This place is one of the ’Bangalore heritage sites’, not an dining destination per se. As a further indication that times have moved on from the zeitgeist of this unglamorous place, India Coffee House has been displaced from its original MG Road location to a place on Church Street where further down the street towards Brigade road, you’ll find trendy cafes like ’Matteo’ whose facade could occupy any of the world’s cosmopolitan loci. ICH ,meanwhile, with its yester-year ,slightly mofussil, definitely nostalgic air doesn't need the gloss to draw in its customers because the regulars and curious souls will keep percolating in, to sit in and experience this old-town representative. Its eponymous product- a fairly strong cup of coffee (with sugar and a bit of milk) - is arguably the feature product of the place,while the humble modestly priced menu does not offer any transcendent delights. Still, in a style somewhat similar to Koshy's Parade Cafe (not Koshy's Jewel box!), this place succeeds in creating some reminiscence of the city’s past decades.
Ambience and Service - Its glass front overlooks a compact grassy forecourt. The interior has glass walls on two sides,and the back of this small joint has the kitchen and the cramped, run-down hand-wash space(which could obviously do with some sprucing up).The walls are blue-washed, with clocks on either side, a photo of Mahatma Gandhi (he’d appreciate the spartan atmosphere here but not the mutton cutlets!) ;on one side, there’s a big mirror reflecting a major chunk of the place’s interiors(is it for or against indoor espionage?!) .The floor has small blue tiles, tables are formica topped and the atmosphere is neither stuffy nor expansive. The white-uniformed turbaned waiters do brisk service, ably encouraged by the ultra-fast kitchen. In many places, you ponder why the food takes so long to arrive, but here you’ll wonder how they bang out the dishes so fast!
Food - Taste is above average to middling. Within five minutes of our order, the dishes started started steadily coming in- the one thing patrons won't complain about here is the speed of order arrival! Prices are very reasonable.Old-time customers recommend the Masala Dosa (Rs.26). I’d say it's still above average- ,-but you’ll find that many MD aficionados & connoisseurs will criticize it. The dosa texture and mouth-feel doesn't have that X-factor that keeps the customers religiously attracted to masala dosa hot-spots like Vidhyarthi Bhavan and Upahara Darshini (UD)-Gandhinagar branch. The potato-based masala and chutney here don't spike up the experience either . They’ll need to bring in some dosa experts to revitalize this item’s appeal in ICH.
The scrambled eggs with toast (costliest item on the menu at a princely tariff of Rs.45) just about makes the grade. It's on the blander side- most Indians will need it to perk it up with salt and pepper.The toast didn't boast of expected crunch either. In case you find the food deflating your experience ,remember to look around and chew on the scenery also. India Coffee House’s no-frills functionality and continued maintenance of a bygone air is a blunt counter-point to the jazzed-up modern cafes serving insipid over-priced coffee. You’ll find that many of the customers don't look like they belong to this present or recent decade,and spotting these antique patrons is another charm of this joint. After all, this place derives its mileage from its flash-back effect & ethos, and that is the main course that should be savoured here. Mutton cutlets at Rs.35 (the veg version is also there on the menu) further remind you that it's best to settle for a light snack (not this one!) and coffee here.The hard-to-find mutton pieces are resolutely chewable and these breaded & mashed ,vaguely "milanese" type creations will have even the super-chefs wondering what ingredients are present in these stodgy, eminently undistinguished cutlets. The vegetarian ones however are a superb example of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts - the patty and the tomato sauce by themselves are ho-hum, but when eaten together, they deliciously harmonize.
The menu also has tomato and egg sandwiches (Rs.25 to Rs.28) and variations like a ’tomato mince omelette’. ’Meals available’ ! at lunchtime although I don't have feedback about these. Cold coffee (Rs.26) is not the shaken ,froth-crowned ,bliss-inducing affair here. Rather, it's the chilled unadorned version of the usual hot cuppa, and the best thing that can be said about it is that one can quaff it without gagging.The hot coffee is a reasonably good and strong "filter-coffee", albeit with a thin consistency –well-suited to those who’re looking to down at least 2-3 cups of this over a chat. The long-time clientele doesn’t find much difference in this product compared to its taste from the days yore .
India Coffee House, then, is a place where you can hang out with certain pals and the regular crowd, slowly allowing the ’60s ,70’s feel to seep into your receptive mind. It's not the joint for those who exclusively dig the modern ,the chic and the happening. But if your lady expressly and explicitly says ’take me to a coffee place of ye oldie Bangalore ,minus the frills !" , then this could be the place to head for (assuming that such a retro dame exists!)
The following is the "P.S" note written at the time this article was first published in 2011 - One may now sit here ,reflect on our great 2011 World Cup victory and additionally reflect on the fact that 28 years ago this was one of the few still surviving places in which the previous generation analyzed and exulted in our 1983 triumph!
Veg Cutlet in ICH
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