The first time!

For the first time in all the years I have lived here, I visited a place that can call itself a permanent fixture in Chennai’s night life! Yes, I’m talking about Zara – the Tapas Bar, the bar that never fails to feature in the stories of the well-heeled.

Zara’s is so loved, and has been here for long enough, that I’m not sure what fresh opinion or perspective I can give. I suppose I must mention at this point, that I had all the enthusiasm of a first timer (who was also appropriately dressed). The cohort entered the much hyped bar, and was taken to its table. (We are the cohort, by the way. And we were a measly group of three, though we do like to think of ourselves as important.)

It is LOUD. And DARK. You will make yourself hoarse, by merely attempting to converse with the person sitting next to you. You will not be able to read your menu. When we pointed out our difficulty to the attendant, he asked us to switch on our cellphones. “It is supposed to be dark madam, please read with the light of your mobile.” The music is typical of Top 40 playing on any American radio station.

Once it was established that this table, tucked into a dark corner next to the DJ was our spot for the night; we turned our attention to the matter at hand. We quickly proceeded to order a mocktail, a margarita and a sidecar. I particularly enjoyed the citrus-y mocktail, very refreshing and ideal for the summer. However, my friend did complain that his margarita had a little too much salt on the rim. I do not consider myself an expert on these matters (I feel more confident criticizing the food!).

Since this is a tapas bar, we started off with three small eats, in addition to the complementary bread – mushrooms in red wine (unanimously voted delicious!), cheese stuffed chilli peppers (merely molaga bajji with cheese – please eat this at Marina Beach), and vegetable nachos (I found this to be closer in flavour to papdi chaat). These dishes quickly disappeared (we were hungry!), and we moved on to the main course – fusilli pasta in an arrabiata sauce, and penne pasta in a creamy-mushroom-sauce. Pasta was served with a slice of garlic bread each. Portions were large, the pasta was served hot – nothing to complain.

The service was wonderful. There are many who are regulars – arriving single, as a couple, large groups of friends, even family. My friend tells me that the mood becomes more upbeat as the people get more inebriated – it is normal to see them dancing in their aisles (compensating for the lack of a dance floor).

Other details: Valet parking is available. It cost us about Rs. 3000 (NOT easy on the wallet!). I believe there is a popular brunch option with an extensive menu. I would like to see if it is as dark during the day as well! 😀

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