Shanta Bhavan, Shanti Vihar and others in between


As a resident of Mylapore – in Mandaveli Street in 60s and the 70s and off Luz Church Road thereafter, restaurant-hopping has been my favourite pastime.

From the nearest ‘hotel’ to the famed Shanthi Vihar in Luz Corner, it was a sort of the pilgrimage of a seeker to satisfy the ever-wanting palate.

Plumb opposite Mandaiveli Post Office there was Shanta Bhavan. The agarbathis at the cash counter could not stifle the aroma of the hot coffee.

My favourite item here that was my benchmark for all hotels was the plate of two idlis and one vada soaked in sambhar.

The two idls and one vada floating in the first round of steaming sambhar would be cut to bits, using the spoon, so that they could absorb the onion sambhar. Once done, the server would pour another mug full of sambhar and that would be a heavenly breakfast.

Today, in that place is a three-storey building that seems locked most times or lives in the shadows.

I had also tried this idli-vada combo in a hotel close to the Mandaiveli bus terminus; here, the server, a seemingly-trained musician of some talent, would pour the sambhar while humming a raga. He sounded good at it. So was the sambhar!

The best idli-vada-sambhar combo, by my standard, was served in Prakash Bhavan, that place near a bus stop on Venkata Krishna Road. I don’t think it exists today. Or does it?

While many foodies sang highly in praise of the Rayar Mess, I loved the little Devi Vilas which clung on to old walls near the Chitrakulam in Mylapore.

Here, the menu was written on a little black board and what we ate was orally communicated to the cashier as the customer got up to wash his hands.

For years now, Sukha Nivas in Luz has been my go-to place. Time nor floods nor pandemic can affect the taste of their kurma and potato supplements served with the chappathi or parotta or poori.

I wonder how old their cooks are today?

One cannot but mention Shanthi Vihar in Luz Corner. ( My guess is that lots of Mylaporeans still recall this restaurant and glance at the plot, now built-up where it once stood, when they walk or drive past here).

What I loved best here were its meals. I am talking about the food here in the early 70s. I always ordered here, the dinner I sponsored for the newspaper reporters who came to cover the public meetings I arranged at Sastri Hall. Oh, those North Indian dishes whose fragrance came from the rich ghee used in their cooking.

Another place for meals I have frequented was located in a street house on Adam Street (nicknamed by some of us as Gundan Mess).

This place had selective customers with what we all call home food. Being an old Mylapore street house, you bent low to pass under the main doorway. (Was it a tiled house? )

The owner here had his rules and you were admonished if you left food on the leaf. He just didn’t like it and hinted he wouldn’t let you in the next time. He remembered the names of his clients well. (Balaji saar ku elai podu. . . . . Sampath Kumar inniku varamattar… )

As the pandemic months set in, I limited my outings to a place closer to home. This one on D’Silva Road called Sarvam Krishnarpanam. The place agreed with me and I agreed with the menu here.

And I can see that it has also become very popular!

  • T. S. Gopal is a social activist and Mylaporean for over 50 years. Presently lives in Hyderabad but his heart ‘resides’ in Mylapore.


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