Those who've driven along country roads would know what I'm talking about – those quintessential thattukadas, totally non-descript, but some of which serve the tastiest of Kerala cuisine. For a similar no frills dining experience in the heart of the city, head to The Seven Hills Hotel at Housing Board Junction, for its ‘Naadan' food fete.

The ambience is spot on. The rooftop of the hotel has been turned into a proper thattukkada, complete with walls constructed of coconut fronds, the traditional chai maker, bamboo puttu vessel, cinema posters, and a cranky old radio.

The a la carte menu, though quite limited, has all the traditional fare you would hope to find in any thattukada in the Kumarakom area, that is. The lunch-time crowd keeps coming in, but we manage to find an empty table (in keeping with the spirit of things, only rickety plastic ones here) and give our order to the waiter, who is dressed the part in a garish shirt and lungi. While we wait for our order, sipping cold water out of paper cups, we can't help but notice the hand-written signs that dot the place – ‘no credit,' ‘no politics'...And while we promptly go about discussing politics, palm leaf plates are placed in front of us and soon the food arrives.

We begin the meal with soft, flower-shaped appams (three for Rs.30) – a tad sticky for want of a little more toddy, perhaps, but tasty all the same – accompanied by succulent mutton roast (Rs.80), a generous portion that is served in a small urali. The dish was a little sweet because of the copious amounts of onions used but the flavour of the mutton really came through. Next, it's onto the marichini puttu (Rs.40). Chef Sujith S. tells us that instead of rice flour, this puttu is made out of tapioca flour (dried and then powdered tapioca). This sand-coloured puttu looks appetising, but unlike rice puttu this one is a bit on the chewier side, especially when it loses heat. Nevertheless it does make for a good combo with spicy naadan chicken curry.

Kappa and fish curry

Now, what is a naadan dine out without a side of kappa and fish curry (Rs. 80)? This eternal combo turned out to be the highlight of our meal. The tapioca was cooked just right so that it was soft and melt-in-the-mouth. The Kuttanadan-style moda fish curry was exceedingly spicy (enough to set our tongues on fire) but made for a great dish. There are no desserts to end the meal on a sweet note, but a glass of black tea works wonders to alleviate the spice.

The ‘Naadan Food Festival' has other interesting dishes such as duck roast (Rs. 100), kada (quail) fry (Rs. 50), beef ularthu/curry/fry (Rs. 75), Chiratta puttu (Rs.30) and so on. For vegetarians there is kadala curry (Rs. 50) and vegetable stew (Rs.50). The fete is on till July 17 for lunch and dinner. Contact: 2388800.

Keywords: Kerala cuisine