Why is Bengaluru's Vidyarthi Bhavan so famous?

On weekends, Vidyarthi Bhavan, a heritage spot in Gandhi Bazaar, Bengaluru, sees 3,000 walk-ins, that include writers, artistes, film stars and corporate professionals. Venkataramana Ural from Saligrama in Dakshina Kannada set up the eatery in 1943, to serve authentic Kannada fare, especially dosas.

The narrow space in Vidyarthi Bhavan belies the social status it enjoys amongst Bengalurians. Crowds stand patiently outside, waiting for their names to be called out from a list. “Only when people get out can people get in,” says the person who calls out the names.

Why is Bengaluru's Vidyarthi Bhavan so famous?

Starting young

Gandhi Bazaar in Basavanagudi is one of the city’s oldest localities. In pre-Independence days, it had many educational institutions, including the famous National College and the Acharya Patashala.

“Vidyarthi Bhavan was primarily started for students, as the name suggests, but its popularity increased, and today we have celebrities from all fields who brainstorm over our dosas and coffee,” says Arun Kumar Adiga, who runs Vidyarthi Bhavan.

Why is Bengaluru's Vidyarthi Bhavan so famous?

Arun, a telecom engineer who left his corporate job to take over his family business, says nothing much has changed in the last 75 years.

“Why should we change? To this day, six dishes on Vidyarthi Bhavan’s menu — benne (butter) masala dose (along with saagu-masale), puri-saagu, idli sambar, uppittu, chow-chow bath and rave vade have celebrity status! It’s the way we make them that makes them different,” he says.

Vidyarthi Bhavan was given to Ramakrishna Adiga, Arun’s father, by the Ural family in the 1970s.

“We took over with its name, legacy, staff, menu and principles intact,” says Ramakrishna, who has been in the hotel business for about six decades now.

Why is Bengaluru's Vidyarthi Bhavan so famous?

Talking about restaurants and the emotional connect people have with them, Arun recounts the distress he and his friends felt when SLV Hotel opp BMS College, in the same locality where he studied, closed down.

“It was around the same time that my father, who had turned 60, wanted to take a back seat. The question was who would carry on the legacy. It was Infosys co-founder Narayana Murthy’s advice that decided for me. He said, ‘Your presence at the hotel will take forward a legacy, but stepping out of your corporate profile is not going to make a difference to your company!’”

Wafting aromas

Why is Bengaluru's Vidyarthi Bhavan so famous?

Arun says while the basic ingredients remain the same as in the classic dosa recipe, “Where we differ is in the use and proportion of red rice and menthya (fenugreek seeds) along with urad dal for the batter. Our dosas are crisp and thick.” Arun says they also serve dosas with the saagu, that is mixed vegetables sans onions and garlic.

Why is Bengaluru's Vidyarthi Bhavan so famous?

“While the Mysuru belt serves kempu chutney, or the red chutney made with onion and garlic, smeared inside the dosa, our benne masala dose comes only with potato palya and coconut chutney. We make nearly 2,200 dosas during the weekends. A set of 20 dosas is turned out in 10 minutes flat,” he reveals.

Among the stars

Vidyarthi Bhavan is no stranger to literary giants who made it their ‘creative meeting place’. Writers such as BR Lakshmana Rao and P Lankesh, poet MN Vyasa Rao, Field Marshal Cariappa, educator H Narasimhaiah and actors Vishnuvardhan, Ananth Nag, and Shankar Nag were among the regulars. Recalls the senior Adiga, “Littérateur Masti Venkatesh Iyengar never missed his rava vada, which he packed from here en route to Basavanagudi Club, just as poets DV Gundappa and GP Rajarathnam came here for their saagu masale. Even now, writers Nissar Ahmed, Chandrashekhara Kambara, HS Venkatesha Murthy, cricketer GR Vishwanath and cinema star Bharathi are regulars.

Why is Bengaluru's Vidyarthi Bhavan so famous?

“Dr Rajkumar got his dosas packed from here. After Veerappan released him, he visited our hotel after actor Rajinikanth insisted that he ‘savour Vidyarthi Bhavan dosas hot, then and there!’” says Arun, showing Rajkumar’s words in the Comments Book.

There is a strong rumour that Rajinikanth visits Vidyarthi Bhavan in disguise, and the staff there are hoping that they will spot him some day!

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Printable version | May 15, 2021 1:06:04 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/food/setting-the-table/article24047034.ece

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