A Review of the Sumptuous Southern Spice Restaurant in the Taj Coromandel Hotel in Chennai

a review of the sumptuous southern spice restaurant in the taj coromandel hotel in chennai

January 31st, 2022

Any visit to to Chennai, or about nearly anywhere in India really is an opportunity to taste some absolutely phenomenal food. There is just the matter of finding out where to go get that from the immense variety of available dining options, especially if you are a traveler on a visit with a limited amount of time. Naturally on my first visit to the city since the pandemic began I wanted to try an experience the local south Indian cuisine at its finest and the Southern Spice Restaurant inside the luxurious Taj Coromandel Hotel certainly enticed.

Now for a bit of history about the hotel itself - the Taj Coromandel was the first Five Star rated hotel to open in Chennai back in the 1970s. If you are a visitor to Chennai today or even if you look up options to stay in Chennai, you will see a host of options to stay at ranging from the five stars like the Taj Coromandel to other more budget friendly accommodations, like any other large metropolis anywhere, nothing out of the ordinary today. But apparently the Taj Coromandel was the only five star hotel in the city of Chennai for decades since it first opened. So it definitely has the weight of a historical reputation to maintain - easy when you are the only high end player in the town but how do you keep up with all the newer offerings that have since sprouted all over the city. Especially for its signature local south Indian restaurant in a city known for excellent local food.

Well on that front, I am happy to add my own humble voice to say that the Taj Hotel group continues to maintain it's reputation for quality, both with the fantastic food on offer at the Southern Spice Restaurant and with its unmatched service itself. The Southern Spice restaurant has long had a reputation for being the premier spot to experience quality south Indian cuisine in Chennai, and that reputation continues in my opinion. With that said, let me talk about my experience and the food during my visit.

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A Thanjavur style painting just inside the entrance

The restaurant is located at the end of the Taj Coromandel's cavernous lobby, a straight walk from the main entrance past the security gate - a customary check in all major hotels in India. The entrance at this point is just a sign with the name of the restaurant with nothing indicating what to expect inside as there is no view to the rooms within. In fact except for the menu at a desk in front, you might have honestly mistaken it for a conference room entrance. However, it really starts to show the tasteful luxury of the experience as soon as you step into the entrance to your left with a really pretty and large Thanjavur, perhaps more commonly known outside south India as Tanjore, style painting greeting you. The painting itself is situated in front of a south Indian style swing. There are more paintings, some larger, in the rooms inside, and the décor is likewise a luxurious theme everywhere from the walls and partitions and down to the cutlery.

Though everything is tastefully rich and inviting, the one fault with the design though is the lack of windows inside the restaurant. It is fully enclosed and given that situational constraint, the dark ambience of the restaurant is themed pretty well, but I would have loved to have some natural light for my dining experience similar to the other in house restaurants adjacent Southern Spice that I noticed while walking in.

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But that quibble aside, the main reason for my visit was the food which I will talk about shortly but I would be doing a disservice by not highlighting the service of the staff. Indian Hotels and Restaurants have a long tradition of excellent and polite service, one of the many pleasant things about traveling to India and many parts of Asia in general to be honest. Let's all admit it, if you have traveled around, you know you get great service in Asia compared to Europe or the Americas. Well the staff at the Taj were an outstanding example of the high quality of service offered with smiles and responding to every request promptly. Starting with a warm greeting and explaining the history of the paintings and the place to the final display of dexterous skill preparing my post lunch Madras Filter Coffee, the staff helped make this place my personal favorite restaurant in Chennai, and I did visit quite a few which I will write about in the blog in the coming posts.

For the food itself, the restaurant has a deep selection to pick from and though they have a particular reputation for the Chettinad style of regional cuisine, I saw selections ranging quite widely. Being lunch, the staff highly recommended their lunch Thali, a lunch plate with a full offering of dishes from appetizers to desert which is a classic Indian style of serving food. My party and I however wanted to go with my our own selections instead so cannot vouch how that was, but judging by the rest of the food I am more than certain it would have been excellent.

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A complimentary selection of fritters with chutney dips

After we placed our orders, we were given a couple of complementary treats to get started. The first was a platter of fritters ranging from traditional fried dough crisps to lotus stems served alongside a choice for four excellent chutneys as dips. My personal favorite dip happened to be a ginger flavored one, but they were all good.

The second complementary item was an absolutely delicious bowl of Rasam - a traditional south India soup. It was so flavorful and did not hold back on the spiciness, the perfect way to clear one's taste buds for the rest of the meal.

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The delcicously spicy Rasam cleared my taste buds to enjoy the rest of the meal

The rest of the meal was executed with similar levels of excellence and served promptly by attentive waitstaff. My appetizer was a deliciously spiced and marinaded Pomfret, "Poompuhar Meen Varuval". For the main, red rice with a side of perfectly cooked south Indian style potatoes and the Chettinad "Kozhi Melagu Curry", a spicy black pepper infused Chicken dish which left a really nice lingering after taste and the rich broth of the curry made me feel this would actually do quite well as a dish for the winter cold, but here I was enjoying it just as much in Chennai's heat. While I didn't see it on the menu, I requested a sweet Lassi, not quite traditional south India I understand but the staff were happy to oblige me with and gave me one of the best I have had anywhere.

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The Pepper Chicken

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The Pomfret


A sumptuous feast of a meal all in all

And finally for my desert, we tried the "Yeleneer Payasam", a sweet vermicelli soup which is as classically south India as it gets, along with a Halwa which is common around India. The Payasam was sweet music in liquid form, definitely get that if you visit. The Halwa was the only dish that didn't make me feel special, but it was still decent and did not all detract from my overall experience at Southern Spice. This was all topped off with a dexterous display by the server of pouring Madras Filter Coffee from a full arms length very impressively before serving it. The filter coffee itself, wonderful.

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The Halwa

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The Madras Filter Coffee, expertly prepared and served

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The Payasam, the best desert

I walked out full, happy and with the rest of my trip to Chennai ahead of me, leaving with a feeling of being torn between trying different places during my stay or just coming back here multiple times.