As a kid, I have eaten in a few authentic places, not restaurants, but more a ‘mess’ managed by families generation after generation in Thanjavur and Kumbakonam. It has been quite a while since I experienced something like that. When you hear the word “mess”. the first place that obviously comes to your mind is Mylapore and then West Mambalam. Thanks to some friends in Chennai Food Guide who suggested a few names like Karpagambal Mess, Maami’s Mess, Rayar’s Mess, Jannal Kadai, Sukanya nivas or vilas and so on.
Decided to try out Rayar’s mess and overall, it was a kind of mixed feeling. As we entered, it was a narrow lane leading to some apartments and on the way, found the name board which seemed as old as the mess itself. First impression was not very positive, the entry, the narrow path was dark. We had to wait for just a few minutes and managed to get a table for four. The place was packed and there were only three tables in all, two with four chairs and one with six chairs. So at a time 18 can eat. The kids had a shock as they did not consider this even close to a restaurant 🙂 . As we were closest to the kitchen, it was very warm inside in spite of the fan going in full speed. So definitely not the most comfortable place to eat.
Now coming to the food 🙂 – Normally they serve three items for breakfast it seems – Pongal, Idly and Vada, and to our bad luck, pongal was over for the day. Idly is probably my last choice for breakfast, but had to pretty much eat that, as it was the only choice. We were waiting for about 5 minutes while the idly was getting ready ! Meanwhile got chutneys and molaga podi served on the plantain leaf. Then came the idlys , piping hot and soft as sponge!! It was truly awesome. In spite of all the hatred for idly, it tasted good. Next followed vadas – crispy, and tasty. So almost forgot about the pongal and began to relish the breakfast. Steady stream of people coming in, both to eat and to take away. The waiters were North Indians, talking in Hindi, but seemed helpful. Asked for coffee and had to settle down outside as people were waiting for the table. Filter coffee was good too and the fresh breeze outside was welcoming after about 20 minutes in the close-to-dungeon kind of a place. That made the coffee taste even better.
Bill for four of us came to around Rs 300. I was wondering if the prices were as cheap as the place looked. Probably not. Undoubtedly the food was good, no complaints about that, but will I go there again? Definitely, not with my kids. I would definitely be better off sitting at a comfortable place with little more time to eat. If I am alone, I would definitely not mind tasting food in one of these authentic places again !