Monday, February 4, 2008

Sri Gattikal Coffee Works



Bangalore is where things have traditionally been put to pasture. Hyder Ali tried to retire his troublesome army chief quietly, in Bangalore. The British turned Bangalore into a hospice for weak and wounded soldiers. Professors, accountants, and army officers retired in Bangalore to escape the heat and disorderliness of the plains. Ageing rock bands perform swan-song concerts in Bangalore. Old and unhip foreign institutions open new botoxed-up avatars in Bangalore, hoping for a final blaze of glory before biting the dust.

One such institution opened quietly on St. Marks road this year. I watched in distress as the antique-chic Barista and Nineteen Twelve were scooped out of the old Bible Society buildings, and fused into one huge space. My Indian sensitivities bristled as the yellow neon Hard Rock Cafe sign was hoisted over the door. I was only slightly mollified when a sign that said "Bengaluru" was tacked on underneath it. I watched them knock down walls, open up windows and re-structure courtyards. I hoped and prayed that they wouldn't convert the beautiful old building into another jarring modern eyesore that we certainly didn't need.

Fortunately, they didn't. It looked just as pretty as before, notwithstanding the yellow neon. As expected, people flocked in on the opening weekend. I didn't feel like battling the crowds, so I stayed home and did my nails for a couple of weeks till they died down. This weekend, a cousin and I finally decided to go find out what all the fuss was about.

"Hi surrrrrh", sang the ubiquitous Manipuri maitre d'ni, as we walked in and looked around. The old granite walls of the building had been left intact. The newly installed distressed wood flooring and furniture gelled perfectly with the rough stone. The mezzanine floor had been ripped out and a purple-lit bar put in its place. The old vaulted Mangalore tiled roof soared high above us. Elegant picture windows looked out at the the beautiful LIC building across the road. Slightly scuffed rock memorabilia, guitars, costumes and photographs glared down at us from glass coffins all around.

"Vyelkam to Hord Raak Cyaf-fayyyy!!" screeched our waiter Manjunath 'Call me Mannie' S.V., and went away while we studied the menu. Aside from standard American fare, it had an enigmatically named section called "Namma Bengaluru", that featured 'local specialities' like paneer wraps, pita bread and hummus. Wonder what my grandmother would have had to say about that.

"TGIF plus fifty rupis, no?" remarked the cousin as we glanced nervously at the prices. This was true. The menu read exactly like a marked up version of the already overpriced TGIF in Indiranagar. Luckily for us, they had half portion salads and the like, which we instantly ordered. "They'd better be good", I grumbled. "Medam, just I will check if Vanill 'odka shtack is there and come won minit." said Manju to the cousin. After a brief consultation with the ever-grinning bartender, he returned triumphantly, glass in hand.

The drinks were pleasant. The salads and mashed potatoes (yeah I know, whats the point) that we ordered were nice. The service was courteous and unobtrusive. The DJ played lovely classic rock. The obnoxious bartender interrupted our reverie periodically by yelling out to people that arrived and left. The gifts section had endearing "Hard Rock Cafe Bengaluru" tshirts, and little autorickshaw keychains.

I have to admit though, that they've succeeded somewhat in giving the place a Bangalore twist. Perhaps it was the familiarity of the music and the old building, or the comfortable kannada accents of the waiters that did it. In fact, for some bizarre reason, it reminded me of a big bad super rich cross between Guzzlers Inn and Windsor Pub. As for the grinny screechy bartender, I'm going to ask Manju to wrap him in a Bengaluru speciality and drown him in a barrel of Vanill'odka.

Old Bangytown has proven itself yet again, to be a perfect pasture ground: this time, for an ageing temple of Rock. To enter it, however, you need what most Bangalorean rock lovers do not have: TGIF plus 50rs.

Acknowledgements: Photo of the Hard Rock Cafe from SloganMurugan's brilliant photoblog.

25 comments:

Poojitha said...

Gatti kallu!!! muhawawa..wat fun is say!! Luvly post ...u Shud hav made it "Paraangal Cafe"..he he

narendra shenoy said...

We have one in Mumbai too. Built on the lines of an aircraft hangar. I took the brood there, and muchas amigos and in my opinion it is TGIF multiplied by 2. My net worth, never impressive at the best of times, resembles that of a Central African republic after this adventure. At least the music was good (I could actually identify one or two of the songs, that is).

Vanill'odka! You're impossible!

Karan said...

Uncle, I expected you to comment on the Madonna bra in the menu.

Anonymous said...

Bang this!! AJM Aaghoitu... Key chains lookin like Auto is kewl it ees...

maxdavinci said...

gatti kalu! damn you almost had me there....

was under the impression it was one of those kanadda-tam words you often use....

A lot of my chums tell me that they almost charge you at the dollar rate!

