A Welcome Hotel breakfast


*This food trip was done a few weeks ago, before the lockdowns and shutdowns due to COVID 19 happened.

Like a lot of folks, I love me a good South Indian breakfast. But unlike a lot of folks, the opportunity to have one never seems to come around. Good friend Guddu Anand has posted plenty of times about his trips across town to Welcome Hotel at Purusaiwalkam for a breakfast fit for a king. He'd talk about the softest idlis that swam in a pool of sambar that the restaurant was well known for. And the vadas, pongal, chutney...sigh... In all my years of living in Chennai, I never thought of going there even though for a time, I used to work in that area. Even friends used to rave about that sambar and all I could do was to put it on my bucket list and hope of making it there some day. In this lifetime.

And that day came just a few weeks ago when food writer Ameeta Agnihotri brought up the topic. Of course, yours truly was very interested in the plan and Gudduji was only too willing to drive us all the way there on a Sunday morning. The catch was that we had to be at the restaurant by 7 am as Gudduji warned us that not just parking but even seats would be hard to find if we were even a little late. Well, what's an hour - or two - of lost sleep on a Sunday morning for a chance to scratch something off a bucket list??  Sacrifices have to be made sometimes.  Maybe he took pity on us because late in the night, I got a message from him to say that I was to meet them at Guindy at 7.25 am!

Welcome to Welcome Hotel

Luck was definitely on our side because not only did he find a nice parking spot but we even found a table at 8 am. It is a typical South Indian restaurant with functional 4 seater tables, old fashioned chairs and packed with hungry customers. A busboy cleaned our steel topped table while servers brought out idlis and dosas from a cavernous kitchen.     

Idli & sambar 

Plates of idlis were placed in front of us, along with a small container of coconut chutney. The server seemed to know we were going to take a video so he paused a moment dramatically before pouring the sambar over. There are 2 soft idlis to a plate and they are fairly large. Cut into one and you can see that it is not the ultra-fluffy one, rather one made from a coarsely ground batter which allows all that sambar to soak in. The sambar is thin, not too spicy, just a little sweetish and so delicious.

Next was the plate of vada with its crisp outer crust and soft inside. The sambar, once again was poured all over and was the perfect accompaniment. So good.

Dosa with more sambar, vadacurry & coconut chutney

My crisp, plain dosa came with more sambar, a coconut chutney and vadacurry which was a novelty for me. Lentil flour is mixed with water and seasoning, shaped into dumplings and either fried or steamed. The dumplings are then broken and added to a spicy onion-tomato gravy that gives it the typical coarse texture.

Pongal & vada with accompaniments

And then, there was the quintessential South Indian breakfast combo comprising pongal and vada with more sambar, vadacurry and the freshest, unadulterated coconut chutney. The pongal had lots of halved cashews in it  and with every mouthful, you could smell the delightful flavour of ghee.  Such a delicious way to start the morning but of course, by this time, we were pretty full and could only nibble at it.

The perfect glass of coffee

Guddu told us that the payasam is mouthwatering but we decided to finish with coffee. I usually skip coffee because in a lot of places, it is too milky but Welcome Hotel's coffee is something else. It has the perfect ratio of decoction to milk to sugar and is served at the perfect temperature. In no time, I was looking into the bottom of an empty glass.

On our way out, we met owner, Venkata Ramana Upadya. Started by his father in 1978, the restaurant is well known for the consistent taste of its food. In the 42 years of its existence, they have had a series of 4 head chefs who have been reponsible for maintaining this taste. The sambar and chutnies are made three to four times a day, which accounts for its freshness anytime you taste it. As for the sambar, it is made according to a secret Manglorean family recipe but cooked by Tamilian chefs. Simply amazing, isn't it?

Welcome Hotel is at No. 241, Purasawalkam High Road, Purasaiwakkam, Chennai 600007.
The breakfast service starts at 6 am.

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