Madrasi Sappadu, Copper Point, GRT Grand Hotel.
The conscientious food reviewer in Chennai faces a dilemma. This is more so, when the reviewer is asked to describe that perfect thali. The dilemma is this: stay true to local cuisine and traditions and thus perpetuate the myth that Chennai is all about Sambar and Rasam, or truly describe the range and scope of the city’s cuisine, and talk about the Bombay, Rajasthani, Gujarati and other regional cuisines at the expense of Madras’ own.
Which is why, the last month saw me walking in and out of Chennai’s many restaurants, the walking out bit always a little more ponderous yet a gleam of satisfaction in the eyes. (By the way, if the news reports from this part of the country talk about the death of recession and a sudden increase in obesity among 25 year olds, you know who to blame: Marie Claire.)
The south Indian vegetarian thali appears, at the surface, very simple and almost plain in comparison to its northern cousin. But dig in and you are blessed with textures and flavours so different and so special.
The Madrasi Sappadu at the Copper Point is a case in example.
When I walked into the restaurant (It lives up to its name – earthy, metallic colours throughout, with a large copper urn centrepiece, and metallic plaques all around with bas-relief depictions of the cooking utensils favoured in this part of the world.) I am greeted by the Maitre ‘d and shown to a table in a corner. A welcome drink – salted and spiced butter milk – is the first to arrive. Followed by a basket of vadams – crispy, crunchy chips made of rice and sago.
The restaurant is quiet as it is not yet peak time. Which suits me just fine. Vazhaipoo vadai (A deep-fried snack made of lentil + banana flowers) and mint chutney next occupies my thought. In Tamil cuisine, the banana holds a special place. Almost every part of this tree is used in cooking: stems, leaves, flowers, the yet-to-ripen fruit and the ripe fruit.
As I ponder on that, the general manager and the chef come to my table and we talk about food and this particular review I am writing.
By now, my thali is ready. Today’s menu is Dosa and chutney for the bread, Coconut rice, Besi Bela Bath, Spinach+Corn kernel kootu, deep-fried potato curry, Vettha kuzhambu (a spicy sauce made from Tamarind/red pepper and select spices all cooked in Gingely oil), Sambar and Rasam.
I begin with relish. The dosa is devoured in minutes. With that out of the way I turn to the coconut rice and besi bela bath. Both live up to the high standards I set, but I do like my besi-bela a little more besi and a lot more bela.
Business can now begin in right earnest. Steamed rice comes in a large copper plated bowl, piping hot and ready to be mixed with the kuzhambu and sambar. The tamarind-y goodness of the kuzhambu makes my day. I ask for and get two extra servings of the same which goes to show the care the restaurant’s staff show for their guests. I can say with honesty that kuzhambu will henceforth be measured against the Copper Point yardstick.
The sambar and rasam are standard fare in Chennai, and one has to take extra effort to ruin it. Copper point knows its Madrasi tongue and therefore the two were about as good as they can get.
Thick, sweet curd served in a small matka can either be mixed with rice (Thayir sadam – the reason for the disproportionate number of Tam-bram students in the IITs and IIMs) and eaten along with lime pickle or just spooned into the mouth as a preliminary to the dessert.
The main part of lunch over, my plate is cleared for the sweet stuff. Up first is cold, scintillating basundi. A mouthful any day, at Copper Point it gets thicker and tastier. I didn’t much care for the dry rosogolla or the little banana provided as an aid to digestion, preferring instead to wait for the promised ice-cream.
When it came, I forgot all my earlier concerns. Friends will vouch for my expertise in ice-cream, so let me tell you that this was perhaps the best ice-cream I’ve had in the city of Chennai. Rich and creamy, with small bits of actual strawberry adding volume and texture, I could spend a whole column writing about it.
The Madrasi Sappadu at the Copper Point, GRT Grand comes to you at Rs. 475 plus taxes. Believe me you, it is worth all that and more.
(An edited version of this, along with a photo I’d shot, was published in the February issue of Marie Claire, under the title Thali-ho!
So, I work for an advertising agency. Which, among other things, does ads and posters for a gym. One poster I worked on, ironically, is about running/exercising to lose weight. The poster’s below.
The idea, as most ideas do, happened in a flash of lightning and a roll of thunder. The gates of the sky opened up and beautiful angels in revealing clothes gently floated down to earth and handed me the idea, gift-wrapped and flower-strewn. And then I spent two hours worrying that the idea was so simple, so obvious, SOMEONE MUST HAVE DONE IT ALREADY. Turns out, no one did. At least, I haven’t seen any ads or posters of TV commercials with this idea. So, YAY for me. And for the art-director who worked on it. And in true Oscar style, I’d like to thank my creative director, my agency, my family, my second-cousin-twice-removed, my imaginary friend’s imaginary dog. And all.
