Like any other day, I get up early and leave for office after the usual morning duties. This is after I have given my son a quick bath, who is up earlier than his usual time today. Normally, he gets up after I reach office.
It’s literally cool to ride the bike in December. The street dogs, donkeys and cattles are busy hunting for some ‘fresh’ breakfast. Milkman and paper vendors are returning back after delivering the ‘starters’ for most families.
Riding, seeing all the busy activities in the morning, is fun. I have already reached Gandhi Bazaar and remember that I need to stop at Vidyarthi Bhavan because as per last week’s plan, myself and Vijay are to have breakfast here. He has been tempting me since a long time saying I need to eat the out-of-the-world ‘Sagu-Masale’ at Vidyarthi Bhavan. The place is full but we manage to get a table. As we settle down, I see the typical Vidyarthi Bhavan waiter bringing more than ten plates of Dose, one over the other, holding them with one arm stretched, just like a salesgirl shows a saree in ‘Saree House’.
For those who are not yet initiated to Vidyarthi Bhavan, this is one of the old charms of Bangalore. Tucked away in an old building amid the burgeoning commercial complexes on Gandhi Bazaar main road, this eat out could well be termed as Bangalore city’s earliest ‘Dose camp’. Founded in 1938, ‘Vidyarthi Bhavan’ means ‘Student’s eatery’, and was one of the best hotels and most affordable for students in those early years. That fact has fortunately not changed until today! Starting from a measly 10 paise in the good old days nearly 70 years ago, a ‘Dose’ today costs just Rs 15. A hot pipping ‘Masale Dose’ straight from the ‘Kaavli’ (utensil used for making Dose) with melting butter on it is the specialty of the Vidyarthi Bhavan. It has generated so much of interest and enthusiasm that film director Mahesh Bhatt has aired a two-minute documentary about this tunnel-shaped hotel on BBC!! It is a tiny restaurant almost lost in the bylanes of Gandhi Bazaar, but to find it one got to simply ask any passerby where “Vidyarthi Bhavan” is?! and chances are that the passerby may not only tell you the exact directions but may also join you for one of the best Doses in town.
We place our order and appreciate the pencil sketches of popular Kannadigas that adore the walls of Vidyarthi Bhavan. I can see Kuvempu, Masti, Aa.Na.Kru., Kailasam, U.R. Ananthmurthy, Karnad, Kambara and other literary and theatre giants who have made Kannadigas proud.
To begin with, we have an Idli. Vidyarthi Bhavan doesn’t give Chutney to go with it. Instead the Idli is drowned in hot Sambhar. The smell is unlike the Darshinis’ that add an extra tinge of garlic.
As we have the last bite of Idli, the much awaited Sagu-Masale appears in front of us. Vijay tells me to check whether it is ‘Sagu-Masale’! So I open the Dose just a little (like how you open a page to see the previous page number) and make sure there is Sagu and not Palya. Unlike other hotels, Chutney isn’t provided along with Dose in Vidyarthi Bhavan. A waiter comes and pours Chutney next to the Dose. Enough for the whole Dose. (No second helping required.)
The Sagu-Masale looks tempting. The first bite suggests that ‘Sagu’ is not like the one we eat with Poori. This is more like the home made version yet different. There is no ‘Ghaat’ that we associate with a typical ‘Sagu’. It has ample amount of Coconut and vegetables. Till we finish the Dose, there is silence, which means that the food is really good!
Vijay tells me that the ideal time to visit this restaurant is before 8:30 in the morning (that was our appointed time, of course, fixed by the boss himself) when Gandhi Bazaar is still not that busy, and you can actually drive on the roads. I infact found a parking right in front of Vidyarthi Bhavan. One good thing about these simple and historic hotels is that food is tasty. They don’t have any new gimmicks and garish attractions like the ones the new hotels come up with. As I have experienced, the service is decent and the management see to it that cleanliness is maintained in the restaurant.
After we finish the Dose, a waiter hands us a tissue, which earlier would have been a piece of ‘Praja Vani’ to serve as the paper napkin. We wash the Sagu-Masale down with hot filter coffee. There is already a person waiting next to us, virtually booking his seat. We leave the place with a sense of tranquility and contentment.
There is real joy in having such breakfasts when you have good company. Vijay shared some real good trivia and anecdotes associated with the place, and about his own exploits, which I feel is a real motivational factor to eat at places like Vidyarthi Bhavan, Kenchamba Lodge, UKB, CTR and the like.
It’s almost lunch time now, but I can still smell that unique Sagu-Masale Dose from Vidyarthi Bhavan.
Weekdays: 6.30 am to 11 am & 2 pm to 8 pm
Sundays & Govt. Holidays: 6.30 am to 12 pm & 2.30 pm to 8 pm
32 Gandhi Bazaar, Bangalore – 560004.
Tel: 080-2667 7588
First Stop – Vidhyarthi Bhavan