Saturday, May 30, 2009

A round-up of the various coffee houses in Chennai

And I am doing this because

1) It’s time for a new blog post

2) I am bored and I cannot sleep

3) For the greater good.

With that fine preamble, let’s start off with (surprise, surprise) a round-up of the various coffee houses in Chennai.

Disclaimer: all opinions are mine and mine alone. Any resemblance to any actual fact, truth or otherwise coherent statement with grammatical syntax intact is purely coincidental and delusionary. In fact, you’re delusionary for reading this blog. Your mum’s delusionary.

Ergo, we begin:

Coffee day

Confucius say, wherever there coffee day, there noisy fifteen-year olds with too tight jeans and too high voice.

Confucius also drank tea and kept dropping his auxiliary verbs, which is why he is 6 feet under in China, while I am sipping my third mocha latte with delightfully non-tea-stained lips. Coffee day is where one goes if one’s idea of drinking coffee also includes the experience of having one’s eardrums shattered by insanely high levels of voice decibel – that is, those partial remains of your eardrums which have not already been torn apart by the super-high-turbo-charged-what-the-fuck-are-you-fucking-insane volume level of the TV.

This is assuming you still have control of your auditory senses and are not in apoplectic shock after having your visual senses assaulted by overweight fifteen year olds of indiscriminate gender in clothes either too tight to contain all that puppy fat (yeah, darling, keep telling yourself that. It’s not you. It’s the jeans. This relationship is not working out.) Or too loose to accurately judge the location of said fifteen year old’s posterior for the purpose of landing a well-placed kick. And of course there’s the fact that his bling-bling belt is about to take your eye out with all the fierceness of a total solar eclipse viewed through the Hubble telescope.

Like I said... CCD is all about the experience. Replete with apathetic waiter who goes that extra special mile to ensure everyone at your table gets exactly what they ordered, except you. It’s nice to feel special. Remind me to send him a vial of syphilis in the mail as a token of my appreciation.

CCD has also taken great pains to ensure that you never have to grow up as one of those traumatised kids who never had a CCD on your block, and therefore could not channel all his creative energies into a more productive outlet – like say wearing tight jeans and hanging out with your peeps y’all – and went on to become a socially-underdeveloped CCD-deprived adult who killed 47 people and one frightened goat as a consequence. Motivated by such altruistic intentions, the powers that be at CCD have planted one outlet roughly every 5 meters. It is rumoured that there are more CCDs in India than there are sheep in Australia. (But we all know what those weirdos do with their sheep, whereas we with our CCDs.... oh nevermind.)

Bottomline: if you like the prospect of paying 17 times that you would at your local tea-kadai for the same cup of tea, plus the sublime prospect of waiting roughly, oh I don’t know, 6700 times the usual waiting time, plus pimply fifteen-year-old eye-candy, plus one brain-damaged waiter absolutely free with that cup of ice blueberry crush that you did not order and he mistakenly heard instead of masala tea, then this is definitely the place for you.


This is where it at for y’all bitches who too old to hang out at CCD, yo – Old Jungle Saying.

According to tribal folklore, it is believed that in some cultures, the elder of the family when anticipating the nearing of his hour of death, will choose to spend his last remaining breath in the company of his peers. And voila, Barista was born.

Wherever you find old people, you will find a Barista not too far behind, clogging their aortas one Death by Chocolate at a time. Barista derives its name from Bar (meaning heaven, in Esperanto) and Ista (meaning, the-hot-19-year-old-I-married-the-night-I-got-drunk-in-Vegas-and-decided-this-whole-filthy-rich-octagenarian-oil-baron-thing-aint-as-cracked-up-as-it-used-to...grhahguhnghurngrrungrrhg*choke sputter die*.) Which together form a heavenly place where old people assemble to ogle over nubile young things, except minus the nubile young things. In fact, how about we just minus anything that needs to be preceded by the word young?

Everything about Barista is old. In fact, their tagline is “We’re old”. In order to cater to a younger demographic, their new-and-improved tagline now reads, “Yo dawg, we old, and don’t you forget it, I was alive during the Partition, aight?”

Their sandwiches are old....that is, whatever is remaining of the 1.47 sandwiches on display out of the 67 varieties cheerfully advertised on their menu. Of course, the waiter is in no position to point out the oldness of said sandwich on account of being senile and visually-impaired and therefore unable to correctly identify the particularly virulent strain of mould growing on one side of the sandwich in an uncanny resemblance to Mother Mary. Somewhere out there, there is a lost and confused religious nut on eBay who does not know what he is missing.

The chairs are old. The tables are old. The patrons are old. I would even say the tablecloths they wipe the tables with are old except carbon-dating can only go back so much and I would not want to needlessly slander any reputed establishment here. After all, one takes great pride in the veracity of one’s arguments.

In a move to cater to the more mature audience and ‘working’ professional, Barista introduced wi-fi in its cafes by way of a 14.4kbps modem salvaged from the Tateless Museum of Ancient History. Most of the time I am told it is not working however, and therefore I am unable to comment on the efficiency of this fabled device. It is rumoured however that it does exist, and at least one patron has claimed to have seen this holy grail of a device when it was used to prop up a wobbly table.

Verdict: if you are '>' 97 years of age and '<' age of the universe plus 2, then this is the place for you.


