Iconic Restaurant Food

Get a bite of the legendary biscuits and cakes from Bengaluru's Variar Bakery

It is hard to eschew the lure of melt-in-your-mouth butter biscuits or the spongy tea cakes from OG Variar & Sons Bakery.

It was only a couple of months ago, on a museum hunt in the area that I was introduced to the legend of Variar. But for most Bengaluru locals, Variar is not a mere name but a whole lot of memories. Some talk about walking home from school, when picking up fresh puffs and butter biscuits was almost a ritual. Others remember very English evenings with tea cakes.

I watch freshly baked bread, buns, cakes, khara biscuits and butter biscuits being offloaded at the Rajaji Nagar 2nd Block outlet, tray after tray.

A steady stream of customers trickling in through the day ensures frequent supplies from their second outlet at Chord Road, which also houses the manufacturing unit. This is where I meet Vijayshankar Variar, who is at the helm.

In the 50s, Vijayshankar’s father Govinda Variar from Kerala started a small bakery in Bengaluru, selling bread and buns. He would work through the night, using rented ovens to bake. Its success led to 22 outlets, which became difficult to handle.

Second innings

“My father had to shut it down, but soon after he began the Variar Bakery in 1970. He had worked in a bakery in Coimbatore where he gained knowledge. He started with bread, buns and cakes. It was his dream to have his own bakery,” says Vijayshankar, who is managing his legacy.


Govinda worked on the recipes he had already known, and innovated a few. “He started off with potato puff, but on customer demand, improvised it to vegetable puff. Quality and innovation were his foremost concerns and it continues to be like that. Once we met our old customers at the airport, who now live in the US. They told us whenever they visit, they take back a whole lot of stuff from our bakery,” says Rudra Basavraj, advisor, Variar Bakery.

Retired banker RG Seshachalam is ecstatic to see Vijayshankar. Seshachalam is one of the oldest customers of the bakery. He also jogs with the latter in the community park. “I come every 15 days to buy puffs, sweet and salt biscuits. Whenever my daughter comes from Dubai, she takes along khara bun. I am going to join a run, for which I am buying khara buns. Along with ORS, it will keep me going. The fact that there is no compromise on quality and taste keeps us coming back,” he explains.

All these years, Variar’s bread, rusks, tea cakes and butter biscuits have remained top-selling items, but that hasn’t stopped them from innovating to be at the top of their game. Keeping in mind the growing health concerns of people, Variar has come out with wheat rusks and jaggery biscuits. He admits that he is not too happy with the latter, as the jaggery gets crystallised, but the team is on it.

Vijayshankar is not keen on expansion, but is interested in broadening the existing menu. So, he has introduced egg-less plum cake, nippat with sompakki (fennel) and cupcakes.

The bakery is particular about selling fresh food, so it doesn’t prepare large quantities. “Our flour is bromide-free. We don’t use preservatives and encourage our customers to consume everything at the earliest,” clarifies Vijayshankar, for whom tasting the day’s production is an important part of his work. Anything that doesn’t pass him doesn’t reach the shelves.

He adds that a homey atmosphere for its staff has ensured loyalty. At the staff dining hall, run out of their West of Chord Road outlet, a nutritious lunch is served. “We pack and send lunch to those who can’t come in here.”

Now, he says, the bakery is keen to join the green movement and is thinking of alternative packaging ideas.

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Printable version | May 26, 2022 8:23:09 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/food/baked-to-perfection/article24340452.ece