It is not just the best restaurant in Bangalore, but an Emotion! One has to visit this ‘Temple of Food’ to gauge the sentiments behind my words and that of all its loyal patrons
Vidyarthi Bhawan is over and above everything. It is not just the best restaurant in Bangalore, but an Emotion! One has to visit this ‘Temple of Food’ to gauge the sentiments behind my words and that of all its loyal patrons. The restaurant is located in Basavanagudi, at the old and famous Gandhi Bazaar.
Started in 1943, By Mr Venkatramana Ural and later passed on to his brother, Mr Parameshwara Ural, Vidyarthi Bhawan, as the name suggests, was set up to feed the demands of the students of National High School and ‘Acharya Pathshala’. In 1954, Vidyarthi was taken over by Mr Ramakrishna Adiga. Over the last 68 years, the Adiga family has continued the legacy of the iconic restaurant, keeping the recipes and the taste of food intact. Most of their staff members have spent their working lives serving the food lovers of Bangalore; hence the care and hospitality that one gets at Vidyarthi Bhawan are unparalleled.
On my visit to Vidyarthi Bhawan, I shared a table with a teacher who had been visiting the restaurant since his school days. Understanding my keen interest in exploring the food and history of Vidyarthi Bhawan, many fellow diners came forward to share their stories and connection with Vidyarthi Bhawan. I was advised to look inside the kitchen, where all the magic happens.
Vidyarthi Bhawan chefs keep making the crisp masala dosas laden with ghee and butter, batch after batch after batch. For the chefs to prepare the dosas, there is no need to wait for the order, as there are always more people waiting than the number of dosas being prepared. Each batch has around 15-20 dosas, picked by one server. This unique skill of serving the dosas on the table by the experienced and happy staff of Vidyarthi Bhawan is special.
Dosas are served with creamy and spicy coconut chutney. That leaves its patrons drooling over it, no matter how many years you have been eating it. ‘Dip Vada’ was the next dish I tried. Crispy fried ‘vadas’ come drowning in the delicious, spicy and perfectly sour sambhar, absorbing all its flavours and giving a unique and enjoyable texture to ‘Vadas’. ‘Dip Vadas’ and ‘Idlis’ were the dishes served with sambhar, but the rest of the tiffin items work beautifully with just the fantastic chutney served at Vidyarthi Bhawan.
‘Rava Vade’- Crispy lentil fritters coasted with semolina is a delicious snack item. It reminded me of the ‘Rava’ fried starters from the coastal regions of western and South India (Konkan Belt). ‘Rava Vadas’ had coriander, peanuts and a mix of spices, elevating this savoury snack’s taste. Being on a food exploration in Bangalore, I had many dishes to try. Otherwise, it was tough to stick to just one piece of ‘Vada’. I bet you will find it tough too.
Prudently, I saved some appetite for the following combination of dishes I was going to try: a mix of ‘Khara Bhath’ (Savoury) and ‘Kesari Bhath’ (Sweet). ‘Khara Bhath’ is like an ‘Upma’ and carries the beautiful flavour profile we associate with the cuisines of Karnataka. The ‘Kesari bhath’, easily one of my favourite sweet dishes from the region, is so sweet, slurpy, and addictive that once served, it gets over in seconds. However, the most exciting part of eating these bhaths was the suggestion to eat them together. Woah! Half spoon of Savoury, and half spoon of Sweet, this wacky combination I tried on the advice of Mr Arun Kumar Adiga, The third-generation owner of Vidyarthi Bhawan. I am glad I tried it this way and was pleasantly surprised to experience the flavour riot on my palate. Opposite flavours work so amazingly that it is normal in Karnataka to eat the Khara Bhath and Kesari Bhath together, calling it the ‘Chow-Chow’ Bhath.
Mr Arun Adiga, a hardworking, extremely diligent, humble and down-to-earth personality, presides over the operations at Vidyarthi Bhawan. The processes are worked out to the tee and have been perfected over the years. I was lucky to have a long discussion with Mr Adiga over the excellent filter coffee, discussing the life and stories of this culinary marvel called Vidyarthi Bhawan. The walls of this restaurant speak for themselves, with many pictures of famous personalities, including many former chief ministers of Karnataka, who have dined at Vidyarthi Bhawan in the last 79 years.
Vidyarthi Bhawan opens its doors every morning at 6:30 AM And operates till 11:30 AM, And after a short break, it reopens at 2:00 PM and goes on till 8:00 PM. On Saturday and Sunday, the morning session gets an extended half an hour and operates till noon, to be reopened again at 2:30 PM. On Friday, though, Vidyarthi Bhawan remains closed, so plan your visit accordingly. It is unmissable not to experience the ecstatic aroma of the flower market which adorns the pathway outside the restaurant, only to be ably competing with the aromas of the freshly cooked dosas and vadas coming from the kitchen of Vidyarthi Bhawan.
While you dine at Vidyarthi Bhawan and feed yourself with the exquisite dishes served here, seek an opportunity and donate a token of Rs. 25 or Rs. 50 (Or multiple tokens if you wish) to help Vidyarthi Bhawan feed the hungry and the needy via this NGO Called ‘Sanchigondu’. Each token you contribute allows someone to feed their family. It is not just a noble cause, but our responsibility towards society. No one should go to sleep on an empty stomach, and as food lovers, we should have this noble cause close to our hearts.
Vidyarthi Bhawan is a must-visit place for each Indian and food lover worldwide. It’s scarce to find such culinary gems, which not only satiate our quest to explore the great cuisines of India but also touch an emotional chord in our hearts. From now till eternity, I will always remain a raving fan of Vidyarthi Bhawan, and I am confident that once you visit this legendary restaurant, you will follow suit.
Sidharth Bhan Gupta is a Hospitality/F&B Consultant travelling across India exploring regional cuisines.