Mavalli Tiffin Rooms (MTR), Lalbagh — a visit!

Mavalli Tiffin Rooms (MTR), Lalbagh — a visit!

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.

MTRMTR 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.

Our tummies hit the ground!

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.

MTRThen 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!

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17 thoughts on “Mavalli Tiffin Rooms (MTR), Lalbagh — a visit!

  1. A mouth-watering post this one. Piping hot bisi-bele-bhath; mountain-of-rice-hot sambar; curd rice, you got me. I ate there ages ago, sometimes we get the best at the most unobtrusive places and MTR is one. The amount of rice served and consumed in these joints never cease to surprise me, but who cares as long as they show homely hospitality. Still ‘RoFL’ on “dragged my whalish frame to the car”.

  2. We had been there a few times when we were in Bangalore in the mid-late ’70s. It was an important outing even in those days and it was crowded like it is now. We had to wait for our turn to go inside. They used to serve coffe in silver tumbler dabaraa and ghee in a tiny silver cup! The children were asked not to spill the food, I remember. It was spotless then and good to know that they maintain it even now.

    Loved the narration of your experience. Will visit once again when I go to Bangalore next time!

  3. I love that place! We were regulars there going atleast once a week – for lunch or for breakfast!! Their dosas are legendary!
    thank you for bringing back lovely memories! )

  4. I’m not a fan of “South Indian Meals”. On my only visit to MTR many years back, I had Masala Dosa and Filter Kaapi. The Filter Kaapi was good, but I’ve had better stuff elsewhere. The Masala Dosa was superb, the best I’ve ever had!! Caution: don’t watch how the Masala Dosa is prepared. If you must, do so after you’ve eaten it.

    1. I don’t mind South Indian meals if they serve me chapatis. Okay now your comment about Masala Dosa has me intrigued. What exactly do they do while making it?

  5. MTR is one place I have never been in Bangalore but heard so many good things about them. i guess they have sold the MTR ready to eat foods, but they were my staple diet in whenever I was in US and craved for Indian veg food….

    1. Yes, they are so well acclaimed. Though many other places in Bangalore serve better food, I loved the ambience, friendliness and hygiene. At least for its history, it is worth a visit.

  6. Oh,Yes….During my last visit in May-June,I did visit this place..Food is awesome.
    In Northern part ,MTR is only known by its packed food..May be someday,they will open a branch here

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