Chayakappal in Thiruvananthapuram is redefining art cafes

Photos: Facebook

Welcome to Chayakappal, the art cafe near Technopark in Kazhakuttam, Thiruvananthapuram. One swell place with an ambience that's out of the ordinary, the nook is a combination of art, books, painting, live music, and best of all, food!

A bit of flashback

Thrissur-native Nikitha, grumbled her way into engineering after plus-two, bowing to the demands of her parents, but not for long. There lay entwined in her DNA, the fibre of art and the taste of food. So she happily ditched her engineering studies and went where her heart had always been.

Post marriage, she took up a job as scriptwriter in C-DIT and then switched on to Eram Infotech's, the one stop shop for Malayalam book lovers. Bored with the job, she quit and was mulling over means to make a decent livelihood when the world of cuisine popped out of nowhere.

Her home in Thrissur was a veritable food factory where every member of her mother's family had commendable cooking skills. Little Nikitha, too, started learning and loving the nuances of cooking and soon it turned into a craze. There has been no looking back since. Her tryst with the world of culinary delights began with pickles. Online pickles became her USP. What began as a small venture soon turned into a full-fledged business, fetching her quick revenue. Though the spark of an art café got ignited around this time, it could not blow into a glorious flame for want of cash resources. Hence, the pickle business continued.

Onto Chayakappal

Nikitha was in no mood to give up on her art cafe idea despite the delay she had to face. Besides, it was her dream to have an arbour of her own ..."a place where I could be my own self, where I could share a lot of camaraderie…" as she puts it. There's this common misconception that art cafes are fancy, high end stuff where intellectuals huddle and a lot of cash is thrown in for food. Chayakappal, however, has rewritten that script. Food is extremely affordable here. The perennial puttu can be had from up to Rs 15, the favourite dosa for Rs 24 … the list goes on.

There are plenty of books to choose from, the interiors are calm and quiet with melodious music filling the rooms. Work on the interiors was done mostly by Nikitha herself. Glass bottles with interior plants paint the rooms in refreshing greenery. Though a lot of economizing had to be done for want of cash flow, the end product was amazing.

Chayakappal is every person's food joint, with the highlight being on tasty and healthy cooking. Nikitha has her own masalas and everything is done under her direct supervision. If you want a relaxed meal, time to chill out, hang around with friends, or just laze around, walk into Chayakappal. Along with the ambience come live musical programmes, too.

Her Thrissur lineage would perhaps explain why the flavours are distinctively Malabari. Wheat upma, wheat dosa, kanji, different varieties of kappa, black tea in myriad flavours, puttu and omelette dishes aplenty are on her menu in addition to exotic and ethnic platters like chicken-pidi and vattyappam-beef. Lunch is served to the accompaniment of native dishes. Though the tables don't sport a spread, what's available is super on taste. The curries keep changing every day.

The cafe, which got going by the end of December, now enjoys a regular and faithful clientele. Art cafe opens by 12 pm and shuts by 2.30 pm. The place throbs with life again from 6 pm to 11 pm. At present, the joint can comfortably seat 20 diners. The show is run by Nikitha and three helpers. Everything right from chopping and cooking to cleaning is done by the four friends. Chayakappal has opened its doors to upcoming and ambitious musicians who love to perform live here.

Kappa biryani and irachiputtu are on top of Chayakappal's billboard list.

Here's a quickie from the restaurant: Palkuruma

Boil milk

add coconut oil, cloves, cardamom, cinnamon and star anise (1 each) and stir till the whiff of the masalas fill the air

Add to this finely chopped carrots, mattar, and beans and saute well

When it thickens, add turmeric and green chillies and fry well

Cook a potato with turmeric and salt, mash well and add to the veg mix

Add a packet of milk to the mix, stir well and when it thickens, take off flame and garnish with coriander leaves.

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