Old hotels in Malleswaram may lack fanfare in their ambience and décor, but foodwise, they more than make up. The first place that comes to mind is Veena Stores, which I described in an earlier post.
Last fortnight, myself and a friend had planned to go to CTR (Central Tiffin Room) for breakfast. But since we had eaten there umpteen times, we went to the newly opened Food Court on 10th Cross. Masale Dose was nice. But felt the price was too high. And moreover the staff were not customer friendly.
While coming back, my friend packed Masale Dose for his mom from CTR. She liked CTR Dose, but not the place as she felt it was unimpressive looking. I faced the same problem with my girlfriend (now my wife) who just felt CTR was not the place where lovers met. And ate. Initially, I really had tough time making her even enter CTR. After seeing a few foreigners and my NRI relatives eating there, she became a regular client and now has no hassles coming to CTR for a Benne Masale.
CTR is a part of what I like to call Old Bangalore, a place with a unique and gentle charm and unhurried pace. It has allowed time to flow around it and is not affected by the passage of time. So, if the service seems a tad slow, it is because of this rather than any laxity on the part of the staff.
CTR is the best place to eat Benne Masale Dose. Period. They are heavenly bliss. It is a nondescript looking place that, surprisingly, has a board that reads ‘Shree Sagar’ in Kannada outside the hotel but retains the price board inside with ‘Central Tiffin Room’ written on it. It is situated on 7th Cross, at the corner of Margosa Road.
I love the old pendulum clock and the Bhagavadgita sayings that is hung on one side of the wall. The furniture has that old world look to it. So is the Cash table on which is placed a small lit ‘Deepa’ and ‘Oodhinakaddi’. There is a ‘Family Room’ too but most prefer to sit in the main hall. CTR is open for just a few hours in the morning between 6.30 am till 12.30 pm and in the evenings from 4 till 8.30 pm. Unlike Janatha Hotel, which is closed on Wednesdays, CTR is open on all 7 days of the week.
I have introduced many of my relatives and friends to CTR. After getting the taste, the ‘Initiated’ have been more regular to CTR than the ‘Initiator’. I remember once a friend of mine had eaten 13 Benne Masales as a challenge. As for the dosas, they are a lovely golden brown. The texture is crisp on the outside, soft on the inside. The flavour is yummy, all dosa and butter. The potato palya is wonderful — well cooked, with the right mixture of spice and flavour. CTR gives two types of chutneys, unlike his competitors. One is the regular Kai-chutney. And the other is Karibevu chutney, which has a tinge of sour. The chutney is obviously the fruit of years of experience.
The hotel is located at such a perfect place surrounded by Malleswaram Grounds, Malleswaram Club, 8th cross, Malleswaram Cooperative Bank, KC General Hospital and the Malleswaram Circle Bus stop surrounding it. No wonder the place is always crowded. I know some loyal customers who have shifted to other parts of Bangalore but still make a religious visit to See-Tee-Aar! At peak hours, if you are lucky, you get a table immediately. Otherwise, better stand next to the person having his coffee or who has just finished eating his Benne Masale. CTR’s competence lies in its dosas. The Idlis and Vadas are passable. For a company to survive and thrive in competitive times, they must be the best in one thing; for the rest, they can be up to average market standards. So it is with this place. Follow it up with coffee and go away smiling at having experienced a piece of history. This really is the stuff of legend. Let me not talk more about it. Try it, to believe it!
CTR Noorkaala Baalali (May CTR live for 100 more years)
Last week, my friend’s mom broke her ‘Vratha’ when she ate at CTR for the first time. Myself and my friend were there too. And no prizes for guessing who persuaded her to eat there!