Life & Style

Where stomach meets heart

TRENDS Bangalore's affair with darshini hotels has been a long and steady one, observes RESHMA KRISHNAMURTHY SHARMA. Even in the face of MNC eateries, what wins the foodie's heart is the taste of home food

What defines Bangalore's culture? If you look at the lines on the street corners, the answer seems to be the darshinis. At any given time, thousands of people in the city are bent over their idlis and coffee at these convenient and affordable eateries.

Today there may be debates over how many can actually survive competition from international chains and the test of rising prices, but darshinis have ruled Bangalore for over 30 years.

True darshini eaters vouch that these little joints serve as their second home, and many have their favourite darshinis for different foods such as dosas or coffee.

Darshinis are everywhere. They allow diners to be themselves, without bothering about dressing up. Hot food is served almost instantaneously and diners often share tables with those from different walks of life, adding to the cosmopolitan opportunities of Bangalore.

A neatly dressed corporate executive could be sharing his table with an auto driver. They need not make eye contact and yet they can both enjoy their snack or meal.

Why do darshinis hold a special place in the Bangalorean's heart?

Says Sriharsha, a businessman who eats at a darshini almost four days a week either for breakfast or lunch: “It's no frills and that's what attracts a person like me, where I can save time and eat food that I have grown up eating in the most economical manner.”

For Leela G., homemaker and mother of a seven-year-old, “If I am not cooking at home, the easiest, cheapest, nearest, and come to think of it, the most nutritious food that comes to my mind is getting idli or upma or some rice preparation for my son from a darshini. The international fast food chains or high-end restaurants are reserved for special evenings but something that is immediate, almost like home food, prepared in a hygienic way has to be from a darshini.”

Does she think the darshinis represent Bangalore culture? She adds, “I am not too sure about that, but I do know Bangaloreans would not want to miss out on having darshinis in the city and nothing immediately can replace them.”

Most Bangaloreans are used to eating South Indian food daily and the quickest way to find it outside their homes is to head to these tightly packed little spaces.

One of the pioneers in running such a business is Radhakrishna Adiga, who runs Brahmins Coffee Bar in Shankarapuram. “It was Brahmins that started this concept of standing and eating together since 1965,” he says, “but a few others marketed their business with the word darshini and that became popular. The word darshini means having an open kitchen in front of customers.” He points out that customers nowadays often want to sit and eat more leisurely, but he feels that those darshinis will survive that have won their customers' hearts by serving tasty food over many years.

Darshinis are also serving food other than traditional Karnataka cuisine. Radhakrishna adds, “With just about 20 per cent who are Bangaloreans and the rest of the city population coming from other States, the food at darshinis has moved away from just south Indian cuisine to north Indian, Chinese and few other snacks.”

For Goutham Halkurke, a software consultant, darshinis are a place in which to chill out with friends. He is fond of particular eateries like Veena Stores in Malleswaram, Mangala in Srinagar, and certain SLV restaurants and Brahmins for the idlis. “If you ask me, darshinis have become part of Bangalore evolution. We have grown up seeing these eat outs, eating here, and as long as they serve food that is good they will not leave Bangalore.”

Priya Sebastian, illustrator and avid food lover, says, “I completely enjoy a snack at a darshini that is nutritious and low on calorie content compared to any fast food chain.” She cooks many south Indian dishes herself and relishes eating, either alone or with friends, at eateries that make authentic food.

As a food blogger puts it, darshinis will forever echo the vibe of Bangalore.

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Printable version | May 26, 2020 6:48:00 PM |

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