Straight Oota, Bengaluru: Basavanagudi's Flavours Of Nostalgia
Image Credit: By Preetam Casimir (Instagram/@preetam_casimir) for Slurrp

MALLESWARAM AND BASAVANAGUDI are two neighbourhoods in Bengaluru that people tend to view with sepia tinted glasses. Neither of them is the oldest settlement in the city, but when people talk of “old Bangalore charm” it is these two localities — both formed in the early part of the 20th Century as a way of resettling people who were hit hard by the plague epidemic of the 1890s — that find top mention. And any conversation about “old Bangalore charm” will inevitably lead to discussions about idli, dosae and filter coffee, with one camp vouching for (certain) places and the other for those in Basavanagudi. But just as in Malleswaram, there is more to eating out in Basavanagudi than just idli, dosae, and filter coffee.

The Basavanagudi/Gandhi Bazaar camp can just as easily be called the Vidyarthi Bhavan camp. This place (that has been around since the 1940s) has managed to build a cult around itself, and the scores of people willing to wait for nearly an hour just so that they can get in and quickly thulp a masala dosae and strong coffee in some 15 minutes is testimony to it. And like most things that are a cult, for those who are not part of the cult, the dosae just does not hold up, unless you like your dosaes burnt to a crisp. If a vintage Bangalore vibe is what you are looking for, there are places like Mahalakshmi Tiffin Room — or as the locals call it, MLTR — on DV Gundappa Road, or New Modern Hotel (which now is an ironic name given how old it has become) on Diagonal Road, both of which are a short walk away from Vidyarthi Bhavan. Anyway, you can get there much quicker than the time it takes to get a seat at Vidyarthi Bhavan.

Just two doors away from Vidyarthi Bhavan is another place that I have very fond memories of, and to the best of my recollection, is the place that first came up with what is now a staple at darshinis across Bengaluru — the “Roti Curry” — which is essentially two rotis, a bowl of dal, and a mysterious “curry” which I suspect is made by combining a few leftovers, and like all food that is made using leftovers, tastes pretty damn good. Roti Ghar is managed and run by the same folks behind the popular Upahara Darshini aka UD. While the menu at Roti Ghar is not “authentic” North Indian by any stretch (and authenticity when it comes to food is overrated anyway), it does have some of the most comforting food I have eaten.

Although it is the vegetarian places in Gandhi Bazaar that get a lot of mention (apart from the ones I have already listed, there is also the popular Brahmin’s Coffee Bar, SLV Corner, and many more), it is the New Prashanth Hotel (what is it with so many old hotels having “new” in their name?) that’s almost a pilgrimage site for those who love meat in their food, especially “spare parts” (Bangalore slang for offal). There is something about “naaTi” cuisine where the tastiest dishes are often made from those parts of the animal that ordinarily would not be considered prime cuts of meat. The best part of the meal though is the tiLi saaru (rasam) that is served on the side in a steel tumbler.

One of the best kept secrets in the Bengaluru food scene is that a lot of the memorable food can be found in club houses; the older the club is, the tastier the food. Basavanagudi has two of those — the City Institute, as well as the Basavanagudi Club. That’s one up on Malleswaram. So if you want to enjoy some of the best chaat items in Bengaluru, find a friend who is a member at these clubs and have them sign you in as a guest. If that is not a possibility, there is always Karnataka Bhel House in neighbouring Chamarajpet.

Thejaswi Udupa is a Bengaluru-based journalist.


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