When the sun rises over this southern metropolis, salesman Samil Malhotra’s workday is just ending. So he identifies half a dozen eateries where he can refuel, for Rs 100 or less
Breakfast is very important to me. One job I had would begin at 7 pm, and I had to chat and drink with cable TV giants till 2 am. Another job, this one in Bangalore, had me up at 4 am, enabling the distribution of the newspaper I worked for and had just helped launch. My working day would end at 7 am. So breakfast, for me, was like after-work dinner.
The Bangalore Club
Chiefly for members, but also open to appropriately dressed persons (that is, wearing golf attire or similar) and motivated salesmen (who can go anywhere). It is the oldest unmodified golf course in India, where Winston Churchill, who went there as a young subaltern in the 1890s, still has a debit balance of Rs 13.
Forget golf, the place offers a thrilling breakfast. Surrounded by Mysore Sandal soap posters, you have a choice of Bonda Soup (basically a fried ball of dough swimming in a weak sambar — it’s addictive), steaming idlis, super-crisp vadas, ultra-crisp dosas, and coffee in a tall glass. Usually my bill does not exceed Rs 50-60; the remaining Rs 40-50 goes as a tip, and in return I get a super smile and an honorary membership to the breakfast club.
Ballal Residency feels like the old, clean, non-airconditioned Udupi eateries (Woodland, Dasaprakash, and so on). It is a relaxed, posh setting, in Hotel Ballal Residency on Residency Road. The bisi bele bath, bondas, enormous vadas, dosas and pongal are to die for.
I cannot forget this place because I broke a rib here. With two phones in my hands, and perhaps in a stupor after the excellent breakfast, I tripped. Luckily one of my ribs broke my fall.
If you eat smartly, your bill will come in under Rs 100. With a beverage, coffee or juice, however, it may go a little over.
Coast to Coast
This was my sales team’s canteen, celebration place, sanatorium and many other things. Coast to Coast is accessible from Church Road as well as Mahatma Gandhi Road. It is a great place for lunch, even though it is reasonably expensive. Ghee roast prawns (or chicken) with appams and neer dosas is the best expensive choice. Under Rs 100 they have a fantastic fish thali at lunchtime — fried fish, curried fish, vegetable curry, dal, rasam, appalam, chutneys and an option of rice or chapatis.
K C Das
Looking for Bengali cuisine in Bangalore is like looking for sushi in the Denkali woods (Phantom comics fans will know what I mean). At the mouth of Church Street, you can find luchis and aloo in the serene bhadralok setting of K C Das. Fresh, crisp and delicious luchis are followed by a sandesh or malai chop, rosogolla or Indrani Cup — all under Rs 100. This is all-day dining.
MTR versus Vidyarthi Bhavan
It’s 6 am, work is done, you’ve had a brisk walk in Lalbagh and you’re ready for breakfast. Hop across to MTR (Mavalli Tiffin Room), the high priest of dosas and Kannadiga breakfast cuisine, or the highly recommended Vidyarthi Bhavan. Each has its own, enormous following. MTR gets the Discovery Channel and food-writer crowd. While S M Krishna (who has been Chief Minister of Karnataka), often drops in at Vidyarthi Bhavan.
My newspaper sales team in Bangalore used to congregate for breakfast. Kanan, my friend and then head of circulation, would organise breakfast meetings with the team, vendors or distributors every day. Of all the many and varied breakfast places we would go to, the choice of MTR or Vidyarthi was most hotly debated. The proponents of both places were evenly poised.
MTR is two-storeyed and has a smoky, old-world look with waiting benches and relaxed barefoot waiters in lungis hitched up to their knees. Dosas are served with ghee and chutney, with sambar on request. The idli and khara bath, a kind of upma, is served with chutney and sambar. When they run out of chutney and sambar — which they often do at 9 am — they serve a potato gravy instead, of the kind eaten with puris in south India.
The service is calm, and often there are some senior citizens having their weekly bash. This is the Kannadiga heart of Bangalore. Anybody who believes that Bangalore is a cosmopolitan city can get a reality check by visiting Lalbagh, MTR and Gandhi Bazaar.
An idli comes for Rs 10, a masala dosa for Rs 20, kesari bath or khara bath is Rs 20, coffee Rs 15 — any which way, you can eat very well for less than Rs 100. The staff encourage you to visit their enormous and clean kitchen. This is a place to visit regularly and when not in a great hurry.
Vidyarthi Bhavan comes highly recommended by locals. It looks very ordinary: blink and you’ll miss it. Squeezed between shops, you enter through a long and narrow hall with a cash counter. Vidyarthi is the less glamorous but more talented of the two siblings. Its take on dosas is unusual — the dosas have a thick, almost caramelised crust, and the taste lingers for hours. The service is unobtrusive and prompt. Our waiter Vasu has spent over 20 years at the Gandhi Bazaar outlet.
Idli, vadas, dosas and coffee are for Rs 17, Rs 9, Rs 12 and Rs 6, respectively. My wife and I have eaten very well here for Rs 75 on Ganesh Chaturti, a day when Gandhi Bazaar wears a very festive look. The area is decked with flowers, vegetables and fruits.
Go to Vidyarthi Bhavan for the food (how the taste lingers!), and MTR for the experience.
This is the third of an occasional series