“Full rush!” says a woman who makes her way through a line of waiting customers at the Iyer Mess in Malleswaram. The place is packed with office workers, collegians, couples and families, taking a lunch break. Banana leaves are slapped onto granite tables, waiters move swiftly from one table to the next serving large helpings from buckets of sambar, rasam and palya.
Amid chatter, the clanging of steel tumblers and yells of ‘sambar, palya beka?’ filling the air, one gets to eat a wholesome, delicious meal of carrot, bhindi, Maddur vada, sambar and curd for just Rs. 60. On Sundays, special items include butter milk sambar, payasam and vada.
Iyer mess, which is considered an essential part of Bengaluru’s heritage, was set up in 1959 by P.V. Mahadeva Iyer, and is at present taken care of by his sons, Venkatesh, Krishna, and their wives.
“My wife Kamala has cooked the entire meal with the help of the staff,” says Venkatesh as he looks on at his wife, who smiles shyly from the counter. “We have customers who are coming regularly for 40 years.” He adds, beaming: “Even great personalities have come here. Film star Chandru, MLA Suresh Kumar and many others.” The reason people still flock to this place, says Venkatesh, is because: “We have maintained the quality of food over the years at a low price.”
In a much quieter Rajarajeshwari Iyer Mess on Seventh Cross, there are three long tables, set in parallel rows. Groups of people file in. Clearly they are regular visitors. They are served rice, a sabzi of brinjal and potato, fried cabbage, sambar, rasam and curd on plantain leaves. The mess, says its owner, is open for lunch and dinner.
Andhra messes are quite popular here. There has to be an Andhra mess at some corner in every locality. We travel to Seventh Block in Koramangala. The fancy Gokulam mess has meals, and dishes such as dosa chicken, for example, for a contemporary twist. We decide to go instead to the small Nandini mess in a tiny corner opposite Sai Baba Temple.
The India-West Indies T20 match is on. On a single table, young boys walk in to watch and discuss the match with the waiters. The food is served in a jiffy. A steel thaali with steamed rice, tomato chutney and cabbage fry is served.
The rice is piping hot, and while we wait for it to cool down, Indian opening batsmen, Ajinkya Rahane is out for 40 runs.On a lazy Sunday afternoon, as we enter Malabar Mess, located in Maruthi Nagar, Madiwala and we are greeted by the aromas of fried fish and curry wafting through the kitchen. This is for hard-core non-vegetarians, and particularly those who are die-hard fish lovers. You have to try their Kappa Biriyani (made with tapioca and beef), crab roast and fry, and Malabari chicken biriyani. Though Rajesh, the manager says it’s the Kerala meals that are hot favourites.
The Bengali mess in Mathikere, Aastha Bengali mess, serves some of the best Bengali food, from flavoursome fish curries to simple dal and rice with fried potatoes, the menu offers quite a wide variety.
The extraordinary fare of the humble mess continues to hold its own in a time when international cuisine has much hype and hoopla around it.
Source: The Hindu