Lyfe by Soul Garden Bistro
Lyfe, by Soul Garden bistro , a rather new entrant to the vegetarian food scene, is one where meat is simply not replaced by paneer and mushroom, but a beautiful and well thought out menu ranging from continental staples to healthy alternatives, coupled with a menu dedicated for indulgences. The salads are light and hearty, with the falafel salad standing out from its peers in the city, but their waffles and coffee buns are no slouch to their international counterparts either. With three outlets across the geography of Chennai, there shouldn’t be one too far away.
Locations: Phoenix Market city, Alwarpet and Kilpauk.
Prem’s Grama Bhojanam
Curd rice, sambar rice on the menu. What so special? Well, there is no rice in them. Prem’s is Chennai answer to indigenous restaurants worthy of hosting the likes of Anthony Bourdain. With the talkative and knowledgeable owner manning the tables and reading out the menu, the original Prem’s might have taken a slightly posher turn to its ambiance, but everything from the dosa to idly to ‘variety rice’ is made of millets, but unless someone told you so, you wouldn’t know. Flavours are as real as they can get. If the black rice puttu is on the menu, don't miss it.
Mahamudra by Isha Life
Nestled within the Isha Life complex in Alwarpet, Mahamudra is pretty much hidden away, but not so for its regular clientele. A live kitchen and an expansive restaurant that doesn’t eat into your personal space, Mahamudra gives you typical vegetarian fare in an eclectic setting. With artifacts to buy and look to keep you busy, the crisp dosas at breakfast and the thalis at lunch are classy, yet don’t sway away from the traditional flavours. The dosa cones! Yum.
Moving towards the pricier end of the spectrum, Annalakshmi has long been the restaurant that locals whisked away foreigners who wanted to taste the ‘authentic vegetarian thali.’ While ala carte is there, this temple themed restaurant is all about their fixed course meals that range from light to scrumptious at different price points. Beware, walking in may lead to long wait times and getting a reservation is the way to go. Thali, thali and thali. Hard to go wrong.
Royal Vega at ITC Grand Chola
Matching the grandeur of the hotel in every sense, Royal Vega is the single best, albeit expensive, vegetarian restaurant in Chennai. The in-your-face opulence is hard to miss and the gold and silver cutlery give you a sense of what to expect long before the food arrives. With every single person involved in the restaurant being pure vegetarians, their pride to showcase their food is evident. Choice is easy – there is no ala carte. You get a choice of three menus and you can hardly go wrong with any of them. With seasonal ingredients, extremely expensive vegetables like morel mushrooms, Royal Vega pretty much leaves no stone unturned to give you a dining experience fit for the kings. The jackfruit biriyani is a killer dish.
While no longer in the top 5, it is hard to list vegetarian restaurants of Chennai without mentioning ID for its fabulous South Indian. Perfectly fried vadas are a must try here.
Locations: Satyam Cinemas, Phoenix Market city, Forum Vijaya Mall and Airport
So give the usual chains a miss and try out these lovely restaurants a try, the next time you want some truly lovely vegetarian food that isn’t run of the mill.