Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Retro Bangalore: a Sunday search for Bangalore’s quaint charm

Bangalore mean IT, young rich, double income single kid, 20-something entrepreneurs, premium flats, swanky malls, traffic congestion and lifestyle driven up-market illness. But behind the glitter, the old world Bangalore lives on. Tired of today's cosmetic Bangalore, thought to live a day the retro way; to discover its old world sights, smell and food. What better time than a May Sunday: kids were away at their grandparents place, giving me and Smitha a rare opportunity to be thoroughly lazy – no school, no school-assignments, no karate classes...
Woke up at 10am; time was ripe for a good brunch. It is a good 1 hr drive from Marathahalli, but the mind and stomach was yearning for a snack brunch at Koshy's bakery, off Residency Road (No 1, Wellington Road). With their well baked chicken patties, beef cutlets and doughnuts filling my gastronomic thoughts, it was an unusually easy drive. At 11.30am, the dream shattered as soon as we reached; they open only at 4pm on Sundays! Bad omen: the very first expedition turned to be a failure.
Koshy's Automatic Bakery @ Wellington Road
It only multiplied my hunger exponentially. Situation demanded emergency action to calm down the mind and stomach, we quickly moved to the near by Johnson Market (Hosur Road). This was where the Bangalore had its weekly shopping chorus when Malls were not part of their vocabulary. Now it is sort of a live museum (where stuff like “xerox” is still the buzz); a highly depleted version of its original self, but still a decent place to procure grocery, vegetables and meat.
When in Johnson Market, 3 things are must to be explored – mutton sheek roll from Hotel Fanoos, soda from Madeena Stores and sulaimani (lemon tea) from Makah Cafe. These were the places where shoppers used to hangout like in today's KFCs, McDs and Coffee Days. The lingering hunger might have had its influence: the sheek kabab of Fanoos was the softest mutton kabab my tongue had ever experienced. The roll made out of it was not any far behind. The beef shawarma, however, brought me back to the world. To push these down our pharynx, we had soda (orange-peach soda and nannari soda; the later being the better) from Madeena Stores just opposite Fanoos. Though it may not be a dietary prudence to top-up soda with lemon tea, we could not resist it when Makah beckoned us.
Madeena Stores: Soda menu billboard
Makkah Cafe's Sulaimani
Though Brigade Road is no more hep, we walked down its lanes with the sole objective of creating some stomach-space for our next stop – Wild Spice, tucked silently in the ground floor of Colonel Cariappa complex building right in Richmond-Hosur Road cross. The pain of managing the one-way and parking woes was more than compensated by its divine Coorgi cuisine. Though it offers a reasonable choice, the must try is pork dry fry, an authentic Coorgi fair with a tamarind tango. In first bite itself, I submitted to it completely. Had it with rice balls, the Coorgi way, and passion fruit juice to gulp it down.
Coorgi pork dry fry @ Wild Spice
It was only 2.30pm, we had a lot of time before the 6pm show at Sangeeth theater, Shivaji Nagar. One will not find it in “book my show”. There is no online booking or telephonic reservation. If one has to see movie from Sangeeth, one need to do it the old way – stand in queue well in advance, get the ticket and rush towards the hall to capture the best seat. Sangeeth was the first “talkies” in Bangalore dedicated to Malayalam movies; continuing its service for many decades.
Sangeet Theater: Very much in Kerala; the Kannada name board is somewhat out of place!
We passed through the archaic ham shop in MG Road (Since 1928. The fact that it is surviving even today, that too in MG Road, is more than a testimony of its fan following) and proceeded to Shivaji Nagar: the original market place. The timeless human quest for the “cheap & best” makes Shivaji Nagar and its Russel Market and Commercial Street still very much the places of significance for an average Bangalore shopper. After many unsuccessful years to woo shoppers away from it, the so called modern branded chains in fact had made truce with Commercial Street by playing along and making their presence in the Street.
Bangalore Ham Shop, MG Road is placed between Sony World and TAG Heuer Watch showrooms
A beaming Russel Market
From the street: Ear rings for sale
After a leisurely 1.5 hour walk across the various by-lanes of the Street, holding the temptation to buy something, we reached Khurshid saab's antique shop, close to the police station. This is arguably the oldest antique shop in Bangalore. It does not have a name and is just known by Khurshid saab who runs it – who at some 80, is himself antique than many of the antique stuff around him.
From Khurshid saab's shop
We had tango-mango-tomato bhel in front of the strikingly brick-red St. Paul's Church (1840), which has the left over of a middle-class British flavour, unlike the near-by higher breed Gothic St. Mary's Basilica (1803). It was time to head to Sangeet. By 5.30pm there were sufficient like minded Mallus gathered there for the show, “Mumbai Police”. Rs.80 for balcony was no comparison with the average rate of Rs.250 charged in any Mall anywhere in Bangalore for a Sunday 6pm show. There were no metal detectors or baggage checking. We had more than sufficient reserve of banana chips and fanta to see us through the show. After identifying an ideal seat close to the fans, I promptly spread my legs on the seat in front and had a comfortable movie watching experience, which I would rate a notch higher than the Imax dome of PVR in Forum Mall. With rats running around your legs below the seats and moving chairs, the experience at times bordered to 4-D. Only thing to take care in Sangeet – watch out for chairs with only back rest and no seat to sit. Nevertheless, the movie per se was rather forgettable.
Mango-Tomato bhel
A dry fruit vendor. The brick-red wall of St. Paul's church is behind
At 9pm we were at Millers46 steakhouse. The crowd was yet to set in. The cowboy settings were perfect down up to the menu card. We ordered the popular Oriental Spare Ribs and Twice Marinated Steak. While the former lived up to its reputation, the later was a disappointment.
Before we wound up the day, we had a quick round inside the Cantonment Railway station famous for its arched pillars between the railway lines of Platform 1 and 2. It may also probably the only railway station to have an in-built full fledged bake house & kitchen in its platform. On early mornings one can see through its glass panels, fresh bread being baked and being stacked up for its loyal customers. While returning back home, we bought some street mango – the choice was obvious, the cheap and best, Bangalore's own Bengarapalli.
Mango time: From near Cantonment railway station
We retired the day with a solace filled mind and a stomach bulged with satisfaction.
3 gastronomic cheers!!!