As our bus arrived in Lalbag, our destination in Mangalore city, it had begun to drizzle. We were greeted by mild showers and gentle breeze and it convinced me that our food excursion in Mangalore would be a pleasing experience.
We hopped into an auto-rickshaw that ferried us to our hotel. He dropped us at our hotel which was a within a mile from the bus stand and charged 30 rupees, and that was a reason enough to bring tears in my eyes. Having stayed all my life in Pune, I had constant tiffs with auto-drivers in Pune on the fares that they charge, and this constant bickering has resulted into my expectations from their fraternity hitting rock bottom. So when I go to other cities and get to meet auto drivers who are polite, not hostile and do not demand exorbitant charges I feel humbled.
We spent next couple of hours in hotel room unwinding. I spent most of this time under shower. A warm water bath, after a 15 hours journey seemed blissful. By 10 AM we were in hotel cafeteria inspecting our complimentary breakfast. It was the routine affair, just what they serve in every CP Plan in Indian hotels. Idli, dosas, Paranthas, egg preparations, juices and salads. Well it did not seem tempting enough and nothing in that menu offered us any glimpse of true Mangalorean flavor. We decided to give our complimentary breakfast a miss and stepped out in pursuit of a true Mangalorean experience.
A stroll of 2km which involved a 1.5 km of walk from Navbharat circle towards Bunts Hostel circle, and 0.5 km of walk to Jyothi circle, took us to our first food destination “Woodlands Hotel”. It is magnificent from outside with a huge parking area, but the moment you step inside, all the magnificence disappears and the unassuming and austere interior greets you. The dining area is large enough to seat 50 people, but the ambience is subdued and nothing worth mentioning.
We settled down on a smallest table that we could find and waited for the service. The server turned up immediately and offered us the menu cards. We ordered Goli Baje, but to our disappointment we were told that this dish is not served until lunch hours, and so we had to settle down for typical South Indian breakfast affair of Rawa masala Dosa, Medu-vada and filter coffee. The order turned up on our tables in no time and each of these dishes had impressive taste. Rawa masala dosa was perfectly crisp, and to my liking mashed potato portion of masala dosa was served at the sides and not spooned on the dosa which meant dosa remained crisp and retained its crunch till the last bite. The medu vada was crunchier and no dreadful extra oil that spoils the taste. The server insisted us to try their Veg cutlets and we thought it would be rude to decline his offer. The veg cutlets were perfect, with a crisp outer coating and softer inside. To my liking, stuffing was subtly spicy with a sweetness of beetroot that countered it. The aroma of coffee whirled through the air before it actually arrived on our table. The first sip of coffee was blissful and we felt rejuvenated by the time we finished our coffee.
Ambience: 2* Service: 4* Taste: 3-1/2* Impact on pocket: 200 rupees
We spent next couple of hours going around the temples and churches in the city. Next destination was one that every Mangalorean feels proud about “Ideal Ice cream Parlor”. There were a wide range of options available and I get confused when I have so much to choose from. However, our driver Mr. Clement had already tipped us off that “Gadbad” flavor was the most sought of flavor and is synonymous with the outlet itself. And so it was the Gadbad and Tiramisu flavors that we ordered. The outlet was fairly empty when we reached there, but in no time hordes of people came from nowhere and the place got full. They have fairly large seats and I felt they could have done a better job with their seating arrangements considering that sometimes you may have to share your privacy with a total stranger. The taste of ice-cream eked out mixed response from us. The Gadbad flavor provided a satisfying experience whereas Tiramisu was ordinary.
Ambience: 4* Service: 4* Taste: 3* Impact on pocket: 300 rupees
We had an eventful and tiring day filled with lot of sightseeing which included a visit to Nandini Dairy (This place is a must visit, if you are intrigued to know about the working of the dairy processing industry. They allow visitors), a science museum and a zoo. We had rued couple of times that day of having missed the opportunity of having Goli-Baje and our driver seemed sympathetic to our feelings, and so he ferried us to a small eatery named Swagat with a modest menu but seemed to be very popular as it was thronged with people. We ordered Goli-Baje, Batata-Ambade and our usual poison (filter coffee). It seemed the attendant got tricked by our not so Mangalorean pronunciation and he brought us Poori-Bhaji. So much for Goli-Baje. It took us some convincing abilities of Mr. Clement to persuade the attendant to take back poori-bhaji and get us some goli-baje. Finally it arrived on our table. They say that it is one of the staple snack items of a Mangalorean and with the first bite we could tell why. The coating was slightly crisp and as we took a bite, crispiness gave way to the softer inside. It felt very light and fluffy as we gorged on to it and chunks of coconut and shreds of ginger surprised us in a pleasant manner. Our first experience with this humble snack was fulfilling, but we knew we would definitely have it few more times during our stay in Mangalore. The other dish on our table, batate ambade felt similar to batata vada that one could spot on streets of Mumbai or Pune and there was nothing different about the dish that deserves any special mention.
Ambience: 3* Service: 3* Taste: 4* Impact on pocket: 200 rupees
We were too full and too tired that we decided to skip our dinner and call it a day a little earlier than usual. We had planned for our Day 2 food excursion to start from Udupi- The Temple city.
Read about our Day 2 food excursions here