Chennai's favourite cafe Coffee? is back after 12 years with bespoke espressos and oodles of nostalgia
Chit-chatting with Huma Qureshi as the actor sips on a decadent hot chocolate and gushes about their Chilli Cheese Toast is all in a day’s work for Taruna Hinduja as she bustles from table to table at her new café Coffee? Since 1999. Launched last month down in Nungambakkam, this 52-seater has taken Instagram by storm as customers from their first outlet come back looking for their favourite paneer fingers and frappé. “We have restarted the brand with hopes of recreating the same goodwill and bonhomie of our first outlet in 1999. Our focus is on quality and finesse in our menu,” says celebrated cinematographer Nirav Shah, who is a partner at Coffee? along with his sister-in-law, Taruna. While celebrities like actors Radhika Sarathkumar and Anushka Shetty were spotted here, the café is also seeing nostalgic regulars from 1999 along with youngsters who swear by their trending churros.
With a glass wall overseeing the turf, which is part of the Whistle (Urban Sports Hub), the café also has some tables set outside under a canopy. Sipping on a delicate Rose Oolong, we soon find ourselves gorging on panko-fried paneer fingers that are dusted with a peri-peri masala. A tweaked recipe from their original menu — this one is addictive. Meanwhile, the table next to us is ordering their third plate of French Fries and we confirm that it is one of their fastest moving offerings.“Yes, there is a secret to our French Fries,” says Taruna and then stops short from giving out further details. We bite into a homely Aloo Toast that is decadently soaked in butter, alongside we nibble on a gourmet kind of super salad that has tender shoots of fragrant herbs and roasted, nutty-flavoured cubes of sweet potato in the mix. Their Magic Mushrooms, Curried Eggs Sandwich and the Grilled Chicken are the other repeat-order worthy dishes.
As we catch up with Nirav, he has us smitten with his deep interest in ensuring that we get that ideal cuppa joe. The popular lensman brings to the brand his signature boho nonchalance that we soon find out is just a clever foil for his intense perfectionism. Having invested in the top-of-the-line coffee machine we are informed that the Sanremo Opera 2.0 can manipulate pressure profiles, timing and grind size. So, we can decide how we want our coffee — dark, darker or darkest. And the best part is that the settings for your cuppa can be saved and your God Shot coffee will be replicated to perfection every time you visit. We go extreme and pick the 110 seconds worth of extraction that is nearly viscous and will probably keep us bug-eyed till dawn. Saved under the name of one of their customers from Australia, this espresso is not for the faint-hearted.
As we valiantly resist the luscious Japanese cheesecake and the Molten Mess among the other scrumptious desserts, our caffeineaddiction is our undoing. Clearly, as the name of the establishment indicates — the coffee does take centrestage here, and how. They have sourced the beans from an estate in Chikmagalur and it is evident from the award-winning barista’s knowledge and enthusiasm that he was sourced from there too! Though we swear we are too full to eat another morsel — he surprises us with a potent Vanilla Espresso shot. The delightful base of vanilla is played up with the robust coffee — and one must gulp it down in one go to find the sweet spot.
Meal for two at Rs 800