For old times’ sake

old coffee house

Old Coffee House, a new multi-cuisine restaurant in Shanghumughom, attempts to recreate the magic of the old Indian Coffee House on the beach

Shanghumughom beach has long been missing a place where you can sit down for a meal facing the sea, with the wind in your hair and the nip of the sea breeze to whet your appetite. No offence to shacks nearby that dish up delicious thattukada fare – they’re simply not everyone’s cup of tea. Ever since the iconic Indian Coffee House (ICH) restaurant shut shop a few years ago, those who wanted to grab a bite to eat have had to look beyond the seafront promenade and walk/drive quite a bit to restaurants further inland. Now, here is Old Coffee House, a new restaurant, bang on the beach, the ambience of which, at least, is bound to take foodies on a nostalgic trip back to when the ICH and the badminton court inside the hangar-like GV Raja Indoor Sports stadium were the hottest hangouts around.

Admittedly, those sepia-tinted memories were what led us to the newly-minted Old Coffee House in the first place. For those not in the know, the restaurant was once the the old stomping ground of countless college students, poets, writers, politicians, industry titans, technocrats, sports-persons and filmmakers, who used to flock there for its mutton omelette, masala dosa, chayaand kadi. On a personal front, family lore has it that it was over Shanghumughom ICH’s special cutlet that the uncle and his girlfriend-now-wife saw their love blossom. The restaurant has even been featured in films, the last of which was, perhaps, Shyamaprasad’s Ritu… “We contemplated calling the new restaurant Sea View, but everyone we talked to kept reminiscing and raving about ICH. Hence, in tribute, the name Old Coffee House,” says Kuttappan Arun, one of the entrepreneurs behind the venture, as he shows us to a table in the al fresco restaurant, which is situated on the same pavilion where ICH used to function.

Indeed. The merry ghosts of food, people and conversations past surround us as we soak in the ambience. Cosmetically things have improved a lot. The familiar utilitarian décor has given way to shiny wooden, steel and leather furnishings. The rough concrete flooring has been replaced by trendy tiles. There’s a juice shop at one end and what’s presumably a cart for short eats at the other end. The restaurant’s mighty crowded and we realise we’re lucky to even get a table.

The menu is standard fare, with a bit of everything – ethnic, Indian, Chinese and Malabari dishes “to appeal to clientele from all walks of life.” It’s mentioned at the end that it’s only a trial menu and that they’re asking patrons to give suggestions on what kind of food they’d like to have on the menu. Mutton omelette, perhaps? “The full menu will be up and running by September 1. We hope to introduce more grills and Thalassery items. The menu for Fridays and weekends will be more elaborate. Also, we’ll be introducing cutlet on the menu, in another nod to ICH, and we will start a tea-snack cart on the pavement in front,” explains Arun.

He recommends appam and stew as the restaurant’s signature dishes. A surprisingly short wait later, the starter is served. We’ve chosen erachi pathiri, which is typical fried pathiri stuffed with chicken. Kozhi ada, Ethapazham porichathu and Chicken pakoda are the other kadis (snacks). Then comes appam-stew. The appams are just right; soft in the middle and thin and crisp on the outside. The stew too ticks all the boxes. In fact, the combo tastes engagingly familiar – just like the one we used to get at Flavours. “We inherited some of their chefs when the restaurant closed,” explains Arun.

The dishes for the main course arrive without further ado. We’ve chosen fried rice, noodles and garlic chicken, in addition to beef dry fry and beef masala. The beef dishes were undoubtedly the best buy, abounding in scrumptiously rustic flavour. There are no desserts on the menu but the few juice items (grape, watermelon, musambi and lime juice) more than make up for it.

Pocket guide: Three-course meal for two would cost about Rs.500

Taste guide: Appam and stew and beef fry

The restaurant is open from 12 noon to 11 p.m. (even later on the weekends). The snacks usually get over by about 6 p.m. Contact:  0471 250 5050

 

Read Original article here : http://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/Food/For-old-times-sake/article14588930.ece

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