If you want a taste of real India then a visit to the Mavalli Tiffin rooms is not to be missed. After a short escape from the traffic noise by strolling through Lal Bagh park, exit at the northern end. Praying to whoever is your God, take care when crossing the road and head for the street opposite. In an unprepossessing squat, dusty building is set this throwback to the 1920s, known locally as “MTR”.
Upstairs is a waiting hall, where you give your name. Unusually for Bangalore, very few people who work here speak English. Smartly dressed potential customers sit patiently in the oppressive heat, some fanning themselves, waiting to hear their name called.
Eventually you are beckoned inside to a large room, reminiscent of a cafeteria. Red plastic picnic chairs and steel tables with metal drinking cups placed on top make MacDonald’s suddenly seem ultra smart. Glancing round at the décor – turquoise walls, faded curtains and 60s light fittings – it appears rather kitsch, except that they are from the 1960s. Antique, then. Our server appears. He is wearing a loincloth and barefoot. He puts down spoons and bowls. We manage to let him know we’d like bottled water by indicating to the couple sitting near us who have one on their table. He takes some money from us and sends a boy to a nearby shop. Our food arrives. There is no menu; everyone gets the same. It’s a type of samosa with pickles and dips. It’s by far the best samosa I’ve ever eaten. Our plates are cleared for the main event. I’m not a great dosa fan but that’s what we get. Food tastes better when eaten by hand so we both imitate others around us. I bite into my dosa and suddenly I understand. I understand the wait and the queue and the lack of menu.
I’d been in Bangalore for the best part of a week, eating in the top restaurants, yet at this lowly place, a simple concoction of fried wheat pancake and potato was just delicious. And all for the price of a newspaper back home.
Lalbagh Road 14, Bangalore, India
Contact tel: +91 80 2222 0022
Mavalli Tiffin Rooms