In love with their own hype…

Today I went to MTR(Mavalli Tiffin Room), after a very long interval. I think that at least recently, it is an over-rated restautant…

MTR is the most overrated eating place I know, along with Koshy’s. It took us 2 hours to have a simple breakfast (idli, masal dosa, coffee.). We were told that vadas had run out. We had ordered idlis..and after 25 mins, got ONE idli each. So we ordered another, and after another 40 mins got an idli, but the sambar had run out and we were given potato palya with the idli, a combination I have never ever had before, anywhere. The masal dosas were dripping grease..oil or ghee or butter, I don’t know, I didn’t eat one.The chutney was excellent (very hot though) but the sambar could have done duty as a sweet dish.There was the usual lack of choice on the menu..and even in that limited choice some of the items had run out! You would think that by now they would have guaged the Saturday crowd well and would make enough food…but no, there is such a cachet to saying that the food was so much in demand that it ran out…

The redeeming feature was that the coffee was real filter coffee and arrived in those trademark silver dentedy tumblers. MTR also keeps practically half the available space vacant just to make everyone wait, it seems to me, to add to the mystique. Looks like MTR has fallen in love with its own legend. I went there after ages, and I don’t think I will go there for ages more.

As soon as people start talking about “institutions” and “tradition” and “authentic” this seems to start happening. It’s a terrible thing when people start falling in love with the hype about themselves in the media. Then it becomes just a place to take the tourists and is a kind of “sample Bangalore” thingy.

I find the same unauthentic, self-conscious kind of ” we are modest but we are a celebrity” kind of atmosphere in Koshy’s now. (Yes, I *have* been to Koshy’s before this pseudo kind of “quaint eating place” thing developed, when it was a genuinely nice haunt for ordinary people to foregather.)

And yes, slowly I am getting this atmosphere lately in Ranga Shankara as well…even Karthik of Evam referred to it when he talked about the “aura of intellecutualism that has attached itself to theatre”, when I was talking to him.

I know this is going to be a controversial post and I am looking forward to all the feedback…

21 Comments so far

  1. ravi (unregistered) on February 25th, 2007 @ 12:23 am

    did you book the table before you went?
    or was this downstairs?


  2. Kishore Murthy (unregistered) on February 25th, 2007 @ 1:47 am

    I whole heartedly agree with you.


  3. Chitra (unregistered) on February 25th, 2007 @ 9:49 am

    Sad, considering that I have never been to the place and have always been meaning to. Now, I will know what to expect. I know exactly what you mean and have seen this way too often. I wish you were wrong, but I am beginning to doubt it.


  4. Which Main? What cross? (unregistered) on February 25th, 2007 @ 10:02 am

    A few weeks back, on a sunday morning like this, I waited an hour for a seat at MTR. And again for what felt like a lifetime at the table. It’s a test of patience but the food was worth it. Everything’s wrong about the place, the service, the fat content in the food, the angry faces of the waiters, etc. The world has changed but MTR hasn’t. We are used to better service and standardised fare but this place remains the same. And at the end of the day, I guess the food makes it worthwhile.


  5. Sameer (unregistered) on February 25th, 2007 @ 10:14 am

    Yep, I’ve felt exactly the same way about MTR. Koshy’s never really got into the reckoning – I guess cause I’m vegetarian. The smoke really put me off.


  6. Sameer (unregistered) on February 25th, 2007 @ 10:15 am

    Yep, I’ve felt exactly the same way about MTR. Koshy’s never really got into the reckoning – I guess cause I’m vegetarian. The smoke really put me off.


  7. Chitra (unregistered) on February 25th, 2007 @ 10:22 am

    True what you say about Koshy’s, Sameer. I never got the hype! Too much smoke.

    Now, ICH, that is another story. People have said bad things about ICH too. But, the waiter are nice, not overtly friendly or anything, but really nice. Instant service. Great coffee. Fantastic location. Decent accompanying food.


  8. VS (unregistered) on February 25th, 2007 @ 11:26 am

    Deepa Mohan avare, the long wait along with the tasty food is a main part of the MTR charm and its legacy. I’m sure you must have heard this about MTR and infact this is one of the reasons that used to draw people to MTR :) If you are not willing to wait, then go find some other place to eat. Consider it bangalore’s Soup Nazi place :)


  9. someone (unregistered) on February 25th, 2007 @ 1:06 pm

    hehe, i like the soup-nazi reference.

