March 09, 2013

Restaurants as hangouts. In Chennai.

Why do restaurants become hangouts for many people?

Is it because food and friendship go together? Or is because the act of dining lets you unwind unknowingly?

In recent times, one place has been drawing me to its confines.

New Bombay Halwa House in Luz.

Every time I am in the area - for a concert, or to buy magazines or to catch up with a friend of this area, I create an excuse to step into this restaurant.

There are many things that make this a nice hangout.

The food tops the list - its spicy samosas, its variety of rotis and the delicious sweets.

I tend to order the rotis twice since I can't stop with the first order of two methi rotis. The masala tea comes next. Then, the gulab jamun, whose small size is not my kind of size.

There is an old-world charm about this place and I have never been told to clear out.

If the manager could play vintage Rafi and Burman songs on volume level two, we could be transported to another world, away from the maddening traffic outside.

And we would order for another round of samosas and masala chai.

The famed Irani restaurant used to be our hangout when I lived off Mount Road. Samosas at two rupees and tea at 1.50. Tired employees of The Mail and The Hindu would head here to amuse themselves.

Much later, my Anglo-Indian friends introduced me to Hotel Shiraz in Egmore. The band would play the golden oldies of the 50s and 60s in dim red and blue lights. This was a good weekend hangout. Of course, when the contracted women slipped on to the dance floor after 10 p.m., we would move out.

In the early 80s, a jazz aficionado opened a little restaurant on Dr. Radhakrishnan Road, opposite the AVM Rajeswari Wedding Hall. He hosted only jazz bands on the weekends and though it did not run long, it was another great hangout as long as it lasted.

These places remain with you long after you have moved on. Or they have closed down or taken on other avatars.

What has been your experience?

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