There are very few places in the city of Bengaluru that are standing tall since the times of the great World War. These places remind us of authenticity, charm, history, and the long lost charm of the city of Bengaluru. Vidyarthi Bhavan in Gandhi Bazar, Basavangudi is one of the legendary outlets in the city, known for their Masala dosa’s, filter coffee, and few other breakfast dishes. Established in the year 1943, this place has come a long way from then to the modern times where everything is so rapidly changing; it is indeed hard to maintain the same reputation that they have had for so many years. The taste has slightly changed in the recent past but hey, these guys are still one of the best places to grab a piece of the Masala Dosa.
I have had a very interesting relationship with this place, it all started back when I used to have summer holidays after completing a term at school and back then summer holidays meant staying at my grandparents place and pretty much just eat, sleep, and play throughout the day. My grandfather loves Vidyarthi Bhavan and he used to take me and my cousins to grab a bite of Masala Dosa, we used to catch the BMTC bus, get off on the main road and walk a kilometre or two to Vidyarthi and wait in line to grab a chair and get ourselves settled down and feast on the dosas and the vadas.
Vidyarthi Bhavan has a collection of pictures that are hanged on their walls, pictures of various celebrities, VIP’s and important personalities who have visited this place. My grandfather used to tell me stories of these personalities and tell us all how this famous actor was back in those days, the movies he used to make, the songs they used to have and the various number of incidents that had happened long before I even step foot on this planet. Listening to these stories back when I was a child always put a smile on my face, sometimes I wonder if it was because of the stories or was it because of the Masala dosa in front of me.
At the same time, this turned out to be the place where we children got to know more about our own grandparents because my grandfather was a pretty good romantic in his college days and he sure knew how to impress his girlfriend back then, get her to Vidyarthi Bhavan for an evening date and rush back home before the girl’s father arrived. He of course married this girl and is now happily living at the age of 79 and even though he cannot walk much, the very thought of going to Vidyarthi Bhavan will bring a smile on his face and he is forever ready to go and have a piece of Masala Dosa.
So here I am in July 2018, revisiting this place after a good number of years trying to find a table for two in Vidyarthi Bhavan. It took me a good twenty minutes to get in, a new roof in place as the old one was gone in the wind thanks to some heavy rainfall and the trees coming down, but apart from the roof, the new card machine, the walkie talkie, rewards from Zomato and some newspapers, nothing has changed here. The walkway is still the same, has the same old rustic interiors, the charm is still present and the photos on the walls are still hanging around.
We ordered Kesari Bath, Rava Vade, Khara Bath, Masala Dosa, and finally the Filter Coffee. Kesari Bath is a sweet dish originated in the state of Karnataka that can either be a breakfast dish in combination with Khara Bath which together is known as Chow-Chow Bath or this could be served as a dessert as well. Now, that is something you don’t come across very often, a dish that can be your breakfast or your dessert. Kesari Bath is rich in ghee, sugar, saffron, a few dry fruits and this is indeed a perfect sweet dish for all the sweet lovers.
The Rava Vade is made of rava, chilli, curry leaves, coconut, and ginger. This dish is served with green chutney which by the way is a crucial accompaniment to almost most of the dishes at Vidyarthi Bhavan. The Rava Vade is crispy, finely fried in oil, has the right amount of spice to make this a nice dish to start your day off at Vidyarthi Bhavan.
Khara Bath or commonly known to Indians as Upma, a dish which is hated by many and loved by a few is one of the dishes I love to taste at Vidyarthi Bhavan. This dish is made of mustard seeds, dal, finely chopped onions, tomatoes, chillis, curry leaves, ghee, and salt to form one of the most basic dishes in the country, Khara Bath is a must for people wanting to try good local dishes, it is spicy and is also one of the best in the city.
Vidyarthi Bhavan is known for one major dish and that is none other than their Dosa. Dosa comes in three different varieties, Masala Dosa, Plain Dosa, and Sagu Dosa. Plain Dosa does not have the Masala which is pretty obvious while Sagu Dosa is the Dosa provided with a potato rich curry. The winner is definitely the Masala Dosa with the potato filling and the chutney which is one dish that you want to keep having for the rest of your life. Crispier than the other dosas in the city, rich in butter and most importantly the spice of the potatoes make this one of the best Dosa’s in the city.
The Filter Coffee is rich in sugar and was not the type of Coffee I was looking forward to, mainly because I like it with less sugar and a lot more presence of the coffee powder rather than sugar. Having said that my partner in crime was enjoying this coffee and she loved it more than me.
I would like to say that it is true that the taste has changed, the standards have changed as well, the taste is not that similar to what I have had before but then I am not going to take anything away from them and I will visit this place for many years to come and I only hope that the standard remains amidst the fast growing world that we live in.
You can find Vidyarthi Bhavan on 32, Gandhi Bazaar, Near Gandhi Bazaar Circle, Basavanagudi, Bangalore.