Flavour blaster cocktail. Edible bubbles, flavoured mist and a smoke cloud even before you actually taste your cocktail. I didn't try it for the first time in Delhi or Bengaluru but at KOVE, Coimbatore's newest fine dining destination. KOVE, a progressive vegetarian stand-alone restaurant with a fully stocked bar, is evidence that Coimbatore's dining scene has come a long way in less than a decade.
Tamil Nadu's second city has many faces - Manchester of South India, an auto component hub and now an IT and ITES hotspot. It's also in the heart of the erstwhile Kongunad region once the fiefdom of the mighty Chera dynasty with it's unique culinary identity within Tamil Nadu cuisine. Until a couple of decades ago, the city's dining scene was dominated by local South Indian restaurant chains like Annapoorna. While they continue to expand, the city's changing demographic and spending power has spawned an array of restaurants and cafes that will leave you spoilt for choice:
An amalgam of Kovai (or Coimbatore) and Love, KOVE is a bold move from the Annapoorna group that proves that fine dining restaurants are no longer the preserve of just tier-1 metros in India. The interiors are elegant, with fabric ceiling panels that pay tribute to the city's textile heritage. There's a private dining room for exclusive Chef's table menus - a first in the city. The menu is a mix of progressive signatures like the curd rice arancini balls and comfort food like the yam galouti or baked brie. The restaurant has a good selection of artisanal cocktails - Scarlet lady with a hint of caramel and popcorn syrup and pop corn kernels on the side is a must try.
Where: East Arokiasamy Road, RS Puram
2. The French Door:
It might remind you of the French quarter in what was once Ville Blanche (White Town) in Pondicherry. Coimbatore's most Instagrammed door leads you to an intimate café and restaurant that is perfect for a lazy lunch or an anytime snack. The interiors are simple yet elegant and create a warm, cosy vibe. Their breads are among the best in the city and are the key ingredient in some of their popular dishes like the bruschetta and the mushroom crostini.
Where: West Bashyagaralu Road, RS Puram
There are not too many spots in the city where you can enjoy local Kongunad specialties in a pleasing setting. That's one reason to visit one of Haribhavanam's branches across the city. The menu leans towards Tamil Nadu cuisine and is very exhaustive. I'd recommend the restaurant's Pallipalayam chicken, a flavourful dish that combines shredded chicken with coconut slivers. You can wash it down with down with a bottle of traditional Goli (marble) soda. Don't leave without trying their extra tall glass of falooda.
Where: Goldwins, Avinashi Road.
4. WelcomCafe Kovai at Welcomhotel Coimbatore:
ITC's Welcomhotel is one of the city's finest addresses, the hotel showcases Coimbatore's rich textile heritage with cleverly placed props and abstract prints almost across the rooms and public areas. WelcomCafe Kovai, the hotel's all-day diner finds the balance between International and Pan-Indian signatures but it's the regional cuisine that shines here. From South Indian breakfast staples done right (their multi-grain dosas and fluffy idlis are worth checking out) to home-style recipes like the kayir kati kola urundai (minced mutton balls), the restaurant gets a lot of stuff right.
Where: Welcomhotel, Race Course Road
AP for most locals, this is one of the city's best known homegrown restaurant brands that has been around since the 1960s. I can't think of too many spots where I've had a more scrumptious ghee roast dosa. That's one of their signature any-timers aside from their Pongal vada and invigorating filter coffee. If there's another thing that three generations of Coimbatoreans swear by, it's the Annapoorna sambar.
Where: Peelamedu-Padur road (opp KMCH Hospital)
6. La Cabana, Park Elanza Hotel:
One of the city's only al-fresco rooftop restaurants and bars; perfect to enjoy Coimbatore's mild climate through much of the year. This is a popular option for an after-hours catch up with your co-workers and perfect for a quiet dinner for two. Their tandoori starters are a popular option and so are their sizzlers. The dessert menu has some nice surprises like the paan and gulkand cheesecake.
Where: Dr. Nanjappa Road, Ram Nagar.
7. Shree Anandhaas:
One of Coimbatore's most popular vegetarian chain restaurants. Look for the daily specials like the Malli (Coriander) Pongal and different types of rava kesari (sheera); the chikoo kesari is our favourite. Their filter coffee is terrific. Their sweet shops that are part of the restaurants offer wide variety of savouries and sweets including a delicious karupatti Mysore pak that's made with palm jaggery.
Where: Lakshmi Mills Junction, Puliakulam Road.
8. Bird on Tree:
It's one of Coimbatore's most photogenic restaurants that's located in the swish Race Course road neighbourhood. There's a choice of outdoor seating options including a rooftop dining space. Most locals swear by their selection of European food and popular North Indian signatures that I checked out on my last visit.
Where: Race Course Road
About Ashwin RajagopalanI am the proverbial slashie - a content architect, writer, speaker and cultural intelligence coach. School lunch boxes are usually the beginning of our culinary discoveries.That curiosity hasn’t waned. It’s only got stronger as I’ve explored culinary cultures, street food and fine dining restaurants across the world. I’ve discovered cultures and destinations through culinary motifs. I am equally passionate about writing on consumer tech and travel.