is a concept rather than a class of restaurant. Whenever one needs a quick bite in between busy schedules, it is common to often end up at a street food vendor to savor some of their delicacies. But on the contrary, street food in India is always associated with tags such as unhygienic, poor man’s food and so on. Noticing a gap in this segment in Chennai, Charlie’s goal was to serve authentic street food to Chennaite’s in a hygienic and ambient setting. Thus was born the reasoning for starting Spoonbill. But street food is not something that is restricted to a few varieties. In fact when Charlie began channelizing his thoughts, he had a list of 300-350 items that he wanted to introduce. When it came to logistics of operations, his thoughts had to take a beating. With difficulty in sourcing ingredients that go into making these many varieties to recreate their authentic taste, Charlie had to re-evaluate his intentions and finally decided to reduce the total number of items in his offering. Thus was born in 2012, Chennai’s first European street food outlet ‘Spoonbill’.

Spoonbill is a spacious 40 seater restaurant with a resto-café ambiance and with Wi-Fi to keep you occupied during your dining experience. Spoonbill also offers an unobtrusive dining experience similar to that one will enjoy in Europe where you get to experience first-hand how your meal is being prepared. They are also into outdoor catering in case you would like to have the taste of some authentic European street food at your parties.

Coming to the important aspect of the restaurant, just a quick look at their kitchen work station will re-assure you of the strict quality standards that are being followed at Spoonbill. The first dish that was crafted for us was from the land of Germany. The famous Curry wurst was served in its chicken variant. You are provided with an option of choosing the spice flavorings from a list provided near the curry wurst station. I was recommended to go in for the Madras Spice. Charlie enlightened me with the knowledge that the particular spice that he recommended is called ‘Madras’ not because of the city. In fact the original street vendors in Germany too call this combination of spice as ‘Madras’ and it is this that provides you with the authenticity. The curry that goes in is usually put to cook for close to 24 hours before the true flavor can be obtained. The curry wurst was accompanied with a Brotchen (German bread) and a portion of fries.
(Chicken Curry wurst)
(Chicken Curry wurst with Brotchen)
The next on the platter was the Chicken Doner Kebab. The doner kebab, an all-time personal favorite is the most commonly had street food just not in Europe but indeed all across the world. Doner Kebab is very similar to the Shawarma and Gyros. In fact except for a little difference in the preparation, they are mostly identical. Again depending on where you have them the presentation can vary. For example in the Middle East it is usually rolled in a sort of Pita bread known as Kuboos, in Greece it is filled in Pita pockets, in a few other countries it is served in the form of a sandwich. For those seeking it out in Spoonbill, the Doner comes sandwiched in a Turkish bread. It comes with a sumptuous filling of salad, meat and sauces, too filling for a single person to complete.
(Chicken Doner Kebab Sandwich)
(Chicken Doner Kebab Sandwich)
