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MTR,  Bangalore’s Culinary heritage

Here is a glimpse of the famous Mavalli Tiffin Rooms located in Bangalore. They are known world-wide by the name of MTR. I think MTR is the one brand that everybody relates to when it comes to South Indian cuisine. Though its touched heights in the restaurant popularity chart and has also reached international markets with its instant mixes, MTR still continues to wear a simple, humble look that it had decades ago. I have not seen anything really change in the infrastructure of the restaurant since I was a little kid. Even the elderly gentleman who shouts out our name when its our turn, looks exactly the same. He still sits on a wooden stool guarding the entrance to the family hall.

Now for all of you who are wondering why the entrance is guarded and why we need loud announcements, I will explain to you how the restaurant works :

1) You enter MTR and climb up to the first floor if you are interested in sitting with your family in something called the family hall.

2) Here, you will find an old man in a white lungi and completely matching hair, who will note down your name on a white sheet of paper that is supported by an exam board. God knows I wanted to take a picture of him but his voice was so loud that I was scared to offend him in any way.

3) You will now have to wait for minimum one hour. You will find people impatiently pacing around, crowding near the entrance searching for the number of people lined up before them. You will struggle if you can’t read Kannada in order to know how you are ranked in the list of people waiting. You will be seated on a wooden bench. You will mostly spend your time gazing at people who are sitting inside and eating leisurely.

4) Finally when you are just about to leave because you can’t take it anymore, your name is announced!. You feel an excitement like never before and you rush into the family hall to grab a seat for yourself and your dear ones.

5) You could be sitting with strangers at a table. You will not be given a private table. That’s why its called family hall – all in the family.

6) Now comes the interesting part. You are told exactly what you can eat. You don’t get to select from a menu or anything. For example, we were told “You can have either dosa or upma”. When we asked for what else is there, he said “Upma and dosa”. I smiled like calling it in reverse order changed anything.

7) The service is quick. We were given upma almost instantly. Soon after dosa appeared  with tiny little cups containing butter. The quality of the food is usually excellent.

8) You are given coffee and the bill soon after. Time to leave.

In short :

  • Best part : the food
  • Tough part : the wait

The best part is in someway leading to the tough part. I guess that’s what happens when a modest restaurant turns into a tourist attraction.

The fast food section on ground floor

Old photographs of MTR lace the walls

The vintage collection of coffee mugs

The family seating arrangement on first floor

Frothy, semi-sweet MTR coffee

I am sending the images to the well seasoned cook who is hosting the event B&W Wednesdays. I have always been a great fan of B&W pictures as they have fewer distractions and seem to capture the essence of a shot better. Thanks for hosting this interesting event.

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