Bengaluru Military Hotels — Boot Camp

The worne out wodden doors, red oxide floors and iron grilled windows takes us back in time to the 19th century settings. These places of tantalising meat dishes are termed as ‘A very Banglorean thing’. First of such kind Hindu Military hotel is know to have been established in the heart of Bengaluru in 1906 by a man named ‘Govind Rao’.

According to some, military hotels appeared around the 17th century to cater to Shahaji Bhonsle, and his successor Shivaji’s meat-eating armies. Another legend states that when the bubonic plague struck Bengaluru in the late 1800s, women and children were sent away to distant villages, and military hotels started providing sustenance to farmers who stayed back to tend to their fields. Many others believe that such eatry places came into existence to serve the hungry militants of Tippu Sultan. These places were their centres for warfare discussions.

“Most hotels were run by the Maratha descendants of Shahaji Bhonsle who conquered Bengaluru in 1638. They added the prefix Hindu to make it clear that they did not serve beef or pork,” says artist and art historian Suresh Jayaram. The cuisine is essentially South Indian, Ragi Mudde (millet balls — a quintessential Kannadiga dish) and mutton being prominently served on the menu. The food is generally prepared on charcoal fires. Typical menu items would be nati chicken (called Koli in the local language) biryani, mutton chops, kurma, ghee rice, paaya (leg) soup. Country liquor was once on the menu at most military hotels. Now however, hearty meals take precedence and alcohol is no longer served.

Dating back to a century old is S G Rao Military Mess is probably the oldest military hotel in Akkipet in the heart of old Bangalore pete (town), a mid-day meal outlet for most of the Sandalwood film-stars. Nati (local or country) chicken is best had at Maratha Darshan, run by Naveen Lad and his mother; Right behind local Congress headquarters, this hotel is crammed with party members and politicians. Shivaji Military Hotel is topped the list with all time buzzing crowd craving for their best biryani served at the heart of South Bengaluru (Near Banashankari Bus Stand). Not too far away is Ranganna Militry Hotel run by Munirangappa, a ex-pehelwan (wrestler) and a professional kabbadi player serves the best playa (leg) soup. In the busy heart of City Market lies the N.V. Naidu Military Hotel, whose small entrance leads into a broad corridor lined with stone tables and chairs.

The hallmark of these family-run restaurants is the limited menu, consisting of dishes made from closely guarded recipes. The eateries are typically tucked away into the city’s by-lanes, but most began in what were once prominent parts of town, such as Kalasipalya, Majestic, and Malleswaram. Over the years, the hotels have remained true to that legacy. Patrons still flock to Gowdru’s in Indiranagar, Chandu’s in Malleswaram, and Rajanna in Kamakshipalya. These places of historic militant cusinies serve food in famously known ‘donne’ — dried serving leaf cups at economical costs.

Exploring food comes in a package of extravagance history, people, culture and traditions. All these make the food exploration so much more curious and irrisistable. “Food is art which feeds the soul to rejoice” it’s a way of art passed on from generations to generations, preserving their rich heritage and culture which unfolds in today’s sands of time!

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