When the first Harry Potter book came out I was still in school. Reading was fuel for my imagination and this fantasy book had gotten me hooked on to the imaginary world of wizardry and secrets. Each subsequent book got me so deeply involved with the characters that I wished I could be one of them. Right through my teenage years, I would finish reading each book of the series within a week, and then read it again the following week. This was then followed by a two year wait for the next one. When the book got converted into a movie, I was thrilled. Although, I do agree that the movie series is a notch lower as exciting as the books themselves, it brought a new dimension to what I had already visualized in the books. I was not the only one. I had a group of five girl friends who shared this same fantasy of studying at Hogwarts School, and how we giggled at the thought of being friends with Harry himself! The adventures he had were so extraordinarily exciting that day dreaming about them always seemed a pleasure. It’s been over a decade since school and I was due to meet my friends at a wedding in Chennai. The last one of us is due to get married within a week and we were so excited about this get together that would be happening after a hiatus of two years. It was scheduled to be an exclusive bachelorette party – only the six of us, at a pub in RA puram Chennai called Secret Society.
Frankly speaking, I thought I had grown out of the Potter stuff since Rowling’s last book ten years ago. Settling down with a family and kids does take a toll on the imagination where practicality in all aspects is a priority. I don’t remember having had the time to daydream over the last year. It wasn’t something that I sorely missed, but those days as a dreamy teen really made me wonder whether the most exciting years of my life were behind me. I don’t regret growing up, that would be silly. But I can vividly remember the excitement those books brought to my life, the suspense, the mystery and the fun that ensued the discussions among us friends, the frivolous fights over what we thought should have been the outcomes in every one of those stories. Thinking about that brings a smile to my face. I didn’t know what to expect when meeting school friends after such a long gap. We hadn’t kept in touch that much and I was looking forward to a fun evening.
And so I decked up in something trendy, not too over the top, and set out in a cab to the pub. It was a Sunday evening, and as always traffic was moving slowly. I reached the place and was pleasantly surprised by its ambience. I couldn’t believe that my friend decided to have her party at a place that brought back so many memories. The entrance to the pub is a secret book case door. This leads to a winding wooden staircase which takes you to the basement of the building where the pub is located. I could literally hear the harry potter movie theme play in my head as I walked down the staircase. The ambience has a mysterious tone to it with vintage paintings and mirrors adorning the walls. There was an atmosphere of excitement and some karaoke singing going on which made it a little difficult to find this group of mine. Thankfully they hadn’t changed much since our last time together and after some hugs and kisses I made myself comfortable. It happened to be Karaoke night, and my friends seemed all chirpy and excited to get to the front and have some fun. I think the cocktails had some hand in it, and within five minutes of their company I felt like I was my crazy teen self again. (Note: You may feel like a teen but you can’t visit this place if you are < 18 years old)
The cocktails we ordered included a Secret Potion, The Hulk, Sangria and a Strawberry Mojito. Two of the girls chose to stay away from alcohol. They had already ordered for food before I arrived and as we got into exchanging the what’s what of the happenings in our lives over the past couple of years our table was laid. It was a fantastic spread. All the chatting and my cocktail had worked up an appetite. Here is what we dug into.
Secret Fries: These were a unique variety of French fries which were basically potato wedges coated with a nice layer of fried cheese. The fries have a tangy tinge to them with a crispiness that sets a fun mood.
Blueberry Barbequed Chicken Wings: Beautiful looking glazed chicken wings with a sweet-sour citrusy flavour to them. They are lip and finger smacking and can distract you from a tasty conversation (out of personal experience!).
Secret Spiced Fish fingers: These were piping hot tender strips of fish in a golden crispy coat with a distinct peppery flavour. The mayo served with it compliments the secret spice really well.
Soda batter Coconut Shrimps: The prawns were succulent tiger prawns deep fried in a coconut base and served with a very zesty piquant sauce. They are very addictive and were the fastest moving starter on our table.
Kaffirlime flavoured Corn Fritters: These were corn fritter which have a bitter sourish taste to them. The kaffirlime has a thick accented citrusy flavour which emanates from the core of these fritters, and it actually tastes mysterious.
Bacon & Tomato Crostini: This looked like garlic bread but tasted like pizza with thick molten mozzarella cheese, diced tomatoes and roasted bacon strips on a bread base that was thick and crusty but broke effortlessly in my mouth.
Oriental Kodi Vepudu: Originating form Andhra, this chicken dish is spicy with a coconutty and ginger flavour to it. I found it a bit too spicy but my Chennai friend couldn’t seem to let go of the plate.
Chilli Soya Garlic Prawns: This was a dish similar to the prawn manchurian, but with a garlic flavour that is stronger. It is not as spicy as it sounds and it suited my taste buds well.
We were so into the starters that at the end of it we decided to order only two main course meals and share. This had pretty much been the trend in our good old days, and I loved every minute of it. We ordered the following:
Asian Pork Ribs with Harissa Sauce and Herb Pilaf: This consisted of huge succulent barbeque glazed pork ribs with a distinct sweet-salty flavour and a licorice-like aftertaste. Served with herb rice, boiled veggies and aromatic harissa sauce, it is a sizeable dish and served three of us. I loved the pork ribs which were very juicy and tender. This is a must try dish!
Chicken Breast with Harissa Sauce and Sauteed vegetables: The chicken breast was more on the blander side. It consisted of generous sized grilled chicken slices served with a minty harissa sauce and a side of boiled veggies.
Three hours later, we had talked about everything under the sun, binged on cocktails, sung our hearts out at the karaoke and eaten to our full. It was fun meeting buddies after such a long time, and I was even more happy that it happened at a place that brought back fond memories of our teen years together. As we parted ways, we decided to form a whatsapp group to keep in touch till after the wedding and our next only girls meet. Guess what we called it – Secret Society!!