The lowdown: The Madras (Rhymes better with Marghazi than Chennai) Marghazi Music Season is no longer just a cult event; it’s widely recognised as one of the world’s largest music events with over 50 venues featuring top class Carnatic music and Classical dance performances. Till a couple of years ago, the Sabha (The music association/organisation that puts each of these events together) canteens were largely preserve of the rasikas (Carnatic music aficionados). Not any more!
The sabha canteen: until recently perceived to be a sideshow although quite a few rasikas have probably picked the venues not just based on the performance but also on the sappadu (a.k.a. full meals) and tiffin (that sweet spot between lunch and dinner). Most of the big sabhas (like Music Academy or Parthasarthy Sabha) feature canteens that are run by wedding caterers. It’s a win win. The Marghazi (December 16- January 15) month is usually not a season for weddings and the vegetarian caterers also get to showcase their craft to a relevant target audience. The fare is a welcome departure from the standard vegetarian meals that are on offer at most restaurants. This is high quality food that you would normally only sample at a wedding feast.
Where to eat this year:
Sri Sasthalaya @ Narada Gana Sabha, TTK Road: probably the best Sabha canteen for tiffin time. Their menu is overwhelming and also includes Chettinad specialties dished out by a dedicated Chettinad counter. The menu is refreshed constantly. Some of their signatures this year include the Adai Avial with a dollop of butter, vegetable sevai, kuzhi paniyaram and a sinful elaneer payasam. The coffee is invigorating and frothy but do make room for their selection of sweets like a traditional Ashoka halwa (made with moong dal)
Most Sabha canteens are open till January 2, 2019.