If you discount the long queues and the cacophonous Telugu-speaking staff at the Andhra Bhawan canteen, it is surely godsend in terms of the variety and flavours of the food served inside it. It is not only a home away from home for people from Andhra Pradesh but an eating joint where people from all walks of life converge to indulge in its epicurean delights. So, we took no time when this assignment came our way to get our hands dirty in the sublime mixture of rice, gunpowder, ghee and a lot more at this famous haunt.
A supervisor manning our table enthusiastically gave us an introduction to the order of courses in an Andhra meal. The Andhra food experience should essentially start with a dry concoction of rice, desi ghee and Andhra’s famous gun powder (lentil spice powder). Progressively, it moves to more watery items such as dal, curries, sambar, rasam and ends with curd, accompanied along the way by mango pickle and gongurapachadi (tangy sorrel leaf chutney).
Surprisingly, you are told that most of the times, the traditional Andhra meal starts with a sweet such as payasam. Staff at every level, from the manager to the servers, insist on dishing out more dollops of rice and curries that would put even an eager to please mother-in-law serving her brand new son-in-law, in the shade. Another aspect that jumps at you is the efficiency of the operation. One can see tables being manned, customers being assigned to the right tables, food being served and tables being cleared in a matter of minutes without any chaos.
A quick enquiry reveals that majority of the staff is Telugu-speaking to help the canteen deal with umpteen number of MLAs, MPs, and bureaucrats from Andhra Pradesh.
One look around the spartan hall teeming with lunch hour traffic clearly brings home the message that this place is a great melting pot of people from different regions and culinary expectations. And all that for a mere hundred bucks worth of unlimited vegetable thali!
We beat the rush hour by arriving promptly at noon and were greeted by the staff going through their chores of cleaning the premises for the impending rush of food lovers and regulars thronging in. We bring our sumptuous lunch to a closure with curd accompanied by a dash of mango pickle and coriander chutney.
Ofcourse, we would love to come back on a sunday when the best of all Indian biryanis, unquestionably the Hyderabadi Biryani, is served in the most authentic Andhra restaurant in town.