5 best traditional breakfast places in Bangalore

Unlike many other Indian cities where breakfast is a grab and run affair, Bangalore has made it an art form. Meet up with friends, sit down together, order a crisp dosa and begin the important business of discussing the world. Wash it all down with piping hot filter kapi. That is what Bangalore breakfast is al about.

And here are my suggestions on the best places in Bangalore to do this:

MTR

This is most definitely the first among equals in Bangalore, more an institution than a restaurant, in business since 1924. There is a whisper in the air that most people go for a morning walk in Lalbagh gardens purely for the pleasure of being able to have breakfast later at the MTR opposite its main gates. MTR (Mavalli Tiffin Rooms) is also credited with inventing the now famous rava idli during wartime, when rice was a scarce commodity. When in Bangalore, make it a point to visit the original or one of its many branches scattered across the city.

Must have: khara bhath, a unique Bangalore twist to the upma and masala dosa, crisp, soaked in ghee and folded into a neat triangle.

Vidyarthi Bhavan

Another old Bangalore favourite, Vidyarthi Bhavan is the king of masala dosa since 1943. Go there on a Saturday morning after an exploration of Gandhi Bazaar (where it is located), for slice of local life in Bangalore. It was initially meant as a mess for students and bachelors living in that old part of Bangalore, and even now radiates that laidback vibe. Waiters whizz around with plates of masala dosa (it is assumed this is what you are ordering, although other options like upma and idli are available) stacked up on their hand, like so many flying saucers. Dip into the coconut chutney (no sambhar here please) and tuck into this brown goodness. There are those who will argue that the masala dosa at CTR (Central Tiffin Room) in Malleswaram is better. And this battle is one that will never end in Bangalore.

Must have: Definitely the masala dosa

Airlines Hotel

Bangalore’s version of the adda, Airlines is a small open-air restaurant (for want of a better word) just off Lavelle Road, in the heart of town. And what other city is better suited for al fresco dining in India anyway? This place is busy at any time of the day, and especially so on weekends and weekday evenings. There is a ‘No Smoking’ notice hidden away in one corner, but locals insouciantly puff on its face. Like many Bangalore institutions, getting the attention of waiters here too is an art form. But, again like the others, who goes there only to eat?

Must have: upma (the original white rava upma, unlike the more famous tangy khara bhath)

New Krishna Bhavan

NKB, as it is known, is tucked away in a quiet street near Mantri Mall and is where the uncles of Malleswaram meet every morning for an unhurried gossip session. In existence since 1954, NKB is famous for its “Unusuals” listed on the blackboard daily, like the green masala idlis; ignore the startling green colour and tuck into these mildly spiced capsicum masala mini idlis. NKB also serves delectable Karnataka specials like neer dosa and ragi dosa – and it is one of the few Bangalore places that has got its sambhar right.

Must have: green masala idli, Udupi bun, ragi dosa

Koshy’s

Everyone in Bangalore has been to Koshy’s at least once, various assorted websites call it the ‘pride of Bangalore’, youtube videos sing its praises and Wikipedia claims that dignitaries like Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, Nikita Khrushchev and Queen Elizabeth II have dined there. Koshy’s is a popular restaurant and hangout on St Mark’s Road, Bangalore, which has long been a meeting point for journalists, artists, theatre persons, students and foreigners. Founded in 1940, it retains an old-world charm with huge pillars and large fans. Koshy’s is where first time visitors are taken when they want to be shown the real Bangalore, it is also where locals head when they want to catch up over a cuppa and appams with stew on a Sunday morning.

Must have: bacon / mutton omelette, various types of toast

The world through its burgers

For many travellers, a visit to the Hard Rock Cafe in any new city is a thing to definitely tick off their list. Have a drink, feel the vibe and buy a T shirt: that’s me. Despite the fact that HRC runs as a family-friendly cafe / restaurant in many places, I have never paid much attention to the food there.

Till recently, when I was invited for a burger tasting event at my friendly neighbourhood Hard Rock Cafe. The occasion was a preview of their World Burger Tour (from June 1 – July 31), which, as you have guessed right, is an offering of the most delectable tastes from all over the world, enfolded in a bun.

The late afternoon session started with a dazzling array of special cocktails (a bad idea for me, given that I had eaten nothing since breakfast and it was already past 3 pm then).And oh, every one of them had a surprise twist – they were all topped with beer, in keeping with the mood of the festival.

We started with an El Matador (luckily, the serving sizes were small shot glasses), with fresh strawberry, basil leaves, Bacardi rum and fresh lime juice topped with beer. And in rapid succession, we went through others with whiskey, rum, gin, liqueur and much more. At the end of this tasting session, it was all I could do to wait for the burgers.

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And then they arrived at the table – and what an array! Chef Niranjan came to our table to talk about each of these burgers and the inspiration behind them.

The burger options did live up to its promise of world food – with tastes ranging from Mediterranean to Mexican, Lebanese, Italian and even Indian. And to my pleasant surprise, four of the eight burger options were vegetarian, a nod to the eating culture of this country. The chef also explained how each of the burgers had been designed keeping in mind local tastes and expectations.

