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Beyond the Doors

This is a simple, oft-repeated story to my close ones, about discovering and falling in love with a place. The fact that it was a restaurant with amazingly delicious food is just a bonus. By writing this longer piece (I usually cut short my excited narration with “I’ll take you there!”), I hope the stories stay on forever and so does the place.

I’ve passed through Poonamallee High Road multiple times, admired Ripon Building, Victoria Public Hall, and Central Railway Station, with my mind agape. But I have failed to notice this small, Art Deco ish building until I read an article in the MetroPlus about a family establishment that serves delicious dishes at comparatively low prices. I convinced my friends that it would be a good place to try out. We were doing site visits in and around the area, and any place seemed agreeable for them. Upon locating the restaurant, we trudged along inside to secure the first table available.

Given my undying love for aged structures and interiors, it was, as they say, love at first sight. Among the other things that caught my eye was the immediate warmth one could feel due to the generous use of wood and the windows being used how they are meant to be - to let in natural air and light, and not as ornamental elements while the AC runs on full blast. There was no door that separated the seating from the road; rather there were glass shelves of pastries that seemed to be selling like hotcakes. The kitchen was towards the rear and hidden from view. The ground floor, with a simple seating layout, was packed and we were directed to the upper level. Upon taking a few steps on the narrow staircase, we came across a cushioned warning that read “Mind your head”. Heeding, we reached the landing and were introduced to a different layout, one that seemed to have secret compartments towards the right. The compartments were hidden from sight by a set of wooden swinging doors, similar to the saloon doors of the American West. But that’s where the similarity ended. For this one strictly declared ‘Family Only’. Beyond the swinging wooden doors seemed to lay treasure. Friends are like family, and I curiously swung open the first set of doors. We were met with a tiny booth that had seating for just about 6 people.

What lay beyond the table was, in fact, the treasure. Unobstructed view of its mighty neighbours (the triad mentioned at the beginning), this is, for me, dining with a view. The menu, a very simple straightforward one at that, was stuck above the doors. Peppered by the humdrum of the traffic below, the loud exchanges between the servers, titbits of conversations from the other booths, and the slight movement of the doors that gets one ready for the incoming dishes, everything comes together in this booth. Looking around, one could see the typical elements such as the indigenous Madras Terrace Roof and the grills over the windows that beautifully frame the triad. Come by for dinner, and the darkening blues of the sky and the yellows and reds of the lights make for a delightful collage.

Over time, my friend and I have snuck into the ‘Family Only’ booth and established (between us) the first booth as “ours”. The order would always be the same, but the conversations different. The booth has seen the joys and sorrows in our lives, heard of the courageous endeavours and not-so-brave back outs. Sometimes, I think of how the booth must have been witness to other stories as well, numerous other beginnings and ends while going through changes of its own. Now, whenever I drive by the road, my eyes are fixated on the pink-coloured building that holds my heart, standing out but lying in the shadows.

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