Samridhi, the canteen located in the heart of the sprawling grounds of the Kerala Bhawan in Janpath, is inside a building that serves as a sort of an annexe to the beautiful main building painted a brilliant white and built in the style of a gothic mansion; a splendid example of the Victorian architectural style ubiquitous in this leafy colonial enclave in the heart of New Delhi.
The approach to the Bhawan is itself a delight, as one walks past a street flanked on both sides and above by a canopy of dense foliage, and then passes by the serene and majestic Jantar Mantar observatory buildings. The surprising lack of traffic minutes away from the busiest parts of the city is a pleasant experience that sets the mood for a scrumptious meal that awaits one at the destination. The prices at the canteen can be described as God’s own cheat code.
The day’s menu is scrawled on a whiteboard outside the entrance to the dining room where tokens for the meal are purchased. There is a different menu for lunch and dinner. Now for the best part. The maximum prices of dishes are usually 50 rupees or maybe 60-70 if you’re taking special biryanis during weekends. Such prices are absolutely unheard of in any other establishment in Delhi where you can hope to eat in a decent setting. Even Andhra Bhawan canteen, another state-subsidized eatery not far from here, makes you cough up a minimum of 120 rupees for a meal/dish.
Kerala Bhawan: First Time Experience
For the first time, I along with my mate went there, it was evening and we settled on a lavish spread of a meal and fish fry. All for a princely sum of 150 rupees. A similar order at the Andhra Bhawan would set you back by 360 rupees at the least. The meal had sambhar, rasam, two separate vegetables including a spicy tuber (probably southern potatoes) and a delightful mash of greens and some masala paste. All these vegetables and lentil soups were excellent in their taste. The rice was a flat, thick grained one that was very different from the basmati or sticky rice we were used to, being made of more hardy stuff. The showstopper, expectedly, was the stupendous fish fry.
The fish fry was a relatively tiny Ayala. However, it was fried to a perfect crisp and the internal flavours if the flesh were intact and safely ensconced under the batter. I ordered fish curry as well and the results were divine. The sour red curry infused with some kokum like substance was bursting with the flavours of fresh seafood. The fish itself was delightfully fleshy and had the freshness that only newly caught sea fish can have. The texture was slightly rubbery but non-impervious in a good way, allowing juices to pass through but not falling apart at the same time.
We were left with no room for disappointment or boredom. My friend had buff fry with ghee roast dosa that intrigued me enough to make a mental note for the future.I await my next visit with eagerness.