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I did try a bite (or more) of the vegetarian burgers – and my favourite was the Mexican Quesedilla Veg Burger – with the flavours of polenta, sweet corns, beans and vegetables, avocado and nacho straws, all flavoured with a tangy enchilada salsa. You tell me, what is not to like?!

At the end of this burger marathon, there was one more waiting for us – the Burgerthon organised by the HRC guys. And as the sole woman in the group, I was batting (eating) for all womankind as I competed with guys who clearly knew their burgers and beer. To my credit, I finished half the burger and got rewarded with a huge Jagerbomb for my efforts!

The World Burger Tour is on at all Hard Rock Cafes in India till July 31st – go bite into that juicy burger now and come back to tell me about it here!

5 ways to experience Shreyas Yoga Retreat

I recently spent a couple of relaxing, refreshing days at Shreyas Yoga Retreat near Bangalore – less than two hours’ drive from where I live, and from the international airport. Spread over 25 acres of elegantly maintained grounds, Shreyas is in every way the quiet retreat that it promises to be. The focus here is on overall “wellness” rather than the mere practice of bendy postures that go by the name of asanas these days.

Here are my reasons for thoroughly enjoying my stay at Shreyas Yoga Retreat:

1. The discipline of Yoga

I cannot begin to describe the pleasure of a yoga session that is conducted with care by a proficient teacher. And I am saying this as someone who has practised yoga for many years trying to alleviate my chronic backache, and sometimes, with bad teachers, ended up hurting it more.

Classes are usually in the large hall open on all sides to sunlight and fresh air. When I was visited, there were only four other people and the attention was as personal as it could get in a group setting. Two of these four were on a silent retreat for a week, communicating with me through a notepad and pen – apart from the classic yoga practice, there are other forms of rejuvenation possible here. And although I can’t imagine being silent for a week, the general air of peace there makes it seem very natural.

We started with yoga early in the morning – at 6.30 am – followed by breakfast and meditation. I was recommended candle meditation for migraine but was unable to take that – what I did experience was a yoganidra session with an experienced teacher and I can tell you that it left me calmer than I had felt in days.

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Apart from all this, what I really appreciated was the fact that everyone in the staff – from gardeners to teachers – are encouraged to attend a class every day. This makes sure that the ethos of yoga is not restricted to a few at the top but flows through the entire team.

2. Sattvic Food

food2I said sattvic food – and that doesn’t by any means mean unexciting. Every meal was delightful, with a carefully planned menu incorporating Indian and Western food, from soup to dessert. So, there was penne (whole wheat, of course) along with paneer, in a manner of speaking.

Although being a frequent traveller, I am used to eating on my own, it can get very uncomfortable or boring. Here, I was so engrossed in the menu – presented at every table before the meal – that I almost forgot to be bored.

Shreyas also offers 7 day culinary programmes that start with an introduction to the organic garden and the kinds of plants and herbs found there and go on to teach the concepts of Indian vegetarian cooking.

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3. The organic farm

farm2An hour’s exploration of the organic garden in the afternoon was so delightful – especially knowing that a lot of my food was coming straight from the farm. The large area is dotted with coconut trees and vegetable patches and fruit bearing plants, people working cheerfully on the soil. And that little machan (sit-out) in the middle of the farm! It made me want to immediately take a book there and spend the rest of my evening.

Apart from the farm land itself, the entire property is filled with trees and plants of all kinds, with lily ponds to break the monotony of the green (as if!) I still remember the sitafal and mangos hanging from the trees, lush and tempting.

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4. The Spa-mpering

I had a couple of massage treatments at the spa, including an excellent back massage after waking up with a stiff back. From traditional ayurveda treatments like abhyanga and shirodhara, to beauty treatments with a variety of scrubs, the spa is a great place to unwind and spend the hours away from yoga (and let’s be honest, how long can you do yoga in a day?) And for those who are at Shreyas seeking treatment for any specific ailment or problem, the carefully planned treatments would go hand in hand with the yoga.

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5. Pitching camp

tent2There are two kinds of accommodation options there: rooms by the pool and tents in the garden. I spent a day in each type, and really enjoyed the extremely private and quiet tent experience in the middle of the garden, complete with air-conditioning and fluffy towels.

With a verandah in the front – with planters’ chairs – to while away those rainy evenings, and an open-air enclosed bathroom at the back, it offered all the comforts of a luxury room.

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FInally – although I have filed this also under ‘Hotel Reviews’, don’t take that literally. Go there with an open mind about your wellness – and that means no alcohol, cigarettes or meat – and remember, if yoga is really not your thing (and why not?), then Shreyas is ideal as a weekend or even a week’s break away from the noise and stress of city life. Unwinding took on an entirely new meaning there for me.

(All photos courtesy Shreyas Yoga Retreat).

Friday photo: Monsoon

The rains are here, most eagerly awaited and longed for through the scorching summer months. All of India now begins to slowly shed the dry, brown skin and adopt a layer of lush green.

To me, the monsoon months mean the smell of wet earth, cool breeze, endless cups of tea and a general sense of contentment.

So, this Friday, a photo from Mumbai, which celebrates the monsoon in its own special way, despite the unending slush and general chaos it creates. I love the brooding atmosphere in this image, a feeling that the plump dark clouds are going to burst open at any moment…

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Also see: Friday photo series

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