Classy South Indian food in Chennai

Saturday, January 27th , 2007

 Fotolia_45508533_M Madurai temple-crop-v3.jpg

This blog is coming to you from Madurai (a temple here is pictured) in Tamil Nadu, a city in the south of India. I found a very fine restaurant in Chennai called Southern Spice (in the Taj hotel there) which has chefs from each of the four southern states of India. I will write this up in more detail in due course, but it is fascinating seeing so many dishes that are completely unfamiliar in the UK, even though there are a fair number of restaurants cooking food from this region in London. Southern Spice would be around 14/20 level, with a few things slightly better. In particular the breads are superb, both familar things like paratha and garlic naan, and rarer breads like my favourite of all Indian bread - romali roti. Each of these was better at this restaurant than anywhere in the UK. I'm not quite sure why this should be - after all, it is hardly an issue of tricky ingredients in the case of bread. The sheer lightness of the romali roti was a real delight.

In Madurai the View restaurant at the Taj Garden Retreat hotel is also good, doing a lovely, tender malai chicken tikka and also some terrific naan bread. At the other end of the scale the Chettinad Mansions in Chettinad served food that was little better than slop - a few mushy vegetables in a bland curry sauce, served lukewarm. I suppose it is good to be brought down to earth every down and again, as it makes you appeciate the good stuff even more.

Also a brief update on Michelin, which just released its UK guide. 

In the UK, Petrus and the Vineyard get a second star, while there are pretty bewildering stars (in my opinion) for Benares and Arbutus. I will update my list of Michelin restaurants with all the details when I am back from India. 

The situation for the French edition of Michelin is less clear. Pim's blog reports that the following changes have occurred, but my sources in France tell me that this is just journalist speculation, as the Michelin France guide has yet to appear. The rumour is that in France there are several promotions: l'Astrance (no surprise there), Le Meurice, Le Pre Catalan, Pic, Helene Darroze and also Lameloise (which was rather harshly demoted a couple of years back). Incomprehensibly, Cinq is rumoured to be losing its 3rd star (I had a near perfect meal there not so long ago), as does Taillevent, Beurehiesel and La Ferme de mon Pere (which has closed). However at this stage these are just rumours, it would seem. As soon as the official press release comes out I will update this site.