The Oota Walks combines heritage, culture and food on the many curated trails it offers..
When Simi Mathew says she loves food, there is an extra emphasis on the word “love”. You can see it in capital letters, underlined several times. But then you would expect nothing less from the co-founder of The Oota Walks, guided walking tours through Bengaluru combining heritage and culture with, what else, food. The name comes from the Kannada word for meal and Mathew, a psychologist, founded the venture with advertising professional Shibaji Ghosh.
The Oota Walks came into being organically, when the two food lovers met through a meet-up group Mathew had created called “The Oota Company” when they were new to the city. “We knew that there were a lot of people who wanted to eat out but who might not have found the right people to do it with,” says Mathew. “Food gets better or worse with ambience. The stories of people add to the flavour,” says Ghosh, who also used to run the local chapter of blogging community “Chowster”. For both, food was also a way to discover the city.
One of their meet-ups was in Basavangudi, an old quarter of the city, where they visited four places at one go. “Without realising it, we had designed a food walk!” says Mathew. The first “official” Oota Walk was during Ramzan last year, when they conducted a walk every week. The walks are typically three hours long, covering 3-4 km and include roughly 10 stops, split between food and history. Different quarters of the city are explored, from the old Pete area where you get to learn about the origins of the city, the cantonment area of Frazer Town, Ramzan food walks through MM Road and even night walks through the city’s famous “thindi beedi” (food street). A biryani walk to explore the city’s military hotels and a “Breakfast at South Parade” walk through MG Road are on the cards.
The number of people who can sign up for a walk has been limited to 15, after Ghosh and Mathew realised that a larger group gets too unwieldy. Each walk is priced at Rs 1,000 per head, including unlimited food. “We love how people react when they are served biryani at 6.45 in the morning or are taken to see an 800-year-old temple,” she says. Though initially they expected more foreigners and tourists to turn up, they were pleasantly surprised to find that the groups tend to be a mix of locals and those who may have moved to the city recently, with a couple of foreign tourists.
“The walks are well researched. They go into a lot of history and also find little nooks and corners that tell you the stories of Bengaluru,” says Anisha Rachel Oommen, a food writer who recently signed up for a walk through the Pete area and considers it three hours well spent. She sampled benne idlis kachoris and jalebis and coffee from a van run by former Coffee Board employees. The Pete walk is a personal favourite of Mathew’s because she feels it captures the multiculturalism of the city.
Pratvii Ponnappa, a communications professional, says the people who turned up for the walk – a bunch of strangers united by their interest in food and history – appealed to him. Ponnappa has been on the Pete walk and the Ramzan food walk more than once. Born and brought up in the city, he says the places the walks introduced to him were new. “I had been to MM Road before, during Ramzan, but I had never been to Albert Bakery where I had khoya naan which was to die for.”
Mathew says each walk takes three to six months to prepare, with research, trials and pilot walks since they juggle it with their day jobs. Mathew says they make sure they sample the food themselves and pick the best, even though this could be quite a struggle, particularly during Ramzan. “We try every single stall and choose the best ones, even if it’s at the cost of our stomachs,” she laughs.
Source : Business Standard