There are only a few cities in India that wake up earlier than Chennai ensuring a wide range of breakfast options from the first rays of sunrise. The city's evolving dining scene has thrown up a diverse range of breakfast options beyond the city's traditional South Indian breakfast strongholds and yes, a good cuppah of coffee is always in the mix. We pick ten venues for a hearty breakfast in Chennai:
1. Traditional Breakfast at Hotel Saravana Bhavan
For steaming hot idlis and a rejuvenating tumbler of filter coffee at 6 am, this is the place to head to. That's one reason why this restaurant (just down the road from Marina beach) is a magnet for fitness freaks for a post work-out breakfast and the occasional late night reveller on weekends. If you're not counting calories, indulge in my favourite weekend treat here - the crispy Ghee Roast Dosai. There's also Sangeetha's (at RA Puram) that's in the same league and in the vicinity if you can't manage to score parking here.
Address: No: 57 Radhakrishnan Road,Mylapore; Meal for two: Rs 400.Image credit: Zia Fariya
2. Luxury Breakfast at Madras Pavilion - ITC Grand Chola
It's tough to pick from the city's luxury hotel breakfast buffets. Almost all hotels have upped their game - from Westin's wellness slant to Le Meridien's International signature breakfast. Madras Pavilion doesn't just get its South Indian breakfast right, but has a signature selection with a focus on responsibly sourced ingredients. Try the Muesli and Berry Brulee with Amaranth and Jaggery Brittle, and Finger Millet and Almond Meal Pancakes teamed with Aloe Vera and Black Currant Chutney.
Address: ITC Grand Chola, 63, Mount Road, Guindy; Meal for two: Rs 3,000.Image credit: Tripadvisor
3. Udupi Breakfast at Woodlands
Udupi restaurants like Dasaprakash, Mathsya (Udupi Home) and Woodlands set the template for Chennai's vegetarian dining scene decades ago. Many of these restaurants have been eclipsed by newer chains, but Woodlands continues to attract a loyal clientele with its old world interiors and signatures that include grainy idlis, crispy Udupi-style masala dosa and rava upma. The restaurant takes no chances with its coffee; it sources coffee seeds and does the roasting and grinding in-house with the perfect blend of coffee and chicory.
Address: No: 72 to 75, Radhakrishan Salai, Mylapore; Meal for two: Rs 400.
4. Breakfast All Day at Chamiers Café
It is perfect for an indulgent, lazy weekend breakfast. The charming interiors might take you back to an English tea room in colonial Madras - there's a Full Fry Up English Breakfast with bacon and sausages to suit the mood. The all-day breakfast options also include a Vegetarian Spanish Breakfast and an Anti-Oxidant Power Breakfast to fire you up.
Address: 106, Chamiers Road, Opposite Adyar Park Gate, RA Puram; Meal for two: Rs 1,000.
5. Contemporary South Indian Breakfast at ID
The ID chain that began in Sathyam Cinemas filled a major vacuum in Chennai's dining scene - a contemporary South Indian vegetarian dining experience. While the interiors and service set a new benchmark, the menu largely stays in the realm of traditional South Indian cuisine. The restaurant's Keerai (Spinach) Vadai, the Idli with Vada Curry, and the sweet Pongal rank high on the 'must try' list.
Multiple outlets; Meal for two: Rs 500
6. Waffles Thru the Day
True to its name, this cosy eatery actually serves waffles any time of the day (or night). Their sweet waffles - the Brandied Raisin and Apple Pie-Style Wapple Pie, are guaranteed to give you a sugar rush. But it's the outlet's savoury waffles like the Onion and Cheddar and Barbequed Chicken that truly stand out. There's also an 'All You Can Eat' Sunday brunch buffet that includes waffles and other Continental breakfast staples.
Address: Nungambakkam and Indiranagar; Meal for two: Rs 1,000.
7. South Indian Healthy Breakfast at Haritham
I first stumbled upon Haritham (their first outlet is about 100 kms from Chennai on the Chennai-Trichy road) on a road trip to Kodaikanal. It was refreshing to see a highway restaurant serve healthy breakfast options like Millet Idli and Wheat Rava Idli. The restaurant has just opened a new outlet in the centre of the city. The health platters - the Millet Platter and the Navadanya Tiffin that combines millets and essential dals - are equally compelling healthy options.
Address: 240, Kilpauk Garden Road, Kilpauk; Meal for two: Rs 500.
8. Bistro Breakfast at L'Amandier
This popular restaurant was a welcome change in a city that swung between South Indian breakfast and breakfast buffets in luxury hotels. The a-la-carte weekday selection includes a scrumptious Egg Benedict with Chicken Ham and the sinful Chocolate Chip Pancakes while the weekend buffet offers great bang for your buck.
Address: 57, 2nd Main Road, RA Puram; Meal for two: Rs 1,000.
9. Breakfast with a View at Surf Turf
We'll admit it, this café is not worth the long drive down East Coast Road just for the breakfast on offer. The menu is concise, the fare is simple yet tasty. But few dining spaces can match the views of the Bay of Bengal - the café is attached to the city's premier surfing school. Even if you're not ready to get on a surfboard, you can watch surfers in action from a safe distance. And if you're lucky (like I was on my last visit) you might even spot the occasional pod of dolphins.
Address: No: 10, Pearl Beach, Ansari Nagar, Kovalam (Off ECR); Meal for two: Rs 700.
10. Amritsari Breakfast at Fully Local
Fancy stuffed kulchas or parathas on a Sunday morning instead of a masala dosa or idli sambar? Fully Local, a street food restaurant with kitschy interiors offers a slew of options including piping hot parathas served with chole and egg bhurji. Then wrap up your meal with a masala chai instead of a filter coffee; no, not all breakfasts in Chennai have to conclude with the city's favourite brew!
Address: 100/1, 8th Street, Dr Radha Krishna Salai, Mylapore; Meal for two: Rs 800.
About the Author:
Ashwin Rajagopalan is a cross cultural training expert and lifestyle writer. When he's not writing about food, he thinks about gadgets, trends and travel experiences. He enjoys communicating across cultures and borders in his weekday work avatar as a content and editorial consultant for a global major and one of India's only cross cultural trainers.
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