Change is good and, in many cases, inevitable. But if there’s one thing that can claim to stand the test of time and emerge victorious, Shri Sagar’s benne (butter) masala dosa will win hands down. The over 80-year-old restaurant, formerly known as Central Tiffin Room (or CTR, in short), easily serves the best benne masala dosa in Bengaluru with a dollop of old-city charm.
Open 365 days a year, Shri Sagar has a reputation for excellent South Indian food. The eatery opens its door from 7.30 am for tindi till 12.30 pm and resumes from 4 pm to 9 pm in the night. Famous for being the oldest in the residential old Bengaluru hub of Malleshwaram, situated at the corner of Margosa Road, it is specially known for its benne masala dosas,poorisagu, Mangaluru bajji and filter coffee.
Head here in the late afternoon, and you will notice people of all ages, from senior citizens to teenagers, devouring the scrumptious snacks and ritualistically concluding their excursions with a cup of hot filter coffee. One can spot celebrities too every now and then, from Deepika Padukone to Ramya, both of whom are said to be regulars here.
The best part of the culinary experience is that all the items in the menu are not just delicious but also easy on the wallet. As soon as you enter, you get to experience the tantalising aroma of coffee along with traditional smells of benne,chutney and sambar. The restaurant is usually abuzz with people, so be prepared to wait for a few minutes to get a table.
Service is swift and waiters are courteous enough to pay individual attention to each customer. The billing style too follows the conventional method, where you get the amount scribbled on a piece of paper by the waiters with a smile on their faces.
The food trail
This iconic eatery was started in the 1920s, under the name CTR, by YV Subramanyam and his brothers, hailing from Kolar district. It is said that during the visit of the Maharaja of Mysore to the city, the owners supplied and served breakfast to him everyday.
The place went on to become a famous rendezvous for poets and writers during the 1940s and 50s. However, due to family problems, the brothers handed over CTR in 1952 to Ramakrishna Holla. The name of this already popular restaurant had, by then, already found mention in record books and newspaper articles.
It was sold again in 1992 and bought by Sanjeeva S Poojari, who renamed it Shri Sagar. The new owners say they have worked hard to maintain standards, without compromising on the quality of the taste, all the while keeping alive the charm of an era gone by. The space, with its signature yellow-and-black chequered flooring, still proudly showcases souvenirs of the past, like a vintage wall clock, rosewood furniture with glossy marble table tops, and paintings hung above the cash counter.
The paintings are said to be made in 1897 during the reign of Raja Ravi Varma. It was only in 2011 that the restaurant was renovated in order to cater to a growing number of customers.
Unassuming, but tasty
The crisp, brown benne masala dosas here draw loyalists from all over the city. Manjunatha, an advocate, says, “I come here every week from Yelahankha to have medhu vada,rawa idli and filter coffee.”
The secret recipe of the masala dosa has been passed down by cooks of Shri Sagar. The present cooks say the technique includes maintaining uniformity in the flame of the stove and evenly applying benne (butter) on the entire dosa. The restaurant uses about 60 kg of butter every week. The butter is bought specially from Nagamangala village market.
On a mission
Sandesh, the manager, says, “Our aim is to reach out to each and every customer. We don’t compromise on quality. It takes time to prepare all the items, but no one complains, since it’s worth the wait.”
Indeed, the place has excelled in preserving its character. Shiva Kumar, a teacher who has been frequenting the place for the last 20 years, says, “Shri Sagar has excellent service, is very hygienic and has maintained its taste for so long without once letting any of its customers down.”
The best part? The Shri Sagar vibe, typical of the vintage era, with unhurried grace and a gentle charm.
In this weekly column, we take a peek at some of the most iconic restaurants