Amethyst Wild Garden Cafe
Whites Road, Royapettah, Chennai-600 014
Meal for two:?Rs 2,000
When Kiran Rao, Chennai’s favourite conservationist, picked upon a derelict backyard on a busy commercial hub to recreate the Amethyst Cafe, no one believed she could swing it. The first Amethyst was built around a restored mansion. When it fell to the developers’ wrecking ball, Kiran took on the challenge of transforming a series of sheds and disused godowns into a new version. She raised a first floor with a high-pitched roof, flooding the area with light, while a long verandah runs along the front and sides of the building like a planter’s bungalow overlooking the garden.
The menu at the cafe is bright, fresh and seasonal. The soup of the day, for instance, is Green Peas and Mint (Rs 225). The salad might be a combination of Camembert and pears when it’s in season, or prunes and figs (Rs 345). For a light meal there’s a toasted tomato, mozzarella and basil baguette, or one with smoked salmon and cream cheese (Rs 395), with lots to choose from in the Italian section.
For those with a hearty appetite, there are gloriously plated trays with Flame Grilled Seer Fish with sauteed vegetables (Rs 495) or Grilled Chicken with Jalapeno mash and beans (Rs 475). For rice eaters, there’s a good Thai curry section. The selection may be small, but the food is made fresh and served in style.
For most visitors, the attraction is to park themselves at a marble-top table and order either one of their coffee brews and sample the cakes from the cake shop, or secretly dive into the hot and deep-fried potato wedgies.
Should we mention the best-kept secret‚ the Eton Mess? Sadly, these gorgeous cream- and mascarpone-filled clear glass globes of layered meringue and fruit—sometime pink with strawberries and drizzled with glistening syrup, at other times golden orange with the marvel of real Alphonso mango slices—are seasonal.
Never mind. In the rainy season there is the comfort of a pot of tea and toast with lashes of butter while watching the rain dripping like moonstones. It’s a cafe that feels like home.