We went to Cafe Mocha, a new and fashionable place on newly fashionable Khader Nawaz Khan Road. It's a franchise of a popular cafe in Mumbai. Most of the tables are outside, in a cool and breezy area (not sure how it will be when the hot season strikes), floored with sand and strewn with an amazing miscellany of furniture. There is a long table with a water channel running down the middle and a Buddha's head at one end; there is a big wrought iron bed with a gaddi (thin mattress) with a small table placed on it -- the kind from which one might eat breakfast in bed. There are planter's chairs and sling chairs, rough granite slabs and barrels. There is Middle-Eastern music in the background, and hookahs to order, their peach-flavoured smoke filling the air.
It was bustling, even at 2:00 in the afternoon. Virtually everyone but us appeared to be under thirty, and there were many more women than men. Almost everyone wore jeans. I wondered if these were the call centre workers who are so much in the news these days, with some money to burn and plenty of time to sit around in the middle of the day.
I had a cafe zabaglione, which, according to the (large) menu, actually contained marsala; which is strange, because as far as I know, alocohol cannot be served in a restaurant in Tamil Nadu unless it is attached to a hotel with a certain amount of beds. There was probably no more than a teaspoon of it for flavour; maybe that doesn't count. Anyway, it was good, and so was the panino with cream cheese and japlapenos, served with a small dish of pesto.
R wasn't crazy about the sand-covered ground or the ragbag furniture; and I was trapped in a sling chair, with my posterior about one inch above the ground, and my knees unnervingly close to my chin. But I wanted to enjoy it, and I did. And the people around me seemed to be feeling the same way. All of this -- food, drink and ambience -- would have been unimaginably exotic a few years ago. Now, if not routine, at least it's available at several places around town. Chennai's changing.