    Yes, I agree with you all about MTR. The food is good but not worth the long wait in dingy waiting rooms, the rude waiters who seem to think they are doing you a favor, or having to share the table with random strangers. I remember the coffee being good too, but the silver “tumblers” were filled to the brim with the piping hot stuff, so you couldn’t hold it!


  10. Mytri (unregistered) on February 25th, 2007 @ 6:43 pm

    I actually prefer the waiters to be hands off :-) I prefer to eat my food in peace and enjoy every bite. I HATE it when they stand right next to you and want to pour out water. Waiting time is really a pain. Weekends are just terrible. They are quite upfront about when the plain idlis are available and when the rave idlis are(after 9 :-)). We make it so that we can get one of each. The chutney is incredibly spicy and the hot coffee… well, that is bliss as I said in the previous coffee page :-)

    The lunch is not as good as it was when they first started the program. But how often do you get to drink your coffee the old style. I will take it, rude waiters and all. The food is everything here. Try and take a tour of the kitchen. It is amazing to watch them in action.


  11. tarlesubba (unregistered) on February 25th, 2007 @ 7:18 pm

    deepa,

    can you elaborate on rangashankara?
    what are/were your expectations on that?


  12. Ramya (unregistered) on February 26th, 2007 @ 4:28 am

    I totally agree with you. My great granny wanted to eat there. So went the entire family one fine morning and it was the worst wait ever. We just gave up, went to a nearby hotel and had the most satisfying breakfast without the endless wait. Nor did we have to feel guilty about making someone else wait and gobble down the food without even relishing it!


  13. R.A. Levin (unregistered) on February 26th, 2007 @ 4:34 am

    I’ve been hearing about the Mavalli Tiffin Rooms, since almost the beginning of time.(Well, ok. Not THAT long. Maybe 20 or 30 years.)
    I’d feel a little un-fulfilled if I finally got out to B’Lore and didn’t go there. It’s like going to Singapore and not enjoying the overpriced tea on the Raffles Hotel lawn. Yeah, it’s a touristy thing, but it provides that psychological benefit of saying “Been there, done that, bought the ‘t’ shirt.”
    Maybe it’s just a case of : “If I hear one more word about the Chutney, I’ll go nuts and ride over on a container ship just to try it.”
    Such is the power of good Chutney. :)

    -Robert


  14. silkboard (unregistered) on February 26th, 2007 @ 8:14 am

    Thanks Deepa for starting the thread.

    The thing is we – the current generation if I may say – don’t look at food alone when rating places. Service as in wait, seating, hygiene etc matter too. Ad MTR isn’t sure high on service – arguably, the place is not worth the 2 hour long wait. If they start renting PS3 or Wii while you wait, may be then. Last I went to MTR was in year 2000. 6 and a half years ago!

    Since the place is so popular, why cant they open more branches and satisfy more hungry Bangloreans and tourists?

    Another such overrated place is Kamat’s Lokaruchi on Mysore highway. Service sucks, and food is sure not that good. But it has got that thing going – praising the place has become a fashion.


  15. Ajith (unregistered) on February 26th, 2007 @ 9:12 am

    MTR and Koshys are good museum material and I hope they covert soon, complete with a few touristy souvenirs and t-shirts.

    As far as their core business is concerned, they are among the worst in Bangalore. Only a few dinosaurs and “well-researched tourists” visit them anymore. Glad that someone brought it out in the open.


  16. M O H A N (unregistered) on February 26th, 2007 @ 9:20 am

    IF you are already not aware, things may change for good in terms of waiting time etc as its getting taken over by a norway form.

    Read it here :
    http://kingrooster.wordpress.com/2007/02/13/mtr-sold-out-443-crores/


  17. rubic_cube (unregistered) on February 26th, 2007 @ 9:22 am

    Well – some retaurants/eateries become places of worship in terms of food. We tend to regard places like Koshy’s and MTR’s in such high esteem that those establishments almost take you for granted – that you are not an opportunity for them, but we are blessed enough to be present there. Koshy’s and MTR are old world and a lot of people come there for the nostalgic effect. Food, ofcourse, is great at both the places. BUT — Koshy’s smoke – Ugh! MTR’s crowds, waiting time – Ugh! The francisee idea will rob the place of its uniqueness and therefore it would not work out. People would know that it is not the original and still continue visiting the respective original locations. Moreover these places were designed for the Bangalore of yore! Today’s Bangalore is an altogether different place.

