Military Hotels from an Era When Bengaluru was Still Bangalore


Gentrification; this term usually resonates with anybody who has lived in Bangalore (it wasn’t Bengaluru then) longer than 20 years. Most neighbourhoods have been altered and new residential neighbourhoods have sprung up out of nowhere. So where does the soul of Bangalore exist? Some would argue that it is among the countless startups that typify the innovative IT stereotype. But for many, Bangalore is about its neighbourhoods like Basavangudi and Malleshwaram that still ooze with old world charm and the Cantonment areas. Like most people born in this city, I’m torn between Bangalore and Bengaluru.

For over 200 years, since the British moved here, Bangalore has been a strategic military hub. Almost all the city’s well-known thoroughfares (Brigade Road, Infantry road) have a military connection. If you are willing to brave the traffic and put Google Maps to the ultimate test, you might be able to unravel the city’s another quintessential military connection, its military hotels. Legendary establishments like Vidyarthi Bhavan with their crispy masala dose and Brahmin’s Coffee Bar might be top of mind when Bangaloreans talk about eateries that have stood the test of time. But the city’s military hotels have also been an integral part of the 20th Century Bangalore food scene, way before Chettinad hotels began to dot the cityscape.

Quite a few theories surround Bengaluru’s military hotels. Some historians suggest that the roots might go back as far as the 17th century when Maratha soldiers needed their meat fix. The city’s first recognised military hotel – SG Rao Military Hotel around the Cottonpet area was established by a Maratha in 1908 (S Govinda Rao Rannore) lending some serious credence to this theory. Most military hotels are concentrated around the Cottonpet, Jayanagar and Malleshwaram areas to this day. Others attribute it to the soldiers in the British army who needed a change from the military mess and started flocking to these small eateries with the ‘military hotel’ (often spelt as militry here) tag. Of course it wasn’t just military personnel who dined here, these restaurants became a haven for predominantly male clientele who left their families behind in smaller towns in villages in search of better prospects in Bangalore.

Shivaji Military Hotel (also in Jayanagar) is another establishment that usually has long lines during lunch time – their chicken fry and donne biryani are immensely popular. There are at least half a dozen military hotels – like Rajanna in Magadi road and Chandu’s Hotelin Malleshwaram, that offer the same high food quality but some of these establishments are not easy to access and are usually cramped for room. At a time when large chain restaurants seem to have taken over Bengaluru’s food scape, the city’s military hotels take you back to a time where home style cooking and restaurateurs with a hands-on approach ruled the roost. Even if you can’t find a piece of Bangalore’s soul within these walls, there’s enough soul food to bring you back.

Source : NDTV

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