I’ve heard rave reviews about Andhra Bhavan from friends and even from the husband, but never had the opportunity to go there myself until recently. And boy, was I in for a treat!
Located in the quiet, tree-lined Ahsoka Road in the Connaught Place area, inside the Andhra Bhavan, is this small little foodie paradise. It scores high on food and low on ambience – be warned, it is a canteen. It is crowded. And noisy. There are plastic tables and chairs. You have to wait for a table. But it is so worth it!
We reached there around 3:00 pm on a Saturday. Most of the other patrons looked like local Andhraites, an excellent indicator of the quality of the food. And the food is cheap. I mean, seriously cheap. The thali is pure vegetarian, meats are ordered as a side dish. Since both my friend and I are light eaters, we opted for one side dish each – a mutton fry and a chicken fry – along with our thalis. And that set us back by a grand total of INR 460. Which is what a single dish costs at most establishments. Oh, and did I mention it’s an unlimited thali?
Since we arrived for lunch at 3:00, we were able to get a table immediately and the crowd started thinning soon, so overall, I’d say that’s a good time to visit. Just have a slightly heavy breakfast so you don’t faint on your way there and you’re set!
The thali has 3 vegetables, rasam, sambhar, dal (lentils), 2 poppadams, puris, rice and a sweet dish. On that particular Saturday we had pumpkin, which was nicely mashed up and retained its sweetness; a tomato, onion and courgette vegetable, which almost tasted like a chutney – the tanginess of the tomatoes complemented perfectly with the slight sweetness of the onions; and potatoes, which were quite similar in taste to the potato filling in dosas – not a taste I am particularly fond of. The rasam was piping hot and spicy without burning the tongue. The sambhar was very flavourful, not like the tamarind-heavy concoction that most run-of-the-mill South Indian restaurants serve. You could taste the flavours of the dal with the tamarind and other spices and the individual sweetness of the vegetables. And the mutton fry was simply to die for! Soft, melt in your mouth bite-sized pieces of mutton flavoured to perfection with the spices, coconut and curry leaves that Andhra cuisine is famous for. The chicken fry also had its own distinctive look and taste – a perfect melding of the spices and the meat.
There are also a number of pickles on the table, but I didn’t try any. What you must have, though, is gunpowder (also kept on the table). It’s made with a number of dals and spices, including split gram, moong dal, chana dal, red chilli powder, black pepper, asafoetida, cumin seeds and salt dry roasted and ground together into a powder. You take a couple of spoons of gunpowder, put 1–2 teaspoons of ghee over it and make it into a paste. Have it with rice. Yummy!! I had it in copious quantities – and unlike what I feared, it wasn’t unbearably fiery. Or maybe my palette has evolved!
Once we started eating, all conversation stopped, so engrossed were we in the flavours and the food. The staff was courteous, and they came around with re-fills as soon as we could ask for them.
All-in-all, if you can ignore the ambience, this place is a must-visit for the food. I know I will be going back for more soon!