At university many years ago, some Indian students said that Southern Indian food was quite hot. In Glasgow the local "indian" restaurants were owned by people who were Pakistanis or Sikhs from the Punjab. One of my best friends was a Malaysian Sikh who showed me how to make some dishes.
My first real experience of S. Indian cooking was when I lived in London and had a Tamil colleague. He said real Madras food is nothing like what you get in a British curry house (usually vaguely N. Indian and prepared by Bangladeshis). He took us out to a Madras restaurant in Drummond Street, just 200 metres away from Euston Station. The food was amazing:- large dhosas (a sort of thin pancake that is fried until crisp), vegetable curries and coconut and yogurt-based condiments. My second experience was in 2002 when I went to Bangalore; the food there was very mild which I think is a characteristic of Karnataka. So I have been looking forward to my first taste of Andra food - an Indian colleague from California warned me that it will be generally quite hot.
So first taste was to go to the Dakshin restaurant in my hotel for lunch (I am in the Kakatiya Sheraton); OK going to the hotel for food was not adventurous! The table was set with stainless steel bowls and a plantain leaf. Three condiments were offered - one coconut-based, one curry-leaf based and the third tasted of coriander. These came with plan papadums and a chilli papad that looked quite different from those I had seen in Indian shops in the UK. It was more yellow, thicker and in small pieces.
The menu covered different areas of Southern India but I thought it was worth exploring the Andhra section. Most of the names of dishes were quite unfamiliar and I did not write down what I ordered.
The started I chose consisted of little fritters - about 5 cm diameter and 5 mm thick - which had a relatively mild taste even though they contained a little green chilli.
I had never had fish (other than barbequed prawns) before in India so was attracted to a hot dish based on a freshwater fish.
The fish had a fairly firm texture - slightly firmer than salmon - and came with a tasty but hot sauce. The red chilli did not overwhelm the other tastes but was hot enough for me to break out in a sweat. Apart from curry leaves I am not sure what other spices were used. It had a rich, satisfying taste. I was offered either "Indian breads" which turned out to be like a paratha or boiled rice. I chose the bread but in hindsight I think rice would have gone better.
Overall, it tasted very good; despite usually being disappointed with hotel food. Service was also good. In 2002 in a very opulent but inexpensive (it was $100/night but apparently is now >$400/night) I found the service over-attentive and smarmy; almost like they were competing for good tips. However the service here was genuinely helpful but not overdone. Prices though were at the sort of level I would pay at home - I suppose Sheraton pricing.