CHENNAI: I gently step down the grand spiral staircase, staring at the golden velakku chandelier plunging down the spiral chasm. Of the many centrepieces, this one is a stunner. For the past half-hour, we’ve been treated to a walking tour of a 50-year-old bungalow in T Nagar, now revamped into a pure vegetarian traditional restaurant, Paati Veedu.
True to its name, the charming three-storey building feels just like the warm embrace of a grandmother’s home, complete with old photographs of Madras to a palaanguzhi game set out in the thinnai, next to the wooden armchairs.
“This is an experiential restaurant, where one can sit for two hours, enjoy a large five-course traditional meal with family and friends, and feel like they’ve gone back in time,” says Agnelo Vijayan, one of the partners behind the project.
Paati Veedu was conceptualised by Dubai-based Sirish Ramkumar, his brother-in-law G Mohandas, Agnelo, and a large bunch of friends and family who took care of different parts of the project. “We always wanted to do a huge 14-ground project complete with a traditional arts village. Now, we have started with just the restaurant phase of it,” says Agnelo.
They identified this old bungalow a year ago, and structurally and aesthetically redesigned it. “It used to be a ground-floor only house, which they kept expanding, so it’s a little maze-like and easy to get lost in, on your first walk,”Agnelo laughs.
But who wouldn’t mind getting lost in this maze of traditional carved wooden doors, Karaikudi stone pillars, antique radio sets and delightful kolams on red oxide walls?
As we speak, a waiter brings a shot glass of paanagham, a traditional refreshment drink, and we’re introduced to Sangeetha Mohandas, who curated the menu. “The restaurant was conceptualised around the menu because the founders wanted to bring back age-old recipes,” she says. Sourcing menus from all their friends’ and their families’ grandmothers, the kitchen team worked on creating the best combinations, over nine months. “For example, mor kozahmbu with paruppu usli and keerai is a great combination,” Sangeetha says. The menu has five types of sambhar; five types of kozhambu such as vatha kozahmbu, milaghu kozhambu, bonda potta mor kozhambu; rasams like pepper rasam, nellika rasam, murungakka rasam. You can sample these varieties in the ‘Poorna bhakshana’ meal, with 27 items, and the ‘Maharaja bhakshana’ with 35 dishes.
For those who prefer a la carte, try out the ‘Paati’s Thattu’, a pre-plated combination of dishes. “It has steamed rice, a choice of a sambhar, rasam or kozhambu, with a vegetable kootu, a steam-cooked and garnished poriyal and one type of kezhangu fry,” she says. There are also starters and desserts like elaneer payasasm, filter coffee mousse, karupatti halwa, carrot kesari... the mouth-watering list goes on.
“All those who have tasted our food so far say the same thing — that it is just like authentic home-cooked food. And that’s exactly what we’re striving for,” Sangeetha says.
Paati Veedu has three divisions
● Bhakshana, the fine-dining restaurant. The ground floor has seating, the first floor has private-dining, a live-kitchen and outdoor balcony-seating
● Decoction, outdoor shaded cafe
● Bhakshanam, a sweet and savouries shop
Rs 899 Poorna bhakshana
Rs 999 Maharaja bhakshana
Rs 1,399 Maharaja bhakshana with additional takeaways