Taking a break in between the tastings, I ventured out to find out what are their offerings in the beverages department. I was amazed to see that tea at Spoonbill is prepared in almost the same way most of us do it at home and yet more wonderful is it gets done right in front of you. True street style on a stove. Besides different varieties of Tea and Coffee, Spoonbill also has an assorted variety of soda drinks and their own FroYo. They have wonderful monstrous muffins to accompany the hot beverages. These are probably the biggest muffins I’d ever see till date being served in a resto-café.
(Hot Beverages Station)
(Giant Muffins)
(Giant Muffins)
With the short break taken, the next on the table was from the land of Mexico. A very aromatic Chicken Burrito was placed in front of me. Already being stuffed with the portions of curry wurst and doner kebab, I had to honestly accede to the fact that I can only have a few bites of the burrito. Good for me, Nishanth of Chennai Food Guide accompanied me for the feature and requested him to share the same with me. The tortillas were super soft and the chicken flavored with the right amount of hotness. The layer of salad and re-fried bean paste along with salsa and sour cream made it a complete super dish. The burritos were accompanied by a portion of nachos with salsa, sour cream and guacamole. Being a major fan of Falafel’s and to give a fair judgement to my vegetable loving friends, I ordered for a portion of Falafel but rather than going in for a sandwich like the doner kebab, I opted for a salad this time. The moment I took my first bite, I was transformed to my days in the Middle East. The falafels are packed with flavour and they hit your taste buds immediately.
(Burrito Station)
(Chicken Burrito)
(Falafel Salad)
(Falafel Salad)
The finale was truly a mind-blowing experience. Being a sugar-addict, it is mandatory for me to have a sweet ending to any meal. While scanning through the menu, Charlie asked if he could give me a suggestion. He asked me to try their crepe. Having savored crepes at some of the best locations in Paris, I was always hesitant to try them in Chennai especially after having a disaster of sorts at an earlier outlet on Khader Nawaz Khan Road. But on Charlie’s insistence I decided to give a try once again. I had asked for a custard filling crepe as it would help my craving of post meal desserts. The moment it was brought to my table, I was amazed as it resembled the shape of a cone. It looked yummy and gave me an instant high just by its visual appeal. Not wasting a moment, I immediately took a bite and was I not amazed. The crepe were perfectly made and the filling was just mind boggling. Not too sweet but packed with flavour, this truly was the most outstanding dish amongst all that I savored that day. Every time I keep thinking about it, I can still sense those delicious flavors.
(Custard filled Crepe Cone)
(Custard filled Crepe Cone)
Being a self-service restaurant, Spoonbill has introduced an innovative technology in their ordering system which is prevalent in many eateries in Europe and the USA. They have a paging system that alerts the customers once their order is ready so that they can go and collect the same. “This helps resolve a lot of problems as the customer is not disturbed nor is his/her name/token number called out which can be embarrassing at times”, says Charlie.
(Table Pager)
Spoonbill is open from 11 am to 11 pm and has a European themed breakfast on Sunday’s during which they open at 9 am. Also they have a fantastic Happy Hour offer running between 3 pm and 6 pm when the customer may order any item equaling to their billed amount as complimentary. They are also provided with a free Wi-Fi password which can be utilized during the happy hour time at Spoonbill. Most of the items in their menu can also be upgraded to a full meal by paying Rs 80 extra which will provide them with a drink and a portion of fries.

