Bangalore restaurant reviews budget eating

Militry (Miltry) Hotels in Bangalore - Part 1

Monday, November 24, 2014Me! In words

The culinary landscape in Bangalore is evolving by the day. Here is a city where people are as comfortable sipping on sake and sitting at a live sushi counter, as they are queuing up for shawarma at the neighbourhood outlet. From breweries to Asian fusion cuisine to food walks, by-two coffees and gastro-bars, the food scene in Bangalore is all about the experience. 

While things are constantly evolving, there are some experiences that have remained the same over the years and for a simple reason - there is no real need to change anything. The food is outstanding and there is nothing additional necessary. I am talking of Military (Miltry - misspelt as far as I know from local language influences) Hotels. While these have been around long before my parents were in diapers, social media seems to be reviving interest in them. My interest in Miltry hotels began when I first got off a train at  Majestic and used the bylanes of Cottonpet to get to home to Jayanagar - the unmistakable aroma of biryani filling up congested roads is hard to ignore - BTW these aromas were wafting across from the newly relocated S. Govinda Rao Miltry Hotel.

This was the beginning of a Miltry Hotel discovery plan that I charted - of course I haven't covered all the places I want to and repeat visits are pending as well. Nevertheless, once you get a taste of the food served here, it can be something of an addiction.

Rewinding a Bit
An experience like that of Miltry Hotel needs some background. Simi Mathew of The Oota Walks is a brilliant resource on the history of the Miltry Hotel. She says, "The origin of the Hindu ‘Miltry’ hotel may be traced back to the Maratha regime under Shivaji Bhonsle. These hotels came about to cater to the Maratha soldiers. Another story speaks of a bubonic plague that swept through Bangalore in the early 1800s killing scores. Women and children were hustled off to distant villages to save them from the illness. Miltry hotels came up to provide sustenance to farmers who stayed back to tend to their fields. 

A third story speaks of the arrival of the British in Bangalore in 1806. Several soldiers from Tipu Sultan’s army were integrated into the British Army. Old Bangalore or the Cantonment area did not have any meat serving places. That is when these little restaurants came about with soldiers are their primary patrons. The prefix Hindu was primarily to denote that beef and pork were not served here."

Most of these little hotels have been in families for at least 3 generations and the recipes are family secrets. Progress for them has been switching to gas cooking from fire wood, moving to concrete buildings from brick & tile spaces, table seating from the floor, alcohol to no alcohol! What you are assured of at any of these places is a food that has years of experience and passion that comes through in every morsel. 

Getting Down to Business

S G R Miltry Hotel

So let's begin with S Govinda Rao Miltry Hotel. This 107-year old institution moved to its current location in a small bylane in Cottonpet this year. Its earlier space quite literally looked like my ancestral home in Mangalore yanked out of context and placed in the middle of a traffic/human/animal/pothole-ridden Akkipet. This spanking new place is an improvement as far as location goes but is still all of 2.5 rooms with a corridor for a kitchen. 

It definitely does not look like anything from the outside but the rumblings of my tummy did not let me hesitate. The tiny place was haphazardly filled with blue collar folk fueling up for a day of hard work. Apparently, nothing does it quite like a meat-laden meal does. A few nonplussed looks at us and they were back to their meal. We found ourselves a spot and settled down at tiny, stone tables, enough to seat two and were ready to be served. 

This is the view from our seat in the corner. The shelf you see just past the blue door is where the little cutlery they use is kept. It also has the wash basin. Bottled water is available. 

Ragi Mudde meals (meat based of course) are a common morning feature as are mutton pulavs. As the day progresses, and I mean 10.30, the next batch of pulav is often in the making. Chicken and mutton fries are available on different days. 

Idlis, soft as a down pillow on your cheek with Kaima Ball Curry was what Murali, the head chef cum waiter cum cleaning staff offered us. We nodded in agreement. Instantly on our patris appeared raw sliced onions marinated in a green chilli and ginger paste and a wedge of lemon. Food is brought on the patris and served by hand. That’s how our idlis came in. Small steel bowls of gravy appeared and from a sauce pan that has been well tempered with time and spice, were spooned out two Kaima balls for each bowl. To say the start was divine would be an understatement. And you know what elevates it to that deliriously delicious level - the marinated onions!

We followed this up with mutton palav, a coriander-green chilli-ginger-meat combination, the quantity of which was enough for 3 medium appetite folks. But we were here on an eating binge and honestly pigged out enough for around 1.5 meals each. The pulao was rather basic, spicy yes, but we mellowed it down with the lime. Its steaming hot and that's always a factor that gets me going as far as food goes. 

We also had fried chicken, which was literally swimming in a pool of spicy oil. That in no way will put you off, because the last thing on earth you will be thinking when this meal is going on, is health, calories and other such mundane stuff. This chicken preparation is much like what you will get at a village home - generous in all the ingredients. 

