Even as a 17-year-old medical student in the West Indies, Manoj Hemadri aspired to be a restaurateur. Years later, the doctor has put medicine on the backburner to open a 58-seater lounge cafe, the Madras Diner, in Mogappair. On the second level of a former godown, the month-old eatery—with chic interiors and wall décor that includes paintings of old Chennai and a Rajnikanth wall art—uses spot lighting to create a warm setting. Complete with a pool table that’s open to all, a selfie booth and open balcony seating, it is hard not to give it a try. “The area is coming up now and we don’t have decent café and lounge options here. This gap was advantageous and we’ve had a good response,” says the 30-year-old entrepreneur who also helms The Bean Factory, a coffee shop at Ampa Skywalk.
I start with a special filter coffee, with the city patriot in me itching to see if they stay true to name. The strong aroma and thick froth don’t disappoint. While the menu is still being tweaked, it leaves you spoilt for choice with short eats from the streets like chicken pakoda to café essentials like sandwiches, pizzas and pastas. Their suggestion to try the tandoori spiced chicken burger with fries and jalapeno makes for a filling choice (think generous toppings of mozzarella teamed with a spiced chicken breast) and feels like dinner to me. The Rose Paneer Fritzer is a refreshing take on our local paneer soda, taking me back to my school days spent sipping those Rs 10 bottles (the one here is Rs 154). While the ubiquitous paan never caught my fancy before, their homemade ice cream with the distinctive flavour leaves me with the authentic betel leaf taste. Pastries and cakes like banana, carrot and soon-to-be-added red velvet varieties, and a range of cupcakes and muffins, are sourced from homebakers around Mogappair and are an added draw. The resto-café plans to have a ground floor dedicated to a multi-cuisine restaurant and more Continental additions to their menu by November.
Meal for two from Rs 700.