Kavitha said...

lol..

y no hard rock idli, kaapi'odka there at shri shri gatti kallu? che che...u should protest!

plush said...

wow...gatti kallu in benglooro!alugadde bajji sigotha alli? aha..gnr n bajji..whaat a cambi...thanq sir..

Abhipraya said...

LOL :)

Gattikallu cafe too much (this is like the elephant rock bus stand someone once pointed me to)

You know dude I can actually see why some of my women friends want to start a Bikerdude fan club :D keep it coming I say!

Pri said...

i love that buliding. it used to be hmv house before it became barrista. i remember going to meet alisha chinnai this one time to take autograph. i was some 12 i think. made in india had just released and i was a fan. heh. wattenall they are doing to my bangalore.

anoushka taraporevala said...

am i correct in guessing that gatti kallu is a kannadification of hard rock?

and bite your tongue, biker dude! hope your premonition that this is the swan song of the beautiful bible society building never never comes true. some things never die and that building is one of them. one has spent many delightful evenings in them, in the beautiful courtyard, chomping the anglo-bangalore food, in delightful company. so, bite your tongue and never say die.

Bikerdude said...

Poojitha: Yeah youre right. Parangal is the correct term, including the feeling your heart gets when you are presented with the bill lol

narendra: Heh@ central african republic. Yeah, not a great idea to host a party there unless you have a deathwish!

karan: Correct, I saw that one, but forgot about it. Neev comment maadi Aunty, adara bagge :)

anon: Yes all manner of Bengaluru memorabilia. Im glad for it actually, though not planning to buy anything anytime soon!

maxdavinci: Yes they do, in fact. BUt then if TGIF has managed to survive this long with those atrocious prices, why not HRC? Atleast the music and ambience is better.

kavitha: Well the waiters look like they'd be ready to serve something like that pretty soon :P


plush: Allveyyy!! Totally boss. But nimge bajji and rock bekadre, no place like Purple Haze on Residency road and their famous mixed veg pakodas. Unbeatable.

abhipraya: Uyyo blush thayanks ree :P

pri: Oh yeah Id almost forgotten that the old HMV house used to be there. Memmmmmorieeeeeeessss :)

anoushka: Yes. Gatti = Hard Kallu = Stone. Guess I should have used the word Bande(rock) but the idea was to make it sound like a traditional North Karnataka surname. Filter coffee powder shops are usually named after the families that run them.

By the way, I was refering to Hard Rock Cafe as an outdated concept being put to pasture in Bangalore as usual, not the poor Bible Society buildings. Hopefully they'll outlast us atleast!

Prats said...

Thats a sure nostalgic journey....the different face that building has seen, but never could live up to its name anyway....your name Gatti kallu is so apt now....

Pri said...

http://mainsandcrosses.blogspot.com/2008/02/st-marks-road.html kindly be seeing.

SloganMurugan said...

Please do. Will try for a better shot soon.

Bikerdude said...

prats: Well to its credit, it was indeed a book society for a very very long time (1912 to 1999), so I suppose it has earned its keep. I'm really glad its around. Kind of reassuring.

pri & slogan murugan: Thanks! I linked it.

sloganmurugan: Whata beauty photoblog I say you have! Too much it is. Uff.

plush said...

yes...first thing to do when bac to nammooro...purple haze..here i come...

RustyNeurons said...

unkil, new post wanting..

comment_raja said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
comment_raja said...

not sure if im thrilled about this development. id rather have seen a nice indian restaurant in that great space.

the pattern seems like the very low end restaurants in america, do really well in india (kfc, pizza hut, tgif). Im hoping its the brand marketing and not purely the fact that it is american that is the selling point.

Anonymous said...

Laay moga, aaklaa allige hodhay ? Somka jaggli malae kuntondu beedi saadekondu errakaaggalwa ? Barli ninnaappa beelthawae aatu chennagi.

Bikerdude said...

plush: banni banni, naanu barthene. Hard rock anthe, cafe anthe :P

rusty: gulp, hauda. sari bareethene thali

comment_raja: You're dead right boss. Fortunately I think Indian self respect and pride is on an upswing now, so people wont blindly rush into places and spend 1000 money just because they are American. Case in point being Ruby Tuesday on church street. Silent as a tomb- cos of it's atrociously priced disgusting food.
The new HRC is worth a dekko for sure, but regular visits are out of the question.

Bikerdude said...

Anon anna: Ayyaaa, byasara jigupse maadkobyadi budhdhi. Sumke jusht'ange tamashi nwaadakke haththe ashte. Appung yaeL byadrappa. Yekda bich hodidhu bajji madbudthare.

RustyNeurons said...

Ayyo rama!!! I said, I wanting new posts flowing from BD's keyboard ...

Anonymous said...

awesome post dude !! makes me nostalgic about BLR.

Anisha said...

Ayyyo ! You are tooo funneee I say !!! (chuckling vehemently)

Oh what good luck to chance about this killer blog ! Bikerdude !!*bows*

Dying to tell yowryrbody about this lil treausre :)