    BTW – I never had to wait more than 30 mins, even for my lunch on a Saturday afternoon. Maybe getting an appointment beforehand always helped. At Koshy’s too… never had a problem getting a seat even on weekend evenings – Saturday nights, for example.


  18. rubic_cube (unregistered) on February 26th, 2007 @ 10:22 am

    Just noticed the “aura of intellectualism”… I cant help but smile about this. Does this not form up in many other situations as well? People of similar interests come together and share what they have. Collaboration brings hightened levels of intelligence. And if it is related to higher intellectual levels like literature (theatre in a way can be considered as part of literature, agree?), science, math and the like. It is good for that establishment, that group of individuals that interact and what gets produced. BUT – if the basic intent of places like Ranga Shankara is to take the place to the common man – then the problem statement becomes how often does common man find echoes of his daily life OR how easily does he identify with what gets produced from these centers of high intellectual activity? Ask me who is to blame – I would blame the creators for they shift from making things for the populace to exhibiting their brilliance. Humility is a lost cause in many such places. What say, agree? Genuinely humble people still stay in touch with the junta and their creations reflect that touch. Anyways – this is a 2 sided thing.


  19. zeeatuva (unregistered) on February 26th, 2007 @ 10:49 am

    This may be a little harsh, but coming from one who was brought up in the Bangalore of old I think to some extent justified, and I think this is the controversy you anticipated:

    First of all, one does not go to MTR for a quick and simple breakfast, least of all on a Saturday morning. One goes to MTR for the experience of going to MTR, and to savor the greasy dosas. Second, don’t go to MTR if you’re not interested in greasy dosas, thats MTR style. Third, typical MTR sambar, or in fact south indian sambar is sweet; I’ll concede that it may have been too sweet. As for the “lack of choice” on the menu – MTR is known for Dosa, Idli, Vada and South Indian coffee – apart from that, why would you go there!? And finally, I’m thrilled that the South Indian coffee in those “trademark silver dentedy tumblers” was to your satisfaction.

    Bottom line, you don’t go to Chungs and ask if they have Filet Mignon. MTR specializes in simple, South Indian food, which is typically and traditionally greasy.

    The hype is not that MTR has a fabulous ambiance, or any level of sophistication – its that it has classic South Indian food, which is (from your descriptions) what you got. And frankly, if you went for the service, you were seriously mistaken.

    So, I suggest that before you criticize a tradition, you actually understand what the tradition is. MTR was known among locals long before the tourists came, and when the tourists leave, and get sick of the “hype” – the locals will continue to go back. Traditions stay on, tourists don’t.

    Apologies for the harshness, but your post hit a very sensitive nerve. And I’ll take my MTR t-shirt and wear it proudly any day of the week.


  20. YC (unregistered) on February 26th, 2007 @ 10:53 pm

    I agree to some extent with the previous comment.

    MTR has been around long before modern day jargon like ambience, atmosphere, friendly service, customer support etc etc came about. They were also the innovators in packaged food, something every Indian household abroad includes in its weekly grocery lists.

    So going to MTR should not be considered as a “restaurant” to be reviewed and printed in TOI or other hep newspapers. MTR is what it has been for 30-50 yrs.

    Yes, one can argue that they need to diversify, modernize, expand, add jazzy servers, include Wifi so on and so forth. But then arent there enough Karavalli’s and Nagarjuna’s doing just that?

    There are so many restaurants that satisfy ALL the dissatisfactory points about MTR, but MTR is what it is. If you one cant wait that long, dont like waiter hanging around them(hands off, I believe is what someone said), well then MTR is not for them.

    For that matter, MTR’s location isnt convenient for parking and the exterior is unimpressive, but die-hard MTR fans will vouch, all of it is worth the food.

    Same applies for Vidyarthi Bhavan. I am sure everyone would complain about the lack of ambience etc etc, but it is what it is and old-timers would always go back despite everything to relish the wonderful masala dosas.


  21. Sri (unregistered) on February 27th, 2007 @ 1:13 am

    zeeatuva: I agree with you. Its part of the whole experience. So, Deepa, If you are not willing to experience it all, please feel free to go the dime-a-dozen darshinis at every street corner. And, this is indeed a very sensitive nerve for every tru blue bangalorean.



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