This restobar in Chennai will transport you to a night market in Bangkok
If you want to take a trip — Chennai’s hippest new restobar Nght Mrkt is your ticket, minus the jet lag. Stepping inside quite literally transports you to the streets of Bangkok, with suspended bulbs overhead and a spree of seven food stalls to choose from, some fashioned out of carts and others with ‘vendors’ peeking out of windows. We stroll along gleefully, taking in glimpses of the global fare on offer: Mexican-style churros sizzle to a golden brown and spaghetti in alfredo sauce is romantically swirled in a pasta cheese wheel. Also noteworthy of a mention is that cocktails at this place come in buckets, not pitchers. We’re drinking this in when owner Varun Sheth (whose father brought the Tibb’s Frankie chain to Tamil Nadu and Karnataka) says hello and offers to give us the tour. That’s when we realise — this restaurant section is just the beginning.
Fries and butterflies
Spread across 6,000 sq ft, we are escorted to a gaming zone next (hello foosball table) which then leads into the main bar area, and another seating section for folks in the mood for spirits and dinner. A purple drink with a purple straw makes its way to our table. What stands out for us is: it isn’t in a glass but instead in a slurpee pouch. We sip. It’s a Butterfly Gin & Tonic (given the butterfly pea flower) with lemon and surprisingly, star anise — subtle and breezy. Settling in over crispy Okra Fries and Shoestring Potato bites flavoured with garlic and scallions, we get chatting with Varun (one of six partners) who comes with a culinary background from Kendall College in Chicago. The 26-year-old shares, “We created a template that gives us room to rotate cuisines and experiment quite a bit.” We like that we can order a Korean-style Fried Chicken with oodles of that addictive umami flavour in the same breath as a thick crust Pesto Burrata Pizza. The latter is served in rectangular slices, Detroit-style, and apart from points for being uncommon, is gooey with an unapologetic amount of cheese.
No dress code
We veer away from the food for a minute to chat about the relaxed, laid-back vibe that at first, we credit to Roxette’s The Look playing in the background. But we’re told this has been created quite intentionally. “We wanted to create a space that is comfortable and approachable, not fancy. That’s why we have no dress code, you can wear shorts,” says partner Ritvik Varun (30), a food enthusiast who most might associate with Kollywood, courtesy his father director Vasanth. Another gamechanger with this 150-seater watering hole is that it is ‘family friendly’ so you don’t need a babysitter on a night out. “Kids are welcome in the restaurant and the game zone on weekdays, while the bar stays restricted to adults,” Ritvik informs us.
Momos & marshmallows
Back to our tasting sesh. Other highlights of the evening include the moist and can’t-stop-at-one Pork Momo which comes with options of a chilli oil dip or the spring onion dip. And later, taco sushi appetisers. The latter is more a design flip, with the seaweed serving as a wrap instead of rolled around the sticky rice. We sampled a Teriyaki Chicken sushi, as well as the Raw Mango Cream Cheese with a dip of soya sauce and the lightest kiss of wasabi for heat — and both were an explosion of flavour on our taste buds. Dessert is a Liquid Nitrogen Chocolate Ice Cream that ups the ante on decadence with a torched marshmallow fluff.
Meal for two INR 2,000 inclusive of spirits.
Look forward to brunch afternoons with curated small plates so you get to sample a handful of cuisines in one sitting. Slated to launch in the next three months. In addition to the main bar, there will be a mini market serving shots, cocktail buckets to share and pouches for one, available by the end of the week. We’re also curious to taste alcohol-inspired ice cream toppings in the offing, like Whiskey Caramel and Bourbon Maple.