Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Modern Hindu Hotel

Little did the late K.S.N. Hebbar know that more than eighty years after he started the Modern Hindu Hotel, office goers , businessmen, tourists and hundreds of other Mumbaikars would line up at his boarding house in South Mumbai to eat simple South Indian’ meals on the banana leaf .

Hebbar came to Mumbai after leaving the Vishakapatnam hotel he used to work in when the owner refused to give him his monthly four annas salary. Using his brother’s savings, he set up Modern Hindu Hotel in 1926. It used to cater to the lodging and boarding needs of the textile traders who frequented Mumbai from Chennai, Tirupur, Cochin, Erode and towns in Andhra Pradesh during the cotton textile boom.

Modern is nestled on the fourth floor of the 1900’s built Apeejay Chambers on Wallace Street close to the Sterling and New Excelsior theatres in Fort. It would be better to take the high wooden steps than the lift as you can build an appetite and do justice to the meal that you are about to experience. You will pass by their lodging facility on the third floor and see a television belting out a south Indian channel being keenly watched by the lodgers... After you have taken a coupon from the counter you will pass the spotlessly clean kitchen to your left and come to two rooms with old style wooden chairs and tables which can seat twenty two people at a time. Take a seat by the verandah and through the grill you will be able to see the old and heritage building tops of the Fort area.
Modern serves simple South Indian meals on the banana leaf at a very affordable Rs 45. A typical meal consists of unlimited dal, vegetable, sambar, rasam, chapattis, dahi or buttermilk, papad, pickle and a mountain of rice which the regular South Indian clientele lap up with relish. .

Although Hebbar hailed from Kattingeri, a village near Udipi in Karnataka, he incorporated cuisines of the various South Indian states in the food. They vary the vegetable preparation, the rasam and sambar style on a daily basis. The sambar is made in the Tamilian style with shallots or with raw masala or fried masala and sometimes with or without coconut. The rasam could be with any one of these flavorings… horsegram, tomato, pepper, green chilly,ginger or simply the normal rasam. Amongst the vegetables you will be able to eat Avial, Morkootan, Koot and many other varieties or any popular vegetable prepared with coconut in the Manglorean style. Be sure to take an extra rice papad which is crisp and light and sourced specially from Chennai.

Modern feeds more than 225 people daily on week days and don’t be surprised if you have to wait in a line to have your meal during peak lunch hours. Regulars like Sudhakar Shetty; an insurance investigator who resides in Mira Road, a distant Mumbai suburb has been coming here for the past twenty five years. He likes the food as it is simple, light, tasty, hygienic and very homely. Prashant Chopra, a corporate executive who has come here once before liked the food so much that he brought his colleagues along this time. “Awesome” he says and adds “ This place is clean and has simple food seeped in old tradition, something that we are losing in today’s modern and fast world”.

Though there is no sign that says “The owner eats here”, A. K. Hebbar has been having his afternoon lunch at Modern ever since he took over the running of the place in 1966 from his father.” You will see me eating my meals here at 2:30 pm every day”. This is because he wants to know what his last customer has eaten to ensure that the same quality is being maintained. He says that Modern will be around maybe for maximum of five or ten years more. The business is loss making due to the high taxes and rising prices of ingredients and as his father had started the place with the objective of ‘community service’ , he does not want to drastically increase the price of the meal. Secondly his well settled sons are not interested in carrying the business forward.

So hurry and go to Modern Hindu Hotel for a simple South Indian Meal seeped in tradition before it is too late.

Modern Hindu Hotel
12,Wallace Street, 4th Floor, Apeejay Chambers,
Wallace Street, Fort, Mumbai 400 001
Tel: 22072992/22072778

Timings: Lunch: 12:00 – 2:30 p.m.
Dinner : 7:15 to 9:00 pm
(Had written this for Touchdown Mumbai)


GP said...

Hi Abodh,
This is Geetha, Gauri's sister.
How are you doing? Hv read you on HT Cafe. Good stuff! Have also looked through a couple of your posts and they have been truly insightful.

Needed help- we have a friend who has a well-bred male dalmatian. They are looking to mate him. Would you know of anyone who might have a suitable match?

Can I pls have your email id for further communication.

Cheers :)

parikrama said...

Looks very mouth watering.. Thanks for the very informative write up. I ended up reading (in one go) Modern Hindu Hotel, Bhaji Galli.. Irani Cafe posts. A wonderful read on a rainy saturday morning. Do keep writing.

Tirza said...

Good for people to know.

Gaurav said...

is modern still around? i think they shuttered down from what i have been told!