So, today is advertising overload day. And therefore, this piece.
Many, many people have asked me how I write my ads. (This after they throw me the really standard question and the tired old cliched joke about copywriting). And I try to be sincere (as opposed to my now-usual snark) and answer questions as truthfully as I can manage. Meh. This is better.
For the first week and a half, I will work on my blog, read blogs, visually think about internet porn, play endless games of Snood, leave early, and go shoot some pool.
Two days before the presentation, the creative director will stroll into my office and ask, “Whatta you guys got?” I’ll say, with fake confidence, “A couple of good things brewing that ain’t ready to be looked at yet.” My response never varies by more than a word or two.
Only, I don’t play snood. I play Spider Solitaire. Trust me, and trust the Copyranter, it works like a fucking charm.
For over a year now, I’ve been pitching the idea of advertising online to my clients. I’ve been pushing them to look at blogs, flickr and other sites that I am familiar with as possible media outlets, as well as a great way to tell their side of the story. I even set up a client’s blog, and I am happy to see that they have taken it up in earnest and are writing some fantastic posts there.
I’ve also been begging agencies that I have worked in (and am working in now) to look at interactive media as an integral part of advertising and not just as a residual medium. I see some fantastic, really mind blowing work done exclusively for the internet by agencies in the western hemisphere, and have smacked my head in frustration, because some of those ideas were ideas I had myself. And a long before I saw them executed.
Not long ago, I’d told a colleague that Indian agencies would never ‘get’ Interactive. Thankfully, I’ve been proved wrong.
Sunsilk Gang Of Girls
Kwality Walls – Spill ur dil.
Tata Indicom’s Institute for Poor Mobile Network Syndrome.
3 of the 4 sites are HLL’s brands. Hmmmm.
Ponds’ I-Blushed is so fucking slow. It might put some people off.
Spill Ur Dil is a tad difficult to use – the mouse pointer morphs into something that is hard to locate against the pink background.
Tata Indicom – PMS problem had me ROTFL.
I am going to hold passing judgement on these sites for a little while more. Especially because I am not sure how much these sites are an extension of the brand’s mainline advertising. To my mind, a good interactive site/idea is a replacement for your brand’s MSM campaign, with perhaps press and TV acting as just pointers to the site.
Of the four above, I think Tata Indicom has one of the best ideas, and the fact that I landed there almost accidentally, via a well-placed Google Text Ad, leads me to believe that they are well worth watching.
Meanwhile, I’ll leave you with a fantastic site. Can you guess what brand this one’s for? (No peeking!)
Let The Game Continue.
So, you are a headhunting/staffing company. You manage to find and win a client, and have been asked to source a certain number of people for a certain job role.
Now, how would you go about that? If you were a
good boringly old fashioned HR company, you would understand your client’s needs, you would understand the requirements for the position on hand, understand what the skillsets and experience required are, and having done that, find people (either online, or through newspaper and tv advertising) who have similar credentials.
How so boring. How so time-consumingly old fashioned! Especially when, you can do it the brilliantly
inefficient, incompetent simple, clever way of trawling through Monster India and finding a whole bunch of Indians who will just jump at the offer. So who cares the candidates you’ve shortlisted through Monster don’t even work in the same industry as your client’s?
Love words. Think pictures. Hold nothing sacred.
Speak like one! Conversational guidelines and helpful phrases for those in a hurry…
1) The client sucks…
2) Client servicing sucks…
3) (turning to art partner) Hey, I’ve got a brilliant idea – get me a nice visual…I’ll write a line for it
4) The client sucks…
5) Client servicing sucks…
6) (turning to art partner) Hey, here’s an idea – let’s go for coffee…
7) The client sucks…
8) Client servicing sucks…
9) (turning to client servicing guy) Is tomorrow spelt T.O.M.M.O.R.O.W or T.O.M.O.R.R.O.W
10) Client servicing sucks…
11) You know what, the client sucks…
12) (turning to art partner) I’m stuck? Do you have an idea?
13) The client sucks…
14) This agency sucks – for my talent, I ought to be in the UK or the US…
15) Client servicing sucks…hey, (to client servicing guy) buy me some coffee no?
16) Neil French is god machaan!
17) All right…time for lunch….anyway this agency sucks…
18) Machaan – timelines are too short da…(repeat 20 times a day, even if deadline is 10 days away)
19) The client sucks…
20) Client servicing sucks…
21) (turning to art partner) Dei…we need to give the brochure today man…they briefed us last month…
22) What do you mean you don’t know it was briefed…I told you na?
23) Oops, sorry, must have forgotten…anyway, they’ve fixed the meeting for today…let’s do something no?
24) WTF! We have to do it da…otherwise we’ll get fired.
25) Shit! Art guys suck…
26) The client sucks…
27) Fucking deadlines
28) I’m going to blog this.