What all Indians living north of Hyderabad refer to as South India losely consists of 4 states, sorry five now! Andhra Pradesh, Telengana, Karnataka, Tamilnadu and Kerala. Though there are many common foods they all enjoy, like dosas, idli and sambhar, there are considerable differences in cuisine too. And it is high time we “North Indians” learn to differentiate and allow our palates and our taste buds to relish the difference. Not for nothing they say – ‘ viva la difference!’
And yes, living in Nagpur too we can avail this opportunity, because Nagpur being the true centre of the country has representation of all states and people. After careful scrutiny and sampling we bring you six Nagpur eateries that will offer you true South cuisines with all the subtle differences.
Indian Coffee House, Sadar
We begin with the southern most tip of India, Kerala. Coffee Houses was an institute that was begun by this state to bring its coffee and foods to all Indians. They truly introduced us to our dosas dipped in coconut chutneys dunked in sambhar and washed down with steel tumblers full of hot filter coffee!
Served by waiters in full uniform with a smart turban, the Sadar Coffee House is the only one of its ilk left in the city. It serves you the full gamut with the added attraction of Kerala Parotta – very different from the North Indian parathas we are familiar with – that one can enjoy here. It also serves eggs in various preparations – omlettes, scrambled and sandwiched between toasts. With affordable rates, this is THE place to visit for choice of breakfast. Even their cutlets are legendary!
You may like it or not, you may HATE the service and the attitude, but there is no getting away from Gokul for the genuine South stuff. This is of Andhra origin – where typically it is the Reddys who are in the food business. There will be an extra spicy tinge to the chutneys and sambhar and that is probably why Nagpur people favour it so much. Nagpurians throng there not just to sit and eat in the heavily crowded at all times multi storeyed restaurant but also bring parcels home, specially on weekends.
Southern Elements, Laxmi Nagar
This one took us by surprise. A hidden gem tucked away in South Nagpur it serves authentic Tamil, Iyer cuisine. The sambar will be milder, but really aromatic with blended flavours of dhania- tamarind- tur dal and coconut with the compulsory drum sticks and pumpkin. They serve ‘Kanchi idlis’, pongal and ‘passaretu’ ( moong dosas) which no one else does. Pasaretu only on Wednesdays or prior notice though. The onion, tomato chutney they serve is unique too. The kanchi idlis, upma and pongal will be replete with cashew nuts too! Do try it out once – you will go back again and again!
Sankalp, Central Bazar Road
Frankly, our opinions were divided on this but there is no getting away from the fact that is the poshest air conditioned destination for a wide choice of South indian foods. It offers dosas and idlis with a twist of modern and continental, i.e. loaded with cheese and butter. Thus you have a dosa that looks almost like a pizza! But it comes with a variety of south Indian chutneys, even ‘Mulgapudi’ (also affectionately called ‘gun powder’ by Southies!) blended in oil. The filling is also by choice – you can have Chinese style, onions, tomatoