Vidhyarthi Bhavan – “History” and greasy dosas.

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The old neighborhoods of Bangalore have several “historical” eating houses. You know, those heritage places that claim to have a glorious history and are still surviving because of that alleged history. The truth is, these cut-rate places became famous because in those days there were few options for eating out. Now, with the phenomenal growth of the food industry, there is no dearth of quality eating houses. But these relics continue to survive, solely because of their “history”.

Vidhyarthi Bhavan is one such. Dingy, congested, insolent, over-rated. The food is ridiculously expensive, due to “historical” reasons, while the quality of the food is equally ridiculous.

The “historical” dosa I had last evening was, without any doubt, the worst I have ever eaten. It made me sick, literally. Burnt to a crisp, dripping with grease, served with insolence and the spiciest chutney on earth.

I have only myself to blame. I was a regular at Vidhyarthi Bhavan once upon a time. I last visited the place ten years ago, and I had stopped going there, because of how bad the place had become. Guess what. It’s become worse.

Remember this tip from a food quality expert (i.e. myself) – when you enter any eating house, first look at the floor. If the floor is dirty, leave.

Second, look at the walls. Too many glowing reviews, five-star ratings, celeb photos on the walls? And a dirty floor? Leave. Don’t just leave. Run.

Yesterday, at Vidhyarthi Bhavan, I forgot these golden rules myself and paid the price. The timeline was as follows: Wait outside to be called in – “merely” 20 minutes. An average adult can barely squeeze himself behind the ancient tables. Wait for the table to cleaned of all the filthy plates – 10 minutes. Wait for waiter – 10 minutes. Wait for dosa – 18 minutes  (I timed it).

I didn’t have to wait that long for the indigestion though. That was practically instantaneous.

Price of plain dosa, burnt to a crisp, dripping with grease, served with insolence and the spiciest chutney on earth: Rs. 45/-.

I blame only myself.

Who gives a shit about “history”? I want clean food, served in a clean place, in reasonable time and with some good manners. And for that, I do not mind paying a more than reasonable price.

Really. I’m a dosa connoisseur and an expert on food quality. Thirty years in quality control. I know what I’m talking about.

Across Bangalore, there are a hundred small-time dosa vendors that I’ve been to. They are cleaner and have better manners. They are small-time upstarts. They don’t have any “history” or “heritage”. They just make a bloody good dosa. And they serve it with a smile.

It’s time Vidhyarthi Bhavan becomes a vidhyarthi again and relearns the basics of good food.

I know. Die-hard customers of VB will curse and abuse me. I don’t give a shit about them either. Let them enjoy “history” – and greasy dosas.

I value my health and my palate. I’d rather patronise my non-historic road-side dosa vendor. Maybe one day he’ll put up my photo on his walls!

Stay healthy. Stay safe. As Nature intended.

The Rogue Elephant … Review

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For a middle-aged heart patient who’s intolerant to several items, finding a good place to eat out in a city that exclusively enjoys spicy oily junk food, is a remarkable challenge.

The Rogue Elephant is an odd name for a garden café, but one had heard good things about it, and decided to take a chance. This rustic little cafe is located next to Krishna Rao park in Basavangudi, one part of Bangalore that still retains some of its original character. No vulgar condos and foul-mouthed H1B types here.

The café is part of an old Bangalore home and is flanked by another classical bungalow. Ambience is quiet and homely. A huge gulmohur tree provides shade and an avian concert as well. Barbets, koels, tailorbirds and sunbirds dart to and fro over my head. Thankfully, no monkeys.

In any eating house I venture into, the one factor that really really pisses me off is bad co-diners. This place is a pleasant change. The people who feed here are generally well behaved and keep their voices down. Another plus – no loud music.

The food is advertised as Mediterranean and North Indian. Wonder why they take the trouble to offer pedestrian stuff like palak paneer, aloo tikkies and the like. The Mediterranean offerings are actually pretty good.

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I start with roasted pumpkin soup, billed as the soup of the day. It’s hearty, non-spicy, piping hot, as I like it. A trifle heavy on the butter, but a good robust soup to start a meal.

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The waiter recommends hummus with grilled chicken and pita bread. The hummus is well made, with a nice smooth texture, served with two olives and a hefty amount of olive oil. The grilled chicken is not exactly world-class, however.

A half-portion of spaghetti with meat sauce follows. The quantity is right for one lonely soul and the meat sauce is generous.

rogue-04175-2For dessert one indulges in apple pie and ice cream – in direct defiance of my cardiologist’s orders. The apple pie is passable.rogue-04180One finishes the meal with french-pressed coffee, strong and fresh.rogue-04200Prices are steep. My meal cost me about Rs. 800/-.

Overall impression – chalega. Not bad.

Minus points for: Bottled water being sold at twice the legal retail price. And the 10% service charge. Which is why I do not strongly recommend this place.

Cheers … Srini.