Kottayam Chronicles: Chef Regi serves up nostalgic flavours from home at his new restaurant
Fish from Kerala’s backwaters and a live counter of Ramassery idlis are just some of the reasons why this restaurant is worth writing home about
For Chef Regi Mathew his day-old venture, Kappa Chakka Kandhari, is more than just a new restaurant. His 100th association with a restaurant, his 25th year in the industry and a cuisine close to his heart – the 70-seater down Haddows Road is rich with nostalgic flavours from the kitchens of Kerala’s home cooks. “We wanted to revive the kind of food we have had when growing up. Dishes that were made by our mothers using produce from our own backyards,” says the chef who hails from Kottayam. Regi has teamed up with John Paul and Augustine Kurian for this project, and researched the cuisine for nearly three years before finalising the menu.
As we settled down for a tasting session last week, we started with a drink of muddled fresh fruits that included ice apple, grapes and bananas. Each table had clay pots of drinking water that was stored in copper vessels otherwise, informs the chef reiterating the goodness of traditions. The starters from the degustation menu included the famous beef fry besides the mutton coconut fry, anchovy fry (kozhuva) and shredded sun-dried meat. Staples of toddy shops, served on a banana leaf-lined plate here, the distinct taste of coconut oil and the unapologetic spice factor made the dishes addictive. The Koorka Mezhukku Pirattiyothu (Chinese potatoes) surprised us with its gentle and unique taste.
One and only
Chef Regi believes in single origin ingredients to replicate and sustain flavours in their dishes. Here are our top picks:
- Coconuts from Thrissur
- Tapioca from Kottayam
- Jaggery from Marayoor
- Fish from Paravur backwaters
“We are encouraging you to enjoy the authentic flavours and tastes — so here the side dishes are actually in the spotlight and are the main course,” said Chef Regi adding how they did not serve the usual suspects, appams or parathas — instead expect tubers, idlis and rice dishes. As we watched our batch of Ramassery idlis steaming over a claypot at the open kitchen, another girdle was hot with the Malabar staple, pathiri (rice crepes). The Varal Meen Curry was spicy and delicious, perfectly complemented by the chendakappa (boiled tapioca). The beef curry was the winner, and the credit goes to the side of banana fritters (pazham pori) that gave the dish the twist.
In an Instagram era where food needs to look pretty as a picture, especially desserts – the unnakai is a rebel. The sumptuous fried clumps of mashed banana were stuffed with jaggery and coconut, and you really couldn’t stop with just one — unless of course you were distracted by their kandhari (chilli) flavoured ice cream! Soon the restaurant plans to offer a 4 pm to 6 pm — Kerala tea kadai experience.
Meal for two Rs 1,000.