The COVID-19 situation is truly a sad occurrence and we only hope and pray that humanity resurfaces from it as soon as possible. While we wait it out in lockdown, we have been quarantined not only from the virus, but also from our favourite food outlets. When Nandita started her series of artworks about foods she misses eating from Chennai, I thought we should combine forces and expand it to the most favourite on our lists. So we decided to compile a short list of places and the most coveted food item on their menu that we miss eating. Here goes: 


1. ROYAL SANDWICH SHOP  

The hub of dwindling wallets and a ravenous stomach 

Sandwiches are a quick, on-the-go meal that are the best thing to happen to humanity since discovery of penicillin. They cure your cravings for food instantly. I remember the first time I visited Royal Sandwich shop tucked away in between buildings on the bustling TTK Road in Alwarpet. I ordered a chicken club mayo sandwich and didn’t even have to wait to find a seat when my order was up. I have a habit which I find beautiful but my friends think is disgusting. When I order anything that’s clubbed and has moving parts, I open it to see the setting inside. Trust me, it makes your experience with the food even more tantalising. When I “dissected” the sandwich, the only word that came to my mind was ‘regal.’ The layering of the chicken pieces, the placement of the sauces and the splash of mayo were like symphony to the eyes and later to the mouth. 

Dear Royal Sandwich, we miss your bottomless menu full of new things to try every time.

Royal Sandwich Shop

2. RATNA CAFÉ 

Mothership of the idli-sambar cult

I am going to confess something here – I have lived in Chennai all my life and I visited Ratna Café for the first time only in January 2020. Yes, I can hear you all groan with disgust at my callousness towards a State treasure. Bear with me as I present my case. Now, being a South Indian, idli-sambar is a staple in my house. If my mom’s not feeling extra creative, she makes idli-sambar. So, I’m a self-proclaimed sambar connoisseur and I can smell a good one from miles away. We were served two idlis on a round, plantain leaf clad steel plate WITHOUT sambar. I couldn’t believe it – even Saravana Bhavan serves three chutneys with idli! Boy, was I in for a treat or what. When I say ‘treat’, I mean the performance itself. I didn’t know sambar was actually the star of the show. She came in a special container, carefully carried by the waiter and poured onto our plates. The only thing missing was applause but I couldn’t wait to dig in. 

Dear Ratna Café Sambar, we miss Idli soaking in you for us to devour to satiate our endless love for you. 

3. WRITER’S CAFÉ 

Pocket-friendly Paradise - just a hop and a skip away

I have visited Writer’s when I was broke, celebrated birthdays missed, surprised mom for Mother’s Day, conducted events, went on dates and even held work meetings frequently. And not once have I felt bored about being there. Writer’s Café is my go-to place. The ambience is the winner for me. I love books as much as I love food and a space that has both is definitely my kind of paradise. Their attempt at serving worldly cuisines at such pocket-friendly rates is only a delightful add-on to this lovely café. One cannot love Writer’s without loving their Flammenkuchen – more lovingly called ‘pizza.’ It’s served on a wooden platter with toppings and sauces of your choice. Its funny people call it pizza which is of Italian origin whereas originally Flammenkuchen is from the French-German border region. Crunchy thin crust, oozing Mozzarella, perfectly roasted tomatoes struggling to find its way into your mouth, a tinge of basil with every other bite, this is a ‘pizza’ you cannot forget the taste of. 

Dear Writer’s Café, you are so close yet so far, I hope to visit you soon and gulp down some Flammenkuchen and hot chocolate. 


4. BEACH BAJJI 

The Quintessential food for the soul

Imagine this – it’s drizzling, moody weather, and you had a long day at work. You are craving for something hot but it is the end of the month so Starbucks is ruled out. As if answering your thoughts, the Marina breeze caresses your face, luring you in towards her. No, I’m not talking about the roasted corn, or the amazing sundal and meals sold by Sundari akka. I can almost feel the warmth seeping through the newspaper as I write this. Marina beach bajji – the perfect snack to calm your stomach and soothe your soul. Served in disposable newspapers or plates, it has a distinct, unforgettable flavour. You have to eat it hot to experience the crunchiness dipped into two varieties of chutneys. 

Dear Marina beach bajji, we cannot wait to sink our feet into the warm sand and get swooned in by your piquant flavours.

5. FUSILLI REASONS PASTA 

Creaminess overload 

One food item which both Nandita and I consistently craved for during these 100 odd days of quarantine was pasta. It’s the perfect dish that can be made in under 15 minutes or at a gourmet Michelin star level. Show me one person who doesn’t like pasta, I’ll tell you the secret ingredient to my mother’s chicken recipe. If you love pasta, then you can’t not love Fusilli reasons. The rich, creamy sauces, perfectly boiled pasta served on eco-friendly disposable plates, the cutesy ambience are few of the reasons to love this place. If you notice a pattern in the lists we have made, all the places we love are absolutely pocket-friendly and Fusilli's reason is no exception. It brings the taste of Italy at the rate of just one mini-tiffin at Saravana Bhavan. 

Dear Fusilli Reasons, you make beetroot interesting and we love you for that! 




It's a tough life, revisiting these favourites in memory alone. However, as the saying goes, absence makes the heart grow fonder. When this (almost) apocalyptic year is over, Nandita and I know we’re going to go out and get stuffed. Until then, we’ll cross our fingers and hope that though delayed, the gratification of rediscovering these spots will be worth it!