Heritage walk and tour organizer Unhurried.in’s first ever food trail at Basavanagudi, one of Bangalore’s oldest localities, had foodies like me making a beeline to Vidyarthi Bhavan, the famous restaurant in this part of the city. Situated in the midst of the famous Gandhi Bazaar flower market, this eatery is very popular and is one of Bangalore’s oldest. Not surprisingly it was chosen as the starting point of the food trail. The leader of the food trail was Mansoor Ali, an architect, foodie, heritage enthusiast and a long-time Basavanagudi resident.
Listening to Mansoor’s enthralling talk on the Basavanagudi of the past, on the benches outside Vidyarthi Bhavan, served as an awesome starter to the multi-course feast that was to come. We were all shown a lot of photographs and paintings of the Basavanagudi of yore that he had stored on his smartphone. There were a lot of sketches of the Kempegowda Tower and Bull Temple. Unlike the Kempegowda Tower at Lal Bagh, entry to the Kempegowda Tower at Basavanagudi is now barred as it is now part of a private property. Once a congested locality in the Pete area of Bangalore, Basavanagudi was transformed into a well-planned layout by a British architectural team led by Standish Lee in 1892 after an outbreak of plague in the region. The part of Gandhi Bazaar area from Vidyarthi Bhavan to somewhere near Makala Koota stands on the dried up bed of the Karanji Lake, which was once the lifeline of the region.
Gandhi Bazaar was earlier referred to as Angadi Beedi because it only had shops. Brahmins formed the largest percentage of population in Basavanagudi. Prominent Bangaloreans who hailed from Basavanagudi include Masti Venkatesa Iyengar, DV Gundappa, MN Krishna Rao, GR Vishwanath, BS Chandrashekhar, and H Narasimhaiah.
As we entered Vidyarthi Bhavan, our eyes caught sight of the innumerable portrait sketches on the walls. They are sketches of eminent past and present citizens of Basavanagudi and dignitaries who visited the eatery since it started operations in 1943. The artist who drew them, Vishnumurthy was once a cook at Vidyarthi Bhavan. Though Vidyarthi Bhavan officially started operations in 1943, the eatery is believed to have been functioning as early as 1930. It was started by the Adiga brothers and still belongs to the same family.
Vidyarthi Bhavan is famous for its masala dosas, by-two coffee culture and the artistic manner in which waiters carry plates of dosas. The menu card isn’t very large here, there are only 8 items on offer.
Vidyarthi Bhavan is closed on Fridays. There is a nice story to it. India got Independence on 15 August 1947 which was a Friday. The restaurant remained closed on that day to celebrate the great moment in the country’s history. From then on Friday was the official off day.
After a round of snacking at Vidyarthi Bhavan, it was time to move on. I enjoyed my plate of Masala Dosa.
As we moved outside, Mansoor nostalgically recalled that more than a decade back Gandhi Bazaar road was skirted by tall trees on both sides. The canopy formed by the trees was such that there was a lot of shade. Sunlight could only trickle in. In the evenings when the birds returned to their nests, pedestrians usually carried an umbrella else they would have bird poop on their heads.
Gandhi Bazaar road also has Kollapuri’s, once the only non-veg joint in Basavanagudi.
Our next stop was the Adyar Anand Bhavan, a stone’s throw from Vidhyarthi Bhavan, and a comparatively new joint in this part of the city. I managed a click just before one of the staff told me that photography was not allowed here.
As we walked on we savoured views of some of the last remaining heritage bungalows on the road.
Srinivasa Condiment Stores which was earlier called Subbamma Stores is one of the oldest condiment stores here. The stores which was started by a lady called Subbamma is popular for the assortment of masalas it offers besides snacks like Congress kadalekai, Communist kadalekai, Computer kodubale, all kinds of mixtures and more. As part of Unhurried’s package we were asked to pick up a snack of our choice.
We had a brief stop at Mahalakshmi Tiffin Room. It was closed as Saturday is a holiday here. Food is no longer served on the first floor. Once upon a time, the hotel practiced caste segregation. Brahmins would sit in a separate section. Food was served in a very traditional manner and on the floor. There were no tables, one had to sit on small wooden platforms.
As we walked on, there were more bungalows to admire. The many conservancy lanes were a reminder of the travails of the scavengers.
Butter Sponge, opposite National College, which started in the 1980s is a unit of the the famous VB Bakery at Sajjan Rao Circle. The grub here is very reasonably priced. Not surprisingly, the bakery is frequented by students of National College and other colleges in the vicinity. The Saturday speciality here is the Damrod, a delectable pumpkin preparation garnished with raisins and cashewnuts. The Japanese cakes offered here also vanish fast from the shelves. There are lots of other goodies too like Swiss rolls, doughnuts, burfis, breads and more. After sampling the Damrod, our next stop was the famous Brahmins’ Coffee Bar.
Brahmins’ Coffee Bar is famous for its soft idlis and crunchy vadas. When it started, Brahmins’ was a very tiny joint and people had to stand on the pavement and relish their food. This place too belongs to an Adiga family though not the same one which owns Vidyarthi Bhavan. The recipe of the vadas and idlis was invented by a lady of the Adiga family known for her impeccable cooking. Since it was a busy day, we couldn’t get to talk to the owners. True to their reputation, the idlis and vadas tasted great.
We ended our trail with a Neer Dosa at SLV Corner. After already having eaten so much, it was quite a task finishing off the soft-as-cotton Neer Dosa. And there was no room for any dessert 🙂