Between sips: Thanks to Covid’s second wave, we are back to square one – looking up new places to order food from

So guys, if you are in Chennai, make it a must-stop for lunch and/or dinner. With travel curtailed, this is as close to a south-east Asian hawker centre you will ever get.

This time last year, we had just entered the pandemic and F&B outlets were in a state of shock. They didn’t know what was happening and how long it would continue to happen. Finally, as time passed, they all learned to pivot, shifting from in-house dining to home delivering and some even forsaking the entire sit-in model and going the cloud kitchen way. By August, we were ordering food home as it was something we had always done.

Fast forward a year and— thanks in large parts to the Maha Kumbh and the election rallies, but also in small ways to our own collective callousness with wearing masks in public places and general social distancing— once again, the dine-in scene stands curtailed and we are back to square one: looking up new places to order home from.

But before I go there, I must proudly show off my Chennai trip where the highlight was organising a lovely dinner paired with Martell Cognac at OTR at Crowne Plaza. Other noteworthy meals were had at Pumpkin Tales with sneaky side orders from their authentic Chinese eatery Zhoyu. So guys, if you are in Chennai, make it a must-stop for lunch and/or dinner. With travel curtailed, this is as close to a south-east Asian hawker centre you will ever get.

As for breakfast, just head to Bread and Chocolate, an offshoot of the Auroville institution (but with a more extensive spread), which was so good that I happily and willingly cancelled my regular idli-dosa jaunts in the city for their western fare, which comprised some rich almond and cream croissants and a hearty shakshuka.

Back in the capital, here is how I will try and stay ahead of the (food ordering, but also Covid-19) curve this time by ordering from these delivery services:

Pitaara Delivery Kitchen: From the man who whipped up the fare at Cafe Lota and then Cafe Monsoon comes this new firebrand of Indian home delivery with dishes spanning the length and breadth of our nation. A touch gentrified, but still true to the flavours and fairly light in preparation overall, chef Udit Maheshwari’s food is definitely worth passing around the family table.

Beyond Design Bistro: It’s a smorgasbord of western continental and south-east Asian fare and, before I ordered it, it was a big red flag for me. Can a space do justice to both styles of food, especially when they can be so different? Well, the menu read like a choice pick of the top hits from both continents, so needless to add, I over-ordered. I did feel odd about switching courses from European to Asian in one meal, but overall, I have to hand it to them, they did fair justice to all the dishes, no matter their provenance. It’s priced on the higher end of the common-spend range, but the presentation and products merit that premium.

Etsu: These guys send tasting menus-either European or Asian— so once again, a potential scare, but maybe the above experience had reinstalled my faith. But I ended up sticking to an Asian menu and it was good, overall satisfying with sumptuous and cognisant flavours even if adapted for local palates. The chilli oil chicken dimsums deserve a special mention.

Fresh & Organic: This is an aggregator site and it stocks the usual array of groceries from reputable brands, but of special interest to me were its in-house teas, especially the Kahwa, which came both in powder form and the unground (whole) format. With the latter, frankly, I was more keen to do an infused gin, but somehow I have refrained insofar. That aside, the tea was definitely worth trying and much better than the other teas sold on the site.

Delicut: This is a brand that’s packing sous-vide meats in preparation styles ranging from Buffalo wings and Yakitori skewers to Teriyaki pork belly and lamb burger patties. It was all very well prepped and packed. Their USP, I guess, would be low-effort, high-quality and yet fresh fare. Definitely worth a try.

The writer is a sommelier

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