Cappuccino – 2

When I announced my quest for cappuccino, someone suggested Ashvita Café on Radhakrishnan Salai, just west of Hotel President.

I had wondered about it before: When you drive by, you see only a sign pointing in to a very narrow lane, with an indistinct building at the end of it. In fact, you do not reach the end of the lane, but turn right about midway, and drive into the yard of a small house which has been converted to the café and an art gallery.


The place was completely empty when I arrived at about 1:30 in the afternoon, but still the watchman waited for me to park, and then instructed me to park somewhere else. Since this is a typical Chennai phenomenon I complied meekly. Later, when I was eating my lunch, someone else came and asked for my car keys: I was parked in the wrong place. Again, not unusual. I came out at the end to find my car exactly where I had put it in the first place.

Once inside, I turned left for the café. Inside were poufs and legless chairs arranged with tables in an empty room. One wall had a stone facing, and there were a few paintings.

A man who had followed me in from the garden handed me a largeish menu, which included sandwiches, pastries, even risotto. There was something called cappuccino, but it came with flavoured syrup. I had a barbecued chicken sandwich – pieces of chicken, capsicum, onions, sauteed in a sauce. It was served hot, and was quite okay. The cappuccino wasn’t really cappuccino, according to me, but flavoured coffee with the top whipped to a foam. It was good, but… still not what I was looking for. Rs. 134 for both. After having prepared my food, the cook came out and relaxed in a chair in the corner of the still-empty room, and stared steadily at me throughout my meal. Luckily several newspapers were strewn around, so I read some Hindi film gossip, to prevent myself from meeting his eyes again and again.

On the way out I took a quick look at the food section (home-made marmalade and mango jam; brownies; cheesecake), the jewellry section (silver-and-bead handmade earrings, neclaces, bracelets) and part of the gallery (modern oil paintings).

Summing up, it looked like a mildly quirky place where one might relax with friends – they have a weekend evening barbecue, too, I noticed. The décor was not slick but homey… but it was not the place to go for cappuccino.

5 Comments so far

  1. Ravages (unregistered) on July 21st, 2006 @ 7:45 pm

    I was at Ashvita a while back, along with a friend. I kinda liked the coffee, but cappuccino it is not.

  2. WA (unregistered) on July 21st, 2006 @ 7:55 pm

    Lovely series Nancy. I don’t drink coffee (now now I can imagine you and CCG would be shocked that there are non coffee lovers in this world, but I do like the smell of it though) nor am I likely to go to coffee bars in Chennai but still its nice to see how things are changing. Hope the Tea Kadais and the local restaurants which serve kaapis are surviving too.

  3. Vikram (unregistered) on July 21st, 2006 @ 9:00 pm

    As a chennaite who does not live in chennai any more, it is really good to read these posts. One thing that caught my eye about this coffee shop was that your bbq chicken was nothing but chicken sauteed with onions, etc??????????? Where is the bbq part then? ;-)

    The one thing I noticed last time I was in chennai was that the prices at such places are indeed pretty steep and the portions are not large at all. Has that changed?

  4. Nancy (unregistered) on July 21st, 2006 @ 9:19 pm

    Boy, I would die for some barbecued spareribs right now! Thanks for reminding me :) Prices for everything are steeper than ever, but esp. in the places which want to be fashionable. The portion sizes were quite adequate, though, both for the sandwich and for the coffee.

  5. rads (unregistered) on August 10th, 2006 @ 3:08 am

    haha@carparking episode. To repeat Vikram, it’s nice to hear about Madras, [yes, I left the place when it was still called that!]while sitting so far away.

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