Spoonbill is located on TTK Road, Alwarpet and has free parking too. For more on Spoonbill, follow their Facebook page at Spoonbill Resto Cafe - Facebook and they can also be reached at Spoonbill - Website

This experience at Spoonbill was courtesy of Chennai Food Guide as part of their premium restaurant feature. For more on Chennai Food Guide, visit Spoonbill - Chennai Food Guide

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Saturday, 19 January 2013

(Bajji Shop)
Banging on the success of a wonderful and interesting food walk conducted in Mylapore by the Chennai Food Guide, another such food walk was planned to be held in the vicinity of Adyar and Thriuvanmiyur to explore the famous yet less-publicized eateries in this side of Chennai. The meet was planned for a Saturday and the entire fraternity was eagerly awaiting it. Being a Saturday, two of my cousins too chipped in for this. With a scheduled start at 4 pm, we were all asked to report at Adyar Bakery. Where else to start an Adyar Food Walk from!!!

Being a working day and having to pick up my cousins en-route, we were slightly delayed and caught with the rest of the team as they finished their endeavour at Adyar Bakery. The next stop was a small yet renowned Bajji shop next to the Adyar Bakery compound. This was no small Bajji shop the moment we noticed what all he had on his offering. The shop has both sweets and savouries. Right from Bajji to Boli to Pakodas and tens of other edibles. Apparently the Cutlets here are supposed to be one of the best in the area. True to the recommendation, we first tasted the cutlets. It was tightly packed and super crispy. The rest of the entourage were busy trying out the other snacks while I was munching in to their pakodas. The pakodas were very minimalistic in oil and had a good amount of crispiness to it.
Following the heavy intake of snacks and sweets, it was ideally desired to have something to quench our throats next. And voila, we landed up at “Coronet Cool Biz”, which is located right behind ‘Coronet’. We had a huge variety of drinks here including a few variants of Falooda’s and a new drink which I was hearing for the first time called ‘Sharjah’. As told by my cousin later, apparently this is a famous drink in Kerala and tends to give an instant brain freeze. No wonder the name of such a drink is Sharjah.
(Super Falooda)
Once we were all done with the clicks and drinks, our next stop was a small eatery tucked in a junction on the busy LB Road. Named “Sri Lakshmi Sagar”, a speciality here is the idly and Sambar. Unlike usual places where Sambar is used as an accompaniment, here the idly is brought to your table submerged in Sambar. Any request for additional Sambar and don’t be frightened with what you will witness. Sambar will be served not by the spoonful but rather by the mugful. Yes, they seriously serve Sambar in a mug. The Idly in Sambar was accompanied by a nice and strong Madras Filter Kaapi. Running short on time, it was decided to wind up the Adyar segment and head to the Thiruvanmiyur area. Now being a food walk, it is an implication that we must savour the different offerings by a walk but the distance from Sri Lakshmi Sagar to our next destination in Thiruvanmiyur was a bit too long for a walk. As the folks were busy getting their logistics sorted out, giving in to a sudden impulse, a bunch of us decided to take the bus. It has been ages since I travelled by a local bus and boy did I enjoy this short trip. It brought back my college memories.
(Sri Lakshmi Sagar)
(Idly in Sambar)
The first stop in Thiruvanmiyur was at “Sri Krishna Tiffin Centre”. Located in Chitrakulam Street, a few meters from the temple, we knew from the bustle around the centre that the food here should be fantastic. Our impressions were a 100% correct. Being a tiffin centre, we decided to start with a Kal Dosa and proceed accordingly. The Dosa was super soft and yummy. The next was time for some Chapatti. There was nothing great to talk about the Chapatti as I felt it to be the same almost everywhere. By now we were all crumpled up inside the tiffin centre, which can hardly accommodate 6 people comfortably yet we were close to double its capacity. Once as everyone were almost done, I offered to know if anyone would like to taste their parotta. Parotta being my favourite variety of Indian bread, it is a self-imposed compulsion whenever I see them on the menu. The moment the first Parotta arrived, I was mesmerized by it. Coming from a place where Parotta and Salna (Term used for only the gravy from a Mutton Curry) is like staple food, I was completely surprised by the parotta here. They were super soft and super fluffy that the moment folks saw me savouring it, I was suddenly swarmed by the entire lot and in a jiffy the Parotta disappeared from my plate. Another set of parotta were ordered and it too met with the same fate. The news slowly spread to the rest of the gang and the next point of attack was the parotta master himself. All of us just stood next to him and ate the parotta as they kept coming fresh from the hot plate. Truly, it was one of the best parotta I’ve had in my entire life. We were so busy attacking the plates on whichever a parotta was there that we even failed to take a single click. 
(Sri Krishna Tiffin Centre)
(Hot Chapatti)
(Kal Dosa)
(The inside of the Tiffin centre)
(The Parotta master with few CFGians)
With all our stomach’s filled with parotta, it was time for one more round of drinks. This time we headed to “Juicetree” which is located at Sannadi Street, a short walking distance from the Thiruvanmiyur temple. It is co-owned by a fellow CFGian and we were welcomed to try out some of their unique juices. Being already full with all the parotta, I decided to give it a skip. A couple of us were busy chatting sitting outside while the rest were quenching their thirst. Being well past our scheduled time of completion, we wrapped up the food walk.
This food walk was truly worth the time spent if not for other eateries but definitely for the Parotta at Sri Krishna Tiffin Centre. If you are a diehard parotta fan, then this place is a must visit. Eagerly looking forward to the next CFG food walk to discover some more new places and interesting stories.

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Saturday, 12 January 2013

(Mylapore Post Office)
The continuous stretch of holidays that most of us in Chennai anticipate once the New Year starts was right round the corner. Yes folks, the Pongal holidays. This time with Pongal falling on a Monday, it was time for some celebrations with 4 days of continuous holiday. As it is to be, the Chennai Food Guide had also simultaneously planned for a ‘Food Walk’ in Mylapore to coincide with the Mylapore Festival which has happening during that weekend. What better way can one ask to begin their holidays. 

