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Southern comfort



The staff informs you right at the entrance that this restaurant serves South Indian seafood, almost like a disclaimer. It’s only when you go inside and feel the vibe do you understand why that warning because Searock Coastal Cookhouse and Bar in Connaught Place is serious about serving authentic coastal food. The understated passion is palpable when its second generation owner, chef entrepreneur Ganesh Rao says, “Three years ago I came up with the idea of bringing the Searock brand to Delhi. This was because during my trips to the city, it was surprising to observe that people here don’t know our authentic cuisine beyond idli, dosa and filter coffee.”

Serving coastal fare from four regions of South India including Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Mangalore and Kerala, Searock Coastal Cookhouse and Bar comes to Delhi after three decades of being in Bengaluru. Done in soft hues with blue tiles and wall paintings depicting South India, there is a melange of authentic delicacies on offer from chicken and mutton ghee roast to Malabar fish curry, crab and much more.


Around the time when Rao was brewing the idea of getting Searock to Delhi was also when Sana-Di-Ge opened in Chanakyapuri and changed the idea of coastal fine dining on its head. The restaurant was coming after going strong in Bengaluru and Mangalore for 12 years. Perhaps because Delhi was finally opening up to the idea of going beyond the tried-and-tested cuisines. “The market dynamics is changing and people are ready to try new cuisines. Earlier idli dosa was considered South Indian but now it is prepared in most households. The clientele is now well-travelled, for whom dining out is more to do with their experience,” says Gaurav Shetty, managing director, Sana-Di-Ge.

And that is probably why when Pune’s Savya Rasa opened in Gurugram in August, they got chefs from different parts of South India to cook at their space, which is touted as a journey through South India with cuisines from regions such as Kongu Nadu, Chettinad, Malabar (Moplah), Nasrani (Syrian Christian), Mangaluru, Mysuru and Nellore. “Cooks were identified from the toddy shops of Kottayam to small restaurants in Karaikudi to messes in Nellore,” says Nikesh Lamba, co-founder, Savya Rasa.


Authenticity is clearly the operative word as restaurateurs have understood that Delhiites are now serious about their south Indian food. No wonder then that Tenali the Andhra Kitchen, which opened its doors in Green Park this June, gets all its spices and pickles from Guntur, a city in Andhra Pradesh known for its spices. “When we started talking about Andhra food, all we could come up with was Andhra Bhawan which is a canteen. And that is when we decided to open a restaurant serving authentic cuisine from this region,” says Sharmistha Cheema, co-founder, Tenali. Recreating the railway station board of Tenali, a small town made famous by the tales of Tenali Rama, the restaurant is serving an Andhra feast for Delhiites. Aside from a typical Andhra thali comprising pappu (dal), koora (sabji), rasam, sambar and Andhra pickles like avakaya and gongura, there is prawn iguru, fish, mutton and chicken fry and much more.

“There are still people who walk in asking for idli and dosa. So we orient them to Andhra food, which is eaten in courses,” says Cheema, adding that they’ve even started stocking Andhra pickles on popular demand. Agrees Savya Rasa’s Lamba who says, “It is ironical that even after so many years we in Delhi are still stuck with only idly, dosa, vada, sambar as our notion of south Indian food. We felt that it was time to change this.”

But then the sheer fact that a dish as authentic as avakaya vegetable biryani is popular at Searock Coastal Cookhouse shows that things are changing and it is probably time to embrace South Indian flavours, in all their authenticity.

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