Home Chennai At Cafe Madras Square, you get more than a cuppa

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Escape the city’s bustle and get in some art appreciation while enjoying a moussaka or some seafood at the new Cafe Madras Square in Neelankarai

FOOD30Art, home décor, European cuisine, and a scenic beach that’s a quick drive away. That’s what you’ll get at the two-week-old Cafe Madras Square, a gallery cafe that makes for a leisurely chat, lunch or shopping break on the ECR. Tucked into a quiet street in Neelankarai, the cafe has a rustic feel – imagine yourself far from the madding crowd. Owned and designed by Ram Mohan K and Ramya Gopinath, the interiors of the cafe are inspired by Sri Lankan architect, Geoffrey Bawa, and Auroville architecture. ‘‘You will find Chettinad pillars juxtaposed with graphic paintings on the cafe’s unfinished brick wall. This place is for people who want to relax, work on their laptops,  explore and savour art,” says Mohan, 48, adding, “We  studied cafes in Pondicherry, like La Maison Rose and Villa Shanti, to understand food better.” Besides an export business, he also owns the Ode Gallery on the East Coast Road.

Tasting and relishing
Cafe Madras Square’s uncomplicated menu offers a variety of starters like sambusik jabneh, a deep fried pastry filled with savoury cheese and hot sauce, and the fast-moving   potato wedges with peri peri. Their main course includes pastas with homemade sauces like pesto, arrabiata, carbonara, Neapolitan and the popular alfredo. Chef J K Madan insists we try their burger falafel that comes with FOOD12two patties made from minced chickpeas and coriander, with a hummus spread and Tzatziki dip, sandwiched with sourdough bread. The bread, popular among expats, may take a little getting used to. Also on the menu are moussakas, a vegetable au gratin with mozzarella and yogurt cream, and a Turkish variant served with rice. The owners also want to attract seafood lovers with their grilled salmon and interesting fresh catch of the day. “We are also going to offer farmed fish. It falls under the ‘farm to folk’ concept. Fishing enthusiasts can bring their catch and we will cook it for them. I agree that line-caught fish is better,” says Madan. As for meat lovers, do not fail to taste their tender sirloin served with flavourful sauces and mashed potatoes.

Our verdict
We sampled their thick broccoli soup and, as chef Madan points out, don’t look for milk or cream in it. “I call this the country soup or the farmhouse soup,” he says before serving the citrus salad, which comes with a mix of romaine and iceberg lettuce, walnuts, arugula and sweet lime. If you like a side of garlic bread with your food, try their pesto toast. “We thought it would bring a little change when compared to your usual garlic bread. Pesto is a great attraction,” says the chef. Wash all this food down with their fresh juices or their tea and coffee options. “We source tea from Havukal and our coffee from Chikmagalur,” says Mohan, before the French classic dessert, tarte Tatin, gets to the table. Caramelised apple meets vanilla bean ice cream and hits the right spot. Already popular for classy get-togethers, this is a cafe we hope to visit again.

A meal for two costs Rs. 1,500. Their antique bed at the store costs `1,25,000. Details: 7299440000

-Mrinalini Sundar

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