(Kalathi Newspaper Shop)
(Rose Milk)
The Mylapore Food Walk was scheduled to start at 2:45PM on Saturday from none other than our very own Mada Street. Hunting for an assembly point, our primary guide for the walk, Shiyam ji had instructed CFGians to assemble at “Kalathi Seithithaal Kadai” (Translation: Kalathi Newspaper Shop). This shop located at the corner of East Mada Street & South Mada Street is best known for its ‘Rose Milk’. The entourage was informed that the shop has been selling Rose Milk for the last 33 years and the consistency has been maintained and not even an iota of change in their taste was ever noticed by the frequenters till date. An interesting point to be noticed is that, 33 years ago they charged Rs. 1.50 for a glass and today they only charge Rs. 12. Yes, you got it right. The term ‘Value for Money’ has no relevance here. I guess someone should come up with a better term.
(Old Building Landmark)
(Old vs New)
(Mini Gully)
With everyone energized by the awesomeness of the Rose Milk, the next designated pit stop was the age old famous mess in Mylapore, the “Rayars Mess”. Located at a short walking distance, you must begin your walk from the Kapaleeshwar temple towards Kutchery Road and ask for Arundale Street once you cross the Mylapore Post Office. Keep walking down Arundale Street and you are supposed to locate a really old house (See Pic for Landmark). Once you locate this house, bang opposite to it you can see a mini gully and yes your guesses are correct. The famous and renowned Rayar’s Mess is located inside this mini gully. 
(Mini Gully)
(Traditional method of Eating)

When we walked inside the mini gully, everyone in the neighbouring houses were looking at us in awe as we all looked like some press people with huge cameras and stuffs. I’m sure people must have got intimidated by Dilip’s 100-400mm lens too. It was then that we came to know that the place was so small that out entourage had two eat in two shifts. Being eager to taste their offerings, I took a place on the first turn and promptly found a stool to sit on. What began next was an awesome food experience that I will remember all through my life. We were asked from a pre-set menu what we would like to have. The choices were Gulab Jamun, Potato Bonda, Onion Rava Dosa, Kal Dosa and Filter Coffee.

(Gulab Jamun)
(Potato Bonda)
(Bonda being savoured) 
(Onion Rava Dosa)
(Dosa being savoured)
(Dosa being Savoured)
(Inside of Rayar's Mess)
(The owner at work)
I wanted to taste as many dishes as possible and ordered for everything except the Kal Dosa and Coffee as I didn’t want to overeat lest I miss out on the other places. The ‘Gulab Jamun’ that arrived was pleasantly sweet and had the right textures on it. The ‘Potato Bonda’ was very crispy and wasn’t at all dripping with oil. Along with the Chutney and Sambar, it was simply yummy and a perfect evening snack. After a small delay considering that the owner was making all the dosa orders himself, came my ‘Onion Rava Dosa’. The dosa was served fresh from the hot plate with the onions as juicy as they can get. The feeling of eating a hot delicious dosa with amazing accompaniments in such an ambience is can never be expressed in the form of words. You need to visit the place to experience the feeling. The total bill for 20 of us was only Rs. 800.With a very satisfied look on everyone’s face, there was some contemplation with regards to the next pit stop. Whether to head to “Jannal Kadai” or “Mami Tiffin Stall”. But it was promptly decided to head to Mami Tiffin Stall considering that the location of Jannal Kadai was in the midst of the Mylapore Festival. 

(en-route to Mami Tiffin Stall)
(Mami Tiffin Stall)
(Inside of Mami Tiffin Stall)

Mami Tiffin Stall is located on the street diagonally opposite to Kalathi Newspaper Shop. This place is supposedly to be famous for their ‘Coffee’ and ‘Bajji’. We had each placed an order for coffee and couple of plates of bajji’s. The coffee was just too good and especially after an amazing lunch at Rayar’s mess felt like a much needed after food drink. The Bajji’s too tasted amazing but I didn’t feel much of a difference on comparison to those available elsewhere. Being already 5 PM, it was decided to wind up the Food Walk for the evening and head to Kalakkal Café. More on Kalakkal Café will be posted in a separate blog post.

(Traditional Coffee)
This being my first food walk with CFG provided me with an insight to hidden eateries that are being there in the city for ages but less discovered mainly because they are content with the customers within their locality. But this has reinstated the faith in me that such localized eateries are always better as their serve authentic and original food as compared to fancy outlets. If you happen to be in and around Mylapore, please make sure you visit these eateries.

And now for yet another of those gif's. This time the sambar being poured at Rayar's Mess...

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