Vada pav, open baos, 'bullet' chicken and more: Munchies go hip at Madras Kitchen Company
The humble vada pav, a much sworn-by source of sustenance on Mumbai’s streets, appears to have finally arrived in Chennai — and arrived it has, with some style.
At the Madras Kitchen Company (MKC), located at The Westin Chennai Velachery, you get the customary finger-length green chillies coated in a fiery masala, with added dollops of butter, and freshly pounded, deep-fried patties of mashed potato, sandwiched between fluffy buns.
But it’s the added elements here that you’d never expect to find anywhere else — the bright, colourful earthen and ceramic ware, the eminently cute miniature crockery for accompaniments of chutneys, sauces and condiments, and the trendy local motifs on the naperies and jam-jars (note the charming chequered designs on the tables, and the distinctly patterned Athangudi tiles on the floor).
An uber-hip nosh-up
The experience is never likely to be one of say, grabbing a quick bite outside Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus... then again, you’d never expect to make a hip nosh-up around a vada pav like you could here.
And, it’s a matter of fact that the diners at your next table are more than likely to be travelling expats, business folk from overseas, or even visiting exchange students hanging out with their iPads and laptops in tow.
That is to say, while The Westin hotel (now about six years old) retains a favourable pro-business disposition, the MKC provides some much-needed casual space for conversation, fun brainstorming (seen in huddled groups) and some really good food.
For a note, this spot was formerly a Chinese restaurant, which was transformed a couple of months ago, to become what the hosts identify as a ‘chilled-out zone’.
‘SSLC’, all better-for-you
The propositions are definitely millennial-friendly, with a menu of Indian cuisine and short eats, though as an all-day hangout, the restaurant only serves lunch and dinner.
You also get a limited submenu of ‘better-for-you’ beverages of single or mixed fruit drinks from the in-house cold-pressed juicery (be sure to try the classic paneer soda and the funky Masala Bovonto).
Adding to all the fun is a newsletter-style menu, which includes an ‘SSLC’ section for youngsters; the acronym is statedly a play on the state board exams, and stands for ‘Shakes, Smoothies, Local flavours and Classics’.
For grown-ups, there are some interesting cocktails to mull over, each with a prominent local element — such as the Annaci (pineapple) drink of a chardonnay-brandy base, the Mallikai (jasmine) drink of gin, and the Tenkay (coconut) based in vodka.
Among the Indian fare, our top picks have to include the Haleem served with saffron khasta roti, the Banana leaf-wrapped Meen Polichattu, Lamb sheekh kebab with saffron sheermal, and the flaming hot Bullet Chicken (with dry, plump Gundu chillies).
None of these dishes are pricey, despite the saffron factor, while they’re equally filling and made out for extended repasts, accompanied by much friendly banter.
The company you keep
We wrapped up our meal with the Coorg Coffee Tiramisu, while eyeing a few other dishes for our next visit.
The Goan tiffin of prawn curry and steamed sannas, the Quinoa Tawa Pulao and the Open Bao of slow-cooked pork have all our attention.
But it’s the jolly company that we’re most eager to warm up to again.
Meal for two INR 1,200 approx.
— Jaideep Sen