‘MTR, Bengaluru’ by K.J.S.Chatrath

I first went to MTR way back in 1977 and was really impressed by the food and cleanliness. Then I went in 1985. The quality of food was perhaps a notch lower. Next was a trip after about ten years and I came back unhappy as the person handling the queue in which I was standing was treating the customers with less than politeness. The latest visit was in the middle of January this year. But before I talk about my impressions during this visit, a little history of this remarkable eating joint needs to be shared.


The Mavalli Tiffin Room (MTR)

Mavalli Tiffin Rooms, known more popularly as MTR, was started in 1924. It is now located next to the Lal Bagh Gate. It was set up near Lalbagh Fort by two brothers, Yajnanarayana Maiya and Ganappayya Maiya who came down from  Parampalli, near Udupi. In 1936 Ganappayya Maiya decided to go back to Parampalli and Yajnanarayana Maiya assumed full charge of the restaurant. It was originally called ‘Brahmin’s Coffee House’, but the name was changed when it was shifted to a bigger premises in 1960.​


I have drained off all colours from the photo above and made it a little hazy to try to give an impression of MTR in the olden days.

In 1950, Yajnarayana Maiya undertook a European tour to see for himself how restaurants in other parts of the world functioned. The cleanliness and hygiene there opened his eyes. He resolved that MTR would adhere to the same standard of cleanliness. He distributed small booklets on health, proper eating habits and recipes. He introduced the system of sterilization of kitchen items. He also introduced the system of opening up the kitchen to the scrutiny of any customer who was interested. In fact, for a long time customers entered the restaurant through the kitchen so that by default they saw with their own eyes the hygienic methods of food preparation.​​


lalbagh-bangalore-jan-12-2014-055-420-50In 1994 the company split into two divisions. The packaged food business was taken over by Sadanand Maiya and the restaurant was continued by Harishchandra Maiya. MTR Foods, the packaged food division, was sold to Orkla of Norway in 2007.​ MTR opened its first overseas restaurant in Singapore in 2013.


I joined a conducted morning ‘Green Walk’ in Lal Bagh last month. One of the attractions was that after the walk, the Group would have a joint breakfast at the MTR.It was a fixed menu for us and we started with  a grape juice.


I had a problem as I thought there was an overdose of greenery in this dish. My concept of a good dish is that the embellishments should be kept in a low key- just the tease the partaker.


The ‘dosa’ was good. Just good.


 ‘Ghee’ is served with ‘dosa’ and some other dishes.


 The ‘gulab jamun’ tasted as ‘gulab jamun’, nothing very remarkable though its shape was different.


 The sweet dish we took was a sort of saltless ‘mathi’ in plenty of tasty ‘rabri’.


Since I was part of ‘Green Walk Group’, we were served coffee in silver glasses. This is how coffee used to be served in the MTR in the past. The coffee we got was good filter coffee- nice aroma and good taste but nothing extraordinary.

The whole place  appeared dimly lit and overcrowded. Not my kind of an ambience. The quality of food is nothing much to crow about. In fact I am sorry  that I have been a witness to the falling standards of MTR over the decades even though its coffee still is so many notches above the dishwater served as coffee by a giant Multinational Company.

I hope MTR will again bounce back. And soon.

(Text with some inputs from the website of MTR)

Photos, text and copyright: K.J.S.Chatrath

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