All through the meal, Murali, who has been with the restaurant for 27 years, regaled us with stories of his clientele – ranging from local political honchos to film stars to those staggering in for a bite after their nightly tipple. He told us of how he had come to the city to look for a job and a cook here was the first thing he got - and here he has been for all these years, "No godfathers for people like me," he said. We asked him which days the place is closed - Saturdays and Mondays was the reply and that too for religious reasons. "But once the fellows who come here are two pegs down - there is no religion and no abstaining from meat," he says rather philosophically.

There is a lot more I would like to try here - ragi mudde meals for one - the mutton dry preparations another. But it will take the alignment of the planets, my darn work schedule, school and home to all miraculously come together soon - and I am hoping it will. The meal was approximately in the Rs 300 category, definitely not more. 

Address: #4, 1st Cross, Cottonpet, Bangalore 560053
Phone: 9880821521
Holidays: Saturday and Monday
Parking: For a bike, if you are lucky
Average meal for 2 (over-eaters) - Rs 350

N. V Naidu Miltry Hotel - K. R Market

I don't really know the reason I included N.V Naidu on my list of miltry hotels to visit. Maybe the fact that it was smack in the middle of K.R Market, kind of close to home. Maybe for the fact that from a Maratha version of the miltry hotel, the Andhra style sounded interesting, or simply because curiosity got the better of me. And so Sudhakar and I battled insane traffic getting into K.R Market one afternoon, with just some vague instructions pulled together from equally vague sources online. Someone somewhere online mentioned that it was opposite the mosque and so we looked for a mosque. 

Just as you enter K.R Market from the Chamrajpet side, past the massive, yet ancient structures dotting the narrow humanity/traffic clogged street, you will suddenly spill onto KR Market at a signal, right below the flyover. Look diagonally in front of you and you will spot the mosque. Get on to that side of the road and now look diagonally left, there is no missing the massive, massive board screaming N.V Naidu Hotel in different size fonts. After a bit of manoeuvring, we managed to park the bike around 750 mts away and hiked it back to where the board was. The only thing running through my mind then was how comfortable I would feel in the place - it takes quite a bit to rattle me, but even then. Mentally prepared to turn tail and run, the first thing I saw when I entered was a portly woman, occupying one bench, meant for 2, saree tucked into hip, literally doing an "apply to face" with her mutton pulav. I found a place before Sudhakar got his bearings. 

There was no way I could have gotten a picture of the outside of the place considering I was busy negotiating my clumsy legs on what can only be described as an obstacle race of a road. But I did find this online, which has two of the signages at least. 

So N.V Naidu opens into a small square space with a few tables and the cash counter. A door later, you are in a long corridor, lined with concrete benches built into the walls and heavy set stone tables in front of you. The space is enough for two people to sit. The day's menu is up on the wall (a picture of that somehow got deleted). We ended up sitting right in front of the corridor you see below - which led to the washing basins and the washing area for the kitchen. 

Trust me, what you see is not dirt or filth, but rather age showing on the building. Both the dining area and what we could see of the kitchen was clean and constantly being washed down. 

So we went with what are usually the staples in a place like this - though they did have brain on the menu, it did not really catch our fancy that day. So we started with a mutton pepper, which was supposed to be dry - but came to us in the gravy form. Generous portions of mutton, peppery gravy - enough to waken even the most dullest of taste buds in a good way. Its one of those that will make you wish these hotels still served liquor, like some of them used to way back in the day. 

The mutton pulav came next - we asked for one each since we were ravenous after that ride. It comes with a katori of onion raita and a wedge of lime. This pulav is by far my favorite pick among the few miltry hotels I tasted. It has a nice pepper and ginger-garlic base than a green chilli one. the meat is generous and has been cooked to just the right softness. What adds to the brilliant taste is the gravy that is served on the side. This is the one that packs the spice punch and definitely uses mutton stock as a base of preparation. You will definitely save a small bit of the gravy to sip on to round off your pulav before you burp in satisfaction. 

The fiery gravy that comes alongside the pulav. 

Every pulav meal here ends with a bowl of rasam and buttermilk. The die-hard rasam fan in me wanted to sneak into the kitchen and figure out how in the world they got this peppery/lemony rasam to taste as brilliant as it did. I shamelessly asked for another katori of it, where everyone was asking for the buttermilk. It really is good. 

N V Naidu has all the staples of a miltry hotel. Perhaps on my next visit I will be able to get more of its history out and be able to update this post. Service is very prompt and the waiters are constantly hovering over your table to make sure you get your extra raita, buttermilk or rasam. Bottled water and even aerated drinks are brought in from neighboring shops on request. An average meal here is around Rs 300.

Address: #2, Market Circle Main Road, Kalasipalyam, Bangalore 560053
Phone: ------
Holidays: Monday
Parking: For a bike, if you are lucky, and you must have some inner connections with the heavens if you bring in a car. 
Average meal for 2 (over-eaters) - Rs 350

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