Chennai’s vibrant dining scene – with a brilliant blend of traditional and contemporary options - that continues to surprise visitors to the city. For long, the city’s pub and bar scene was the preserve of luxury hotels; that’s changed and how. A clutch of cool pubs has changed the way Chennaites socialise. We pick 10 popular hangouts that each offer their own unique vibe:
1. Sera, The Tapas Bar
Chennai’s first Spanish-style tavern with an extensive Tapas Menu has been through a couple of name changes that haven’t affected the establishment’s cult following. Not a lot has changed over a decade – the leather stools, the brilliant tapas and the cocktail menu. It’s why Sera is an ultimate comfort zone for a Friday night or even a business lunch (their four-course lunch menus with a drink are immensely popular) on a weekday.
Where: 71, Cathedral Road, Gopalapuram
2. Velveteen RabbitIt’s easy to lose track of time (and the time of day) when you’re tucked a few feet under the ground (the bar is located under L’Amandier Café) in one of the bar’s old school high-back chairs or sprawled on one of their decadent couches. This intimate bar takes its name from Margery Williams’ novel of the same name. Their international Beer selection is impressive and so are their small plates – the blue Cheese Chicken tikka and Arancini balls are equally compelling.
Where: 57, 2nd Main Rd, Govindaswamy Nagar, Raja Annamalai Puram
3. Radio Room
One of 2016’s most talked about launches, Radio Room continues to turn away people on Saturday nights. Iconic album covers and images compete with clever props (we love their retro microphone-shaped lamps and repurposed ‘hi-fi’ systems) and make this one of the city’s hippest hangouts. The music stays in the 80s – a mix of rock anthems and the odd obscure pop track but the cocktails and snacks are decidedly progressive.
Where: 94, Sathyadev Avenue, MRC Nagar, Santhome
Picture credits: facebook/radioroom
4. Ink 303
Dark and in multiple shades of Blue, this space sought inspiration from the art on its walls for its name. Located in the swish Khader Nawaz Khan neighbourhood with a resident DJ constantly upping the tempo. Ink 303’s Oriental selection is their highlight. Do sample their grilled prawns drowned in a Thai Red curry sauce or the water chestnuts tossed in Hunan sauce.
Where: Oyster Building, Khader Nawaz Khan Road
The vibrant art and décor transport you straight to South America. This is among India’s only South American bars where there’s everything from Ceviche to Argentinian lamb empanadas in the mix. Not happy with the grub? No problem. Just turn to Sudaka’s flamboyant South American bartender (she insists on being called a ‘barmaid) and let her conjure up a wicked cocktail.
Where: 37, North Boag Road, T Nagar
6. Big Bang Theory
That iconic image of Einstein (with his tongue out) greets you and so does a large wall with math equations. There’s enough quirky design elements to add drama to this cool pub that shares its name with one of the most popular TV shows of a generation. The food and drinks find that balance between the comfort zone and the exotic; that’s enough to bring you back.
Where: 2/25, Dr Ambedkar Road, Ashok Nagarpicture credits:instagram/ashwathi07
7. Plan B
Don’t let the name fool you, this place is certainly not an afterthought for its loyal legion of fans. The Plan B story began in Bengaluru before setting shop in Chennai. It’s the same winning formula – grungy interiors, flaming cocktails and heaps of greasy finger-friendly food that appeal to your most basic food cravings. The perfect recipe for the quintessential neighbourhood bar.
Where: Murugesan Naicker Complex, Greams Roadpicture credits:instagram/theofficialplanb
8. Moon and Six Pence
Borrows its name from the iconic Somerset Maugham novel. This warm and friendly pub with a distinctive Irish vibe has enough room to accommodate some of the city’s most energetic live bands. The shot eats are terrific and so are heavy mains like theis signature Blackened fish.
Where: Hablis, GST Road, Guindy
The closest pub to Besant Nagar Beach is essentially two spaces – a restaurant on the ground level driven by world cuisine and a contemporary lounge bar on level one where EDM usually rules the roost. M’Bessy infuses their cocktails – like their brilliant Vodka-based Royal punch, with home-made fruit preserves. The food menu is fairly extensive for a pub - from hickory lamb to a flavourful wild mushroom risotto to a deconstructed tiramisu.
Where: 1, Royal Enclave, Besant Avenue, Besant Nagar.
10. The Vault Bar Stock Exchange
Enjoy making moves on the stock market? Indulge in some kerb-side trading much after the markets close; the drink prices here move up and down on the ticker depending on the volume of orders. Obviously, drinks are cheaper on a quiet weekday but the prices head northward as the bar’s (liquor) stocks start to fall. The prices on the food (their bangers and mash is a must try) stay constant though.
Where: 22/23, Venkatanarayana Road, T Nagar
About the Author:
Ashwin Rajagopalan is a Chennai-based writer who writes on topics related to food, 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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It’s not just
About Ashwin RajagopalanI've discovered cultures, destinations and felt at home in some of the world's most remote corners because of the various meals I've tried that have been prepared with passion. Sometimes they are traditional recipes and at most times they've been audacious reinterpretations by creative chefs. I might not cook often but when I do, I imagine I'm in a cookery show set - matching measuring bowls, et all!