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Authentic Tamil fare

Friday, May 11, 2018

In a radius of less than three kilometres, there are six or seven places in Matunga serving authentic Tamil food at really affordable prices, says Sanjay Rammoorthy

To say that I have been a lifelong tourist to Matunga, would not be wrong. Being born in King’s Circle, I visited my grandparent’s house in Matunga every summer in my school days. Apart from some high-rises, thanks to redevelopment, the overall topography of this central suburb has not changed in the 45- odd years that I have been coming here. Most of the shops are also the same, except for the fact that old hand-painted boards have given way to back-lit acrylic or flex ones. The traditional TamBram population is also dwindling, giving way to the Guju trader.

Quaint and traditional south Indian eateries have survived the advent of Dominos and McDonalds. Not only have these survived but they are also thriving and one has to wait to find a chair during peak hours. Yes, a chair, as sharing a table is an accepted norm! One reason for this survival is the palate of Gujaratis, and their rigid vegetarian regime—so much so that most would not even eat in restaurants that served non-veg food.   

One of the most popular joints is Ram Ashraya on the station road. This 90-year-old eatery is always crowded, beginning with breakfast, which starts at 5.00 a.m. and goes on till dinner, closing at 9.30 p.m. It serves traditional south Indian snacks, but also has daily specials. The food is very different from the hundreds of Udipi joints that dot the city.

The Café Madras off King’s Circle is yet another popular joint. Apart from its food, it is also known for its favourite and famous customer; the place became the favourite of the richest man in India, Mukesh Ambani, when he was studying at VJTI, which is down the road. Besides ordering regularly from here, the Ambani clan also periodically descends on this no-frills, non-air-conditioned restaurant. The owner obliges his most high-profile client by cordoning off the first floor for the first business family. Business goes on as usual on the ground floor.

Another favourite of Matunga is Ayyapan Idli Stall, known for its various types of idlis. You have to eat standing on the road. His guys do not let you eat in your parked car near the stall as it disrupts traffic and causes traffic jams—probably his secret deal with the BMC to do business!

In a radius of less than three km there are six to seven such places serving authentic Tamil food at really affordable prices. A meal for two could cost even less than Rs. 100.

The common feature of most of these places is the strong aroma of the traditional filter coffee.  With the spike in real estate prices, the question is—how many of them will survive for the next generation and still be affordable?

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