Tagline: We’re slow and we’re rude. So stop your bitchin’ and moanin’.

Amethyst is the first coffee house to have replaced their ‘Rights of admission apply’ board with a more apt ‘Entry for masochists only.’

It is rumoured that Andrew Wiles proved Fermat’s last theorem while waiting for his lemon tart. It is rumoured that Edison accidentally invented the light bulb while waiting for his Garden salad. It is rumoured that one Mr Satya Narayanan sat at this very table, met his beautiful wife, fathered 11 children, lost one to bubonic plague, went on to become a miracle-healer of some repute, all while waiting for his Chilli Cheese Toast – which arrived burnt.

The secret behind Amethyst’s shockingly fast turnaround time lies in their painful adherence to details. When pressed, the waiters were kind enough to tell me the wait is because they ensure all food is prepared fresh. I went to the kitchen to investigate myself, and lo and behold! They were right.

There was the cook planting the seeds for what would soon grow into a lemon tree and yield delightfully fresh lemons that shall be squeezed into the most delicious lemonade. There was the cook’s assistant tenderly fondling an egg about to hatch and that would subsequently be raised into a full-grown chicken, perfect for my main course. There was the four-month old bouncing Brazillian boy being tenderly raised under the watchful eye of the culinary staff for the day when he shall go out into the wilderness and brave the coffee-plantations of Brazil, for only the choicest coffee beans to be put into my coffee cake.

Such dedication to service.

So much dedication in fact that they are always striving to find way to serve us better. Like the time when my friend pulled his chair a little to the side so he could perhaps not have to face 1/6th of my ear while talking, and was gently told by a concerned waiter that he was blocking the waiter’s path and may definitely continue to be seated there if he so wished to get tripped on and splattered with a tray of very hot, greasy food. Such tact is rare in one so young.

Or the board at the store that gently reminds us that speed and accuracy are two mutually exclusive phenomena with the polite request to “Kindly allow us adequate time to bill all your items accurately.”

Such niceness is not lost on the people of Chennai. One day, we shall pay back in kind. As soon as I get my bill.

Verdict: Good time-pass. Literally.


Tagline: the peaceful abode of mosquitoes. And some humans.

Deep in the jungles of Madras, lived a hoard of peace-loving mosquitoes. Eminent anthropologists refer to them in different names like pests, blood-sucking vampires, disease-spreading nuisance etc. These mosquito tribes were concentrated in the northern region of Boat Club area, around Saint Mary’s road, in a small cafe of concentrated flora and fauna, completely detached from the outside world of modernity. These tribes led a long conventional way of living, maintaining their cultural and social heritage intact from the influences of modern day trends.

Till one day, the city man came and brought with him his tumblers of steel, his pots of instant coffee, his counters of polished white marble-top. And he razed and plundered and he raped the land and erected his bastions of trade. Soon followed wrought-iron chairs and tiny triangular menu cards. A retail store of some colourful knick-knacks and baubles. Fluorescent lights of the energy-saving kind. Even that dreaded concoction – herbal hibiscus lemon mint tea.

To add to it, these citadels of commerce brought myriads of patrons to the place. These new entrants broke the peace of this hitherto sheltered mosquito community and created ecological disturbances that rapidly led to a huge degradation in the numbers of the Anopheles clan peacefully cohabitating in the cafe thereby severely upsetting the delicate ecological balance. The period that followed were troubled times for these endangered tribes.

Till one day, Plasmodium Anophelia, an elder of the tribe decided to fight back against the evil that the city man invited upon their community and take back what was rightfully theirs. The entire mosquito community rallied in an act of solidarity that came to mark the beginning of the Sucky Mutiny, also known as the First War of Anopheles Independence.  In this great and bloody war, large numbers of the Anopheles clan were wiped out – their numbers were mighty, but their primitive proboscises no match for the technologically advanced weaponry of the city-dwellers. In face of such WMDs like baygon spray and mortein mosquito coil, the mosquito tribes were forced to adapt and mutate in order to grow genetically stronger and take on the menace of these two-legged city-dwellers more effectivel. It is rumoured that Anokhi cafe was the birth-place of such highly-advanced innovative biological warfare like Chikunguinea and Dengue fever – offered free with every plate of Chicken and pea soup served at the cafe.

As we speak, deep in the recesses of Madras, the bloody war wages on. And the outcome of this – would man conquer beast, or shall the insects inherit the earth – only time will tell. Still such time as a conclusion is reached, there will always be those who boldly venture into such war-ravaged areas to bring you reports from the battle zone. And perhaps a couple of lattes to go, while she’s at it.

Verdict: A good place to donate some blood. And drink some coffee.

Coming soon:

JC’s cafe



Kaushik said...

Conclusion: Coffee in Chennai is best not had at a coffee house.

Go for the Sangeetha Filter Kaapi for maximum enjoyment.

How I love Sangeetha.

dc said...

Where is JC Cafe and Mocha? I would love to hear about that as well :)

shobha said...

Great piece! You should have also written about how CCD gives out small mint rolls when they do not have change, and the fact that at Amethyst you can never get a glass of water unless you order the bottled stuff.

Better to go to the neighbouring tam brahm mami's house and drink the perfect filter kkapi! steel tumbler- davara and all.