MTR or Mavalli Tiffin Rooms has an undeniable heritage. Pick up a travel magazine or an article on Bangalore’s must-eat spots and you will invariably read treatises on MTR. The story goes that the three Maiya brothers moved from their village in South Karnataka to Bangalore in 1920 on a lookout for better opportunities. In 1924, Brahmin Coffee Club came into being as a venture of 2 of these 3 brothers. After one of the brothers passed away, the third one also joined and helped in the running of this small restaurant. A chance trip to Europe by one of the brothers in 1951 changed his perspective about hygiene and food. Equipped with better knowledge, he introduced sterilization of utensils and strict hygiene in preparation and serving. He also renamed it Mavalli Tiffin Rooms or MTR. It shifted to its current location on Lalbagh Road in 1960 and since then has continued to be one of the greatest culinary landmarks in Bangalore. There are other outlets too now.
MTR still maintains its simplicity, utmost attention to hygiene and customer friendliness. But be prepared to literally wait for your food. Legends are woven around the wait time for breakfast and lunch in this restaurant as there are no reservations. After giving it a try twice in the past and leaving due to hunger pangs, finally we made our way to MTR a couple of weeks ago on a working day. The plan was impromptu and we prayed that the lines were smaller.
There is a nice parking space just across the road from MTR. If you don’t know where MTR exists, you may just miss it, as it has a very unassuming look about it. To our utter delight, we discovered that we could walk into the food heaven without any queues.
Marveling at our good fortune, the four of us made our way to the Family Hall. They have another Hall outside to seat people and apparently some private dining rooms inside that we were not aware of. As we eagerly awaited the fare, we surveyed the surrounding. Everything was neat and clean. The place was getting filled up and the service was about to begin.
Men dressed in traditional South Indian attire and barefeet carry large baltis (buckets) and utensils of food. Your large gleaming steel plate slowly starts getting filled with a sweet payasam (kheer), kosambari ( a fresh lentil, grated carrot, coconut, cucumber salad that I just love), a curried vegetable dish with coconut base, a dry vegetable, potato papad, pickle, chutney and sweet halwa dripping in ghee. You also get fresh grape juice to quench your thirst. Next they heap pooris to tuck into. The dishes keep coming in. There is a dahi wada in salty fresh dahi which was soft, melt in the mouth. Though I do like my dahi to be slightly sweetened. They also try to give seconds especially of payasam and kosambari. I must have had three helpings of the salad. And the servers just kept on adding payasam even when I didn’t want more. They truly do feed you generously.
Then comes the spectacular bisi bele bhath piping hot and having rich helpings of cashew served with onion raita. I love my bisi bele bhath spicier but this was nice too. Then begin the rice courses. Those who do not eat in South India will be astounded with the quantity of rice that people can eat. I cannot eat so much rice and will never be able to I guess. Despite telling them swalpa they still give a bit more reminding you of your own mother. Anyhow, first serving of rice and comes steaming hot sambar. This had loads of amaranth greens, is tangy and spicy, just how I like it. Oh yes, they come and ladle a generous spoonful of ghee on top. It is foodie heaven.
The next course is rice with rasam. I love rasam. Since I have visited South India, this was the first dish I fell in love with. I can drink it by the gallons and make it at home regularly. Anyhow, the rasam was delicious and they were not only giving it to you on your rice (I had saved some from the previous course) but also in your small glass to drink. I just loved that. Rasam was tomatoey and really yummy.
Next course was curd rice which is a legend down South. You don’t finish a meal without curd rice. In most homes, it means some more rice doused in fresh curd and some salt or pickle. It is supposed to end the meal on a light, digestive note. By then I was really full so I refused the curd rice and just tasted a spoonfull from the husband.
They are not done yet. They come with a dessert which was ice cream with chopped fruits like chickoo and pineapple. I managed to eat the fruits and left the ice cream. They finally wind up with the paan. After all that food, I needed a crane to lift me out and take me to the car. Since none was available, I had to drag my whalish frame out on my own two legs. There was a large crowd waiting by now to get in. Phew!
So that was our MTR food experience. I didn’t take many pictures, as I was busy eating. You must experience it once. The food is simple, nice Karnataka fare. And I loved the cleanliness and friendliness of the staff. They talk in Kannada and one of them was smiling and pulling my younger son’s cheeks and cajoling him to eat this and that.
Next on the agenda is Masala Dosa and filter kaapi at MTR!