February 23, 2017

In a city famed for its beaches, where weekend crowds jostle for space and hawkers have field days pandering to their choices, one stretch of sand and sea stands out.

South Chennai’s Thiruvalluvar Nagar beach, also referred to as ‘Breezy Beach’ for its strong winds throughout the year, is a much visited area by seekers of both exercise and entertainment.

Considered the cleanest stretch of city coastline owing to the zestful efforts of its residents, it morphs from a calm and serene delight of morning and evening walkers through the week to a bustling area teeming with several hundred visitors on weekends. Here, access is banned to four wheelers, other than those belonging to residents and the select few ferrying the elderly, fragile and differently-abled.

One of the three side-streets leading to this beach is Seaworld Drive. Conjuring up images of a broad boulevard, it’s actually just a small side-street, perhaps 30 ft wide, but with a large function to perform. This is the food street of Breezy Beach.

A leisurely stroll down its length, for that is all the speed you can possibly achieve, turns out to be a gourmand’s delight!

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Both sides are evenly lined with stalls that are conspicuously absent during the week but magically spring up on Saturday evening, like the legendary phoenix, only to retire once again after Sunday night; this street is a mystic mix of eclectic fare. As you twist and wend your way through the crowd of young IT pros and families on an evening outing, a delightful mixture of smells waft into your nose. It’s a simple place - there are no brands or frills, just a plain paper plate or even just a torn sheet of newspaper; no fancy tables and chairs, just a few plastic stools or you eat standing up with your open palm serving as your table.

The choice of what to eat is both difficult and easy; mouthwatering raw mango slit into teeth-like slices and embellished with chilli powder and salt competes with fiery chilli bajji with coconut chutney. A cart selling tapioca chips with a choice of salt or pepper is aligned alongside a stall that dispenses ice gola and jigirithanda juice, a deep south Tamil Nadu fruit drink specialty. Soup and chaat counters vie with juice vendors while in between, hawkers with tarpaulins spread before them entice children with simple but innovative toys, balloons and bubble blowers. Adding to the international flavour is the modified van dishing out a variety of momos, noodles and Chinese cuisine. Take a walk back to the beach and you will find yourself faced with a difficult choice of dessert; between sohan papri, regular ice cream and kulfi.

This then, is a street that possibly needs to be renamed ‘Foodworld Drive’; a street of dreams for foodies of all ages, tastes and pocket-depths!

Text and Images by Capt. Seshadri Sreenivasan