What is just another old dosa joint for many, nostalgia for old Bangaloreans was a taste of heritage for me when I visited Vidyarthi Bhavan recently. When I stepped in through the door that has seen many a stalwart walk by, I was overwhelmed. Its a different feeling to be in a place which started before independence and has been witness to many a political debate over cups of coffee and dose. The name though sounds more like a library “Vidyarthi” (student) Bhavan (building) is actually a heritage restaurant which was started way back in 1943 to offer cheap affordable meals for students.
Vidyarthi Bhavan located in the middle class Gandhi Bazaar area was started by Ural brothers from Dakshina Kannada and was taken over by Ramakrishna Adiga in 1970. I was lucky to find a seat by the wall which allowed me to gaze at the high ceiling and the framed pictures aroundl. My train of thought was abruptly broken by the traditionally dressed waiter who showed up at my table to take the order. Much to his amusement, I rattled off everything I wanted in broken Kannada.
The music from R K Narayan’s Swamy and Friends rang in my ears and I went back to the wall full of sketches of famous personalities who visited the restaurant. I read in a news paper clipping that these were captured in pencil by a talented waiter at the hotel who was honed by an indulgent patron. Over the years, Vidyarthi Bhavan turned into a cultural hot spot for poets, writers, actors, politicians, business men, sports stars to meet over steaming cups of filter coffee and the trademark Dosa and discuss wordly matters.
While waiting for my Benne Dosa ( Dosa with oodles of butter), I observed the machine like service by the staff often holding dozens of plates of dosa precariously stacked on each other yet carried around with amazing precision. The dosa was crisp, oozing butter and melted in the mouth. Used to thick chutneys, the thin consistency of the chutney was a welcome break.
I could not resist the super soft Sambar Vada either. A heritage visit had to end with something sweet and nothing better than the aromatic, Kesari Bath dripped in ghee. Kesari Bath is a Kannada name for semolina halwa cooked with a dash of kesar and pineapple. While I was devouring morsels of Kesari Bath, I could see impatient glances from the long queue outside the door.
Its all about food here so tables need to be shared which can lead to interesting conversations and anecdotes about the legendary place. I heard the old couple next to me discuss about the way the taste of food has remain consistent over the years. They shared a laugh over their filter coffee having greyed together, visiting Vidyarthi Bhavan almost every other weekend for their share of heritage !!
When I walked out after a sumptuous morning. Gandhi Bazaar was lazily waking up at 8.30 am with fruit stalls and flower shops being set up. I lingered around for a while, allowing the old world to seep in before modern concrete Bangalore beckoned. Do grab your slice of heritage at Vidyarthi Bhavan any day of the week except Friday. They have observed Friday as holiday over the last 73 years !! Some consistency that is.
Tips to Visit Vidyarthi Bhavan
If you have to travel across the city to reach Vidyarthi Bhavan and feeling a bit lazy to do so then there is more to include beyond the heritage breakfast.
- Start with Bull Temple and MahaGanapathi Temple at 7am
- Then 5 mins drive to Vidyarthi Bhavan in Gandhi Bazaar. Reach by 7.45 am to get a seat else there is a long queue
- Walk around Gandhi Bazaar for fresh fruits and vegetables as well as flowers.
- Take a walk around Basavangudi and there are are some nice old heritage houses to admire
- Else – another 5-8 minute drive from Gandhi Bazaar is Lal Bagh where you can spend some time in the gardens.