When a chef with the status of Rick Stein declares that a nearby restaurant serves the best curry in India, it’d be a crime not to go and investigate. Combine that with a UNESCO World Heritage site and you’ve got yourself a day out sorted.
The town of Mahabalipuram, sits 50km south of Chennai and is famous for it’s 7th Century monuments and temples. The best way to make the short journey is by car and once out of the city the road is new and smooth and the traffic is free flowing in its usual Indian style. We arranged with our driver, Chandru, to pick us up from the hotel at 10am and whilst finishing breakfast at 9.45am, we received a Whatsapp message to say that he was outside and ready when we were. Just over an hour later we turned off the highway and made our way through the narrow and bustling streets of our destination.
Here, we met our guide for the day, Mr Kannitappan, a born and bred local gentleman who had an encyclopedic knowledge of all things Mahalibalipuram. You got a question? He knows the answer. The tour started with Krishna’s Butterball, a giant granite boulder resting on a short incline. As recently as 1400 years ago, the entire area was below sea level and when the water retreated, this 250ton boulder was left resting precariously on the slope. Or so it seemed. Despite countless efforts to dislodge it, it just won’t budge. Even the combined might of 7 elephants under the orders of XXXX were unable to shift it in XXXX. You can only assume that he didn’t have an 8th at his disposal.
From here it was a short walk to one of the most incredible stone monuments I’ve ever seen. Carved out of a single piece of granite, the 377 square metre artwork depicts the descent of the holy River Ganges from heaven.
The Seashore temple was the last on the monument tour, an impressive structure that seemingly sits alone a few metres short of the beach. However, it wasn’t until the Indian Ocean Tsunami of 2004 that the remains of a further 6 shrines were revealed as the seawater receded for 40 minutes before Mother Nature unleashed her fury on this part of the world. The architecture of the shrine raises eyebrows everywhere you look. A Chinese dragon with the heart of Goddess Shiva is a popular spot for quiet mediation and 108 bulls placed around the monument represent the 108 names of the Goddess.
By this time, food was well and truly on the mind and what better dish to eat than the best curry in India? Set back from the brightly painted fishing boats scattered along the beach is the Seashore Garden restaurant, a simple bamboo and coconut palm shack serving the freshest fish curry you’ll ever eat.
The owner, Turu, welcomed us onto his terrace with a beaming smile and proudly showed off his catch of the day of Snapper and giant prawns, caught just a few hours previously off this very beach. His recommendation was the Snapper so we sat down with a cold drink before being invited into the kitchen to be given a cooking demonstration on how to easily knock up this dish once we got home.
Onions, fresh chopped tomatoes, tamarind sauce and various spices were combined in a searing hot pan, filling the hot kitchen air with a deep sweet aroma before the fillets of snapper was allowed to simmer in the masala sauce.
A short while later, Turu proudly presented the finished article to us on the terrace – a bed of rice was the canvas as he spooned the perfectly cooked fish and sauce on top to create his culinary masterpiece. With a gentle push of the fork, the snapper fell apart onto the rice and with the view of the Indian Ocean crashing onto the sand just a few metres away, this really was a dining experience to savour.
Book your day out with Chandru by messaging him on +91 99623 76445 or dropping him an email on firstname.lastname@example.org