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Eating out: The urban Udupi still rocks

By Abhishek Mande
Last updated on: February 15, 2010 13:27 IST
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Abhishek Mande reviews one of the oldest South Indian restaurants in the city that tosses up food at the speed of light.

Cafe Madras is not exactly a place that will elicit a second look, unless of course you happen to pass by the area on a Sunday morning. Hordes of people await their turn outside this nondescript Udupi restaurant.

Udupi is a South Indian cuisine that comes from a district of the same name in Karnataka. The cuisine came to Mumbai when blue- and white-collared labourers migrated from various parts of South India to Mumbai in search of better prospects.

Like all Udupi restaurants, Cafe Madras too is a simple eatery-next-door, designed with no frills. There are no AC sections in this one and though it was renovated a few years ago, it retains the old world charm. It's not a place you can sit and chat over a cup of coffee. It is where you go if you want to eat your heart out, period.

I request a table for two and am told I won't get one for another 30 minutes. Looking at over three dozen people waiting around me, that is a good average by any standards. The serving time in an Udipi restaurant is typically five to seven minutes. And unlike any fast food joint, the dishes here have to be made from the scratch.

We order for a sada dosa, idli, thuppa dosa and wada sambar and a serving of spicy mulgapodi or dry chutney made of sesame seeds and served with coconut oil. This of course is over and above the sambar and bland coconut chutney, which come complimentary with the dosas and the idlis.

Twenty minutes later, the plates are empty. Two glasses of filter coffee make their way to our tables. The waiter deftly pours the coffee into a slightly wider glass for it to cool.

In another five minutes, we are paying the owner, Dev (short for Devavrat) his dues. Dev is a third generation owner who, as Udupi tradition demands, mans the cash counter.

The total bill for all that we've devoured has come to a paltry Rs 150 or a little over USD 3. A photograph of a certain Mr Kamat looks on solemnly from a wall. I am told he was the founder of this restaurant and Dev's grandfather. It is almost lunch time now and the crowd has increased twofold. You make your way out with some amount of difficulty and wonder if he'd foreseen this success.


Cafe Madras
38 B Circle House
King's Circle
Bhaudaji Road
Mumbai 400 019

Phone: +91 (22) 2401 4419

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Abhishek Mande