A date with my plate!

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Hotel Saravana BhavanI would call it the Chennai’s food backbone, Saravana Bhavan as it is popularly known in this coastal city. As we enter this high-class vegetarian restaurant’s head office branch in Vadapalani, my friend was skeptical about the quality of the food and worried looking at the bustling crowd.

We opted for the AC room and even there is a queue for seats. One interesting thing that strikes you about Chennai eateries is that, they are always occupied with families. On a typical 8 seater table you would notice appa, amma, 2 rowdy kids, grandmother/father, one really old man from 1930s. Being the inveterate foodie that I am, I have been to restaurants from Mumbai to Bomdila (where is it?) and Hyderabad to Sonmarg (where the hell is this now?) but this is unique to Madras, families eating out happily and together.

Finally, the waiter tells us that we can occupy 2 vacant seats in the 3rd row. The menu is full of traditional south Indian dishes like dosa, idli etc. We ordered an appam [Learn how to cook appam How does it look?]and a plate of kaima idli [Dont learn, locate nearest Saravana and eat it there]. I never tasted the kaima idli and I wanted to find out why it is priced so high (almost 60 bucks).

While waiting for our order we found that Saravana Bhavan has 21 branches in TN, 3 in Delhi and another astonishing 17 overseas. I can see that Chennaites go nervous with out a hot serving of Saravana Bhavan’s coffee and a steaming pair of idlis in the morning. A rough back of the paper napkin calculation revealed that the Chain of hotels should be making a whopping 200 crores every year in India alone. Thats an enviable amount for a chain of hotel.

Here comes our appam and kaima idli. I would say the appam looks as though it has been sculptured carefully by an artiste so that it looks exactly like a bowl. The taste, I bet it hasn’t changed once in the last ‘n’ times I have been here. The kaima idli does prove that it is worth every rupee that they are charging for it. If anyone doubts that we cannot make vegetarian food taste anything similar to meat, they would change their opinions after eating a plate of this in Saravana.

We ended the meal with a coffee and a glass of buttermilk. The coffee also tastes the same way no matter how many times you take it here. Its high time Indian B-schools looked at Saravana Bhavan’s quality processes and taught how to do a Mc’D in India to the budding MBAs.

As I left the restaurant I couldn’t help but agreeing with their tagline: Saravana Bhavan – Make it a habit.


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