Aishwarya Rao
From custom made pastas in Little Italy to the Chef's baked bowl at Eden's, Sid and I have explored almost every vegetarian specialty in the city this margazhi season...However our favorite continues to be the signature 'idli vadai sambhar' and 'degree coffee' in Saravana Bhavan on the busy roads of Pondy Bazaar.

There is something nostalgic about relishing the idli dipped in the delicious sambhar. And I have never tasted anything like what I call 'the red chutney'.

It reminds me of childhood. Of days when I used to return in Bus #2 and hurry down the busy roads in order to watch whatever appeared on TV. I used to wait for Amma to return from office, so that we could take the much awaited trip to the Siva Vishnu temple on Usman Road. Now I have to admit that my primary interest was to window shop on my way to the temple. The bangle seller, the poo-kaari, the second hand book store, the kulfi-wala and the the panjumittai-karan with his hot pink cotton candies provided the sort of entertainment that Door Darshan didn't.

And once the archanais and abhishekams were over, Amma would occasionally walk me across to the tiffin section of one of the earliest Saravana Bhavan outlets. On the days she had enjoyed herself at work I would be rewarded with my favourite 'sada dosai' in the A/C section on the third floor. The waiters who by then were our extended family always made it a point to keep an extra kinnam of my 'red chutney'. After dinner I would grab some somph in my right hand and salute the sentry at the door. Outside Saravana Bhavan, Amma would help herself to the customary paan and advice me on the repercussions of children tasting paan! If I managed a convincing puppy face she would buy me a Goldspot or Frooti from Shekar stores on the way home. We would walk back with an unexplained contentment in our lives. And I would thank Siva Vishnu for being so strategically located...

Almost 19 years later, the sada dosai with red chutney (and now a degree coffee has joined the list) brings back memories of innocent days and carefree moments...Of times when all that mattered was that extra kinnam of red chutney!

27 Responses
  1. Nithya Says:

    Lol...Goldspot!! That orange soda drink....Wonder what happened to that...
    Seriously that pic makes me want to gulp an entire "paathram" full of coffee!! YUMMMMYYYY!!!

  2. Sesh Says:

    why is there so much nostalgia lately?

  3. Anonymous Says:

    @nithya: i think goldspot went bust! bought out by pepsicoke i guess.

    @aishwarya: nice one. orey smiles all the way. :) :)

  4. Ramya Says:

    Goldspot and Thumbs Up and the checking of weight and height outside Saravana Bhavan is what I remember most of my childhood.
    Of course, not having to walk back home and instead take an autorickshaw was a delight!
    I miss living in T.Nagar!

  5. I'm gonna be in Chennai next week...after a year's gap. Eating at Saravana Bhavan is definitely in my agenda...and conveniently, there's one in Anna Nagar :-)

  6. Ram Rao Says:

    Agree, i was there earlier in December. On Usman road though I found too much traffic and congestion, so did not get to got to SV temple. wonder if Nathan's cafe is still next door to the "pillayar" temple of the SV temple. Best coconut chutney with all the broken coconuts for "pillayar" from aspiring students, job seekers and other wish seekers.

  7. @Nithya

    Goldspot yes! And there were the alternatives - Thumbs Up and Limca!
    But Goldspot - the zing thing was always my favourite!!

  8. @Sesh - lol..I take it that your comment comes following Parvathi's diary. I promise Parvathi's character is partly fictional ;-)

  9. @Ramya - Checking your weight! Of course of course! And that reminds me of the kaladeiscopic weight machine at the local railway platform! what say?

  10. @Sangeetha - I cant believe your visiting home after a year! I thought you were right here in India! And I guarantee that a breakfast at Saravana Bhavan is going to get rid of all your homesickness!

  11. @Ram Rao - Agree with you. The new flyover on Usman Road has helped very little! I do remember Anna talking about Nathan's cafe. He was reminded of it standing in the Philadelphia airport as he saw a sign that read "Nathan's Cafe"...

  12. GAYATHRI Says:

    Masala milk at saravna bhavan was my family's fav!! and S.bhavan was the spot for all family treats!!!
    a very very nostalgic topic...

  13. @Gayathri - Masala milk?! I have never tried that one...Will do the next time I visit!

  14. lol, red chutney is vengaya chutney/onion chutney! :P I dont likes it. I like green chutney made of pudhina and of course white thenga chutney which has more velli kezhangu to make it look white than thenga.

  15. @Dilip - Lol! After 20 years I seem to have figured that out...but it will always remain my red chutney! The others are equally delicious too! Only not passionate enough ;-)

  16. Tanu Anand Says:

    awwwww... tht made me rem my old days ashh... except that it used to be paratha and milk maid and Chola Bhatura from the closest fav shop! :) though my mouth was watering!

  17. Anonymous Says:

    Masal Dosai, Onion Utthapam and Paper Roast is my all time favorite.

    The Picture made me reach out for a 'Degree Coffee' after a long time with the deadly combo of Idli, Vadai, Sambhar for breakfast!

    Nice Blog.

  18. @Surya - Lol! Didnt mean the post to be that soul stirring! Glad you enjoyed a lovely breakfast :-)

  19. have you ever hanged out and had food (dosa, idly, poori) from kai yendhi bhavans on the road? they make the best home made food ever!

  20. @Dilip - To everyone's surprise, to my Mom's anger and my sheer delight I have! Opposite Brilliant tutorials in Pondy Bazar! For a cleanliness freak it is some kind of an achievement!

  21. Great! Brilliant tutorials though is kind of more a heppy kai yendhi bhavan nowadays. For the true taste of chennai drive past perambur, into villivakkam side where u still get 2 rs. dosai's with unlimted sambar and chutney! :D

    Next time ur around, i will treat you at one of these places. :P

  22. @Tanu - I remember the Punjabi Tadka on Senapati Bapat Road! Oh my those were the days...

  23. D(r)own in memory lane...

    My most treasured forward is full of pics of Amul chocolate covers..

    Random Access
    The search has just begun !!!

  24. did you know coffeee was never ever a south indian drink till just about ninety years ago

  25. Saraansh Says:

    Funnily enough...there are times here when there is this ridiculous craving for a Saravana Bhavan dosa and nothing I can do about it. So I make it a point to drop by Saravana Bhavan after a few laps around Boatclub and I have a dosa and I am suddenly full- and it pisses me off that I waited so long and my desire is sated with just one dosa. I sit there licking the last remnants of the white chutney when the waiter walks upto and asks if I want one more cup of coffee so sweetly that I am like- why not!

  26. Ranjani Says:

    All that I can think of right now is to tear thru the screen to grab the "nora-potta coffee", most importantly served in the "ever-silver" tumbler!!! Oh my, nothing to beat this taste.

    Although, I don't know if you might want to partly agree with me that saravana bhavan standard has abated over the years....can't blame them:-(

  27. Harish Says:

    Oh my god!! I just came across your blog and was reading the one on Madras. I spent most of my childhood there and every bit of your blog makes me want to go back there. Thank you for the excellent blog. My personal favorite was thanking Siva Vishnu temple for being so strategically located ...