Besant Nagar is one of the most exciting places to live in, in Chennai. Home to arguably the most fun beach (Elliot’s Beach or Bessy for the uninitiated) in the city, it’s grown from being a quiet neighbourhood with a few eateries near the beach to a bustling hot spot with a range of places to eat, drink, shop and hang out. With dime a dozen places opening up every month, there’s always something new for you to discover here. So, that’s why we’ve come up with a hood guide for the best places you need to check out in Besant Nagar.
Eat, Drink & Make Merry At The Ever Buzzing Neighbourhood Of Besant Nagar
Food & Drinks - Murugan Idli Shop
You have to head to Elliot’s Beach’s most iconic address and eatery, for the best onion uttapams and pongal in town, actually in the world. Murugan Idli Shop has been around for more than two decades and has nailed the art of South Indian breakfasts down to a T. The special highlight is the fact that during peak hours, the staff brings around plates of their most popular dishes for all customers to pick and choose from.
An acronym for their actual name, Based On A True Story, Boats is the only bar in Besant Nagar that’s located just off the beach. A fairly new addition to the area, Boats has become a regular watering hole for us Besant Nagar folk. Their chilled out vibe, tasty food, and yummy cocktails, make for a great evening out with friends.
Fruit Shop is the place to go if you’re in the mood for some fresh fruit juice. Their Jughead Special and their Lime Mint Coolers are the best way to cool down on a hot day. The Besant Nagar branch is special because it’s one of the few Fruit Shop outlets with ample parking space and not only that, their servers will bring your order to your vehicle!
A quaint café/restaurant situated right in the middle of Besant Nagar, Jonah’s Bistro is the place to go to for a nice meal. The menu consists predominantly of continental café style food. My favourites at Jonah’s are their Beef Tenderloin Steak with mushroom sauce, Big Boy Beef Burger and their stack of Belgian Pancakes with maple syrup. And if you’ve got a sweet tooth like me, get the Ferrero Rocher Shake too. The ambience is nice too, with brick walls, jute ceiling, and tiny booths making the atmosphere rather cozy.
Street Food On Elliot's Beach
Coming to Elliot’s Beach and not trying out the street food is a crime. From fresh fried fish on the stalls at the beach to Sweet Lime Soda and Cheese Pani Puri at The Chaat Block, the beach is literally your oyster.
Shopping - Maal Gaadi
Everything from clothing to curios, Maal Gaadi is your one-stop -shop for all things cute and indie. The store houses over 85 different brands of goodies carefully curated and ensuring that what you see there is almost one of a kind. They even host trunk shows at the venue twice a year and feature new designers.
In the need for fabric, and looking for something affordable and attractive? SS Fashions has it all. Kalamkari fabric at INR 130/meter and pochampally fabric starting at INR 145/meter, are all available in (quite literally) at a godown’s worth of design and colour. Be sure to bargain before you buy though!
Looking for fashionable clothes that don’t pinch your wallet? Head to Fast Fashions. A clothes shop that caters to men, women and kids, and has a constant stream of new clothes coming in at all times. For just INR 1,500, I managed to buy a nice shirt and fitted trousers for a formal occasion. Ladies, they’ve got a separate section just for you on the floor above. They don't sell branded clothes here, but everything is trendy and looks just as good as anything you might find at a high-end retail store.
As a brand Fabindia is almost synonymous with ethnic wear. Originally started out as a tiny clothing store, they’ve grown into a massive chain, and their Besant Nagar branch now occupies an entire multi-story building. Their ethnic wear has an unmatched selection for both men and women — ranging from casual to formal. So if you’re ever in the need to shop for Indian clothes for a wedding or a festive occasion, Fabindia is bae.
Things To Do - Elliot's Beach
The star attraction of Besant Nagar is Elliot’s Beach. Unlike its bigger brother, Marina, Elliot’s Beach (fondly known as Bessy) is a lot more lively and buzzing with activity. There’s space to play sports, eat food, and just sit on the shore and enjoy the waves. Also being on the East Coast means that you can enjoy some of the most beautiful mornings in Chennai if you’re up early. Maybe even stop by Murugan Idili Shop for breakfast after?
Annai Velankanni Church
Now I’m not a religious person by any means, but checking out one of the oldest Churches in the city is something I’d definitely recommend to anyone in the area. From an architectural standpoint, it is beautiful to look at, definitely worth a trip. The church is so famous, there are pilgrims who come from across the world to experience it. Additionally, the tiny bazaars in the adjacent roads also have interesting little knick knacks you can pick up. Though be warned; during festival times, it can get very crowded.
The Theosophical Society is the only entry to this list that is not entirely in the Besant Nagar area. It is a large section of land owned by The Theosophical Society and is open to visitors like you and me to come and experience. Save for a few buildings, it is predominantly green. So much so that it can be seen when from a plane! It has beautiful tree covered walkways that lead all the way up to the Adyar estuary and houses the second oldest Banyan tree in the country. The famous Adyar Aala Maram (Banyan Tree) that is said to be more than 450 years old with roots that span 40,000 square feet, is truly a sight to behold. It is worth noting that this is not a park but a privately owned property made open for walkers, and so there are strict rules in place to maintain a quiet atmosphere.