Home to colonial bungalows for railway officers, as well as tree-lined avenues dotted with schools and colleges, the former residential area of Nungambakkam in central Chennai has become an upscale lifestyle destination. Nungambakkam is where you’ll find the best bars and restaurants. At its epicentre is where you’ll find Khader Nawaz Khan Road (KNK Road for short) – lined with cafés, designer boutiques and art galleries. Check out suggestions for the top places to check out in Chennai’s hippest neighbourhood.
1. Contemporary cafe serving locally produced ice cream
Tucked down a dead-end street, Amadora Gourmet Ice Cream is set up in a bright and airy shop, featuring tree trunk-shaped tables. They use the freshest ingredients from local producers. to make ice cream cakes as well as over 200 gourmet ice cream and sorbet flavours. Make sure to try the chocolate cake with salted caramel and the dark chocolate sorbet.
2. One of the city’s oldest privately owned art galleries
Nestled in a tiny lane, Apparao Galleries is one of Chennai’s oldest privately owned art galleries. Started in 1984 by local artist and collector Sharan Apparao, the gallery’s walls showcase paintings, ceramics and sculptures from up-and-coming Indian artists. The gallery also hosts workshops covering everything from art appreciation to using art to explore emotions. Recent exhibitions have featured glass sculptor Anjali Venkat and the drawings of celebrated artist Ganesh Pyne.
3. Boutique filled with artisanal goods
Lifestyle store Naturally Auroville Boutique stocks the best artisanal goods from Auroville, a commune in Tamil Nadu. They are known for handmade products, from herbal cosmetics and scented candles to furniture, lamps, chocolates and cheese. Stroll past the small lotus pond in front and into the store to check out the organic body scrubs, soap bars and coconut oil. They also stock silk stoles, shawls and notebooks made out of cotton and biodegradable material – all of which make great gifts.
4. A menu crafted in Singapore and prepared in India
Nasi and Mee literally translates to “rice and noodles” in Bahasa. The restaurant is located on the first floor of a nondescript building on KNK Road. With a live kitchen at one end, the establishment’s canteen-style décor is accentuated by industrial-chic furniture and a colourful mural of a man eating noodles. Part of a South Indian chain started by a fourth-generation Malaysian Indian, Nasi and Mee shares this heritage through its rich fusion menu of dishes from Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Indonesia. That means everything from Thai Massaman curry and dim sum to lotus stem with honey and chilli.
5. Boutique hotel featuring vintage art
Offering just six rooms – each named after Indian flowers – Ikhaya Artisanal Boutique House is all about vintage art, designer wallpaper, fourposter beds and rug-strewn wooden floors. The rooms are surrounded by a tranquil garden, a respite from the hubbub of Chennai. You can dine at Nolita, the chic in-house restaurant and pizzeria that draws its name and inspiration from the New York neighbourhood famous for its Neapolitan-style pizza.
Please check the establishments’ respective websites for opening hours as well as booking requirements before visiting, and remember to adhere to safe-distancing measures while out and about.
The information is accurate as of press time. For the latest travel advisory updates, please refer to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ website.
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This article was originally published in the June 2019 issue of Silkwinds magazine