Speak of South Indian food and Saravana Bhavan comes to your mind immediately. “It’s as iconic a restaurant chain can ever become”, says my husband ( a to-the-core lover of non-vegetarian food) about this vegetarian place. Started in 1981, the chain now boasts on 29 outlets in India and about 38 in 10 countries worldwide! That’s the stats for you to gauge its popularity.
If travelling to Chennai, does it then need to be said? That Saravana Bhavan is a must visit for lunch / dinner? A pure vegetarian restaurant, the menu has now ‘broadened’ to incorporate North Indian, Chinese and other specialties. But hang on. Am I nuts to eat Chinese or Punjabi when in Chennai?
And so , we hurried off to their V N Road outlet (T Nagar) for lunch – a 3-story outlet: the 1st floor serves snacks & deserts; 2nd floor, traditional food and 3rd, mixed cuisine. The menu is listed in their typical style, on a whiteboard near the entrance.
We opted for the traditional as I so badly wanted to try out the Idliappam – supposedly, their best. But sadly, by then, Idliappam had ran out :-(. Apparently it is served in the mornings with sweet coconut milk. I therefore went in for the traditional category. Now the options under the ‘traditional’ category are limited, with almost everybody opting for the Thali. Rice is served with 8-9 accompaniments including 2-3 vegetable dishes, rasam, sambhar (lentil), yogurt, one sweet and of course, the must, Papadam. The other option was to have Dosas.
Although a very basic spread, what sets Saravana form the others, is the taste of the food. It is just fantastic. The Sambhar is one of the best I have had, not to mention the vegetable dishes. You can get seconds for most of these items, especially Sambhar and Rasam. The Thali goes best with some butter milk and I can bet that you will end up overeating.
The ambience is, mind you, nothing to rave about — clean, basic seating with/without AC. The waiters are mostly indifferent; but the Manager here was excellent – serving everyone with a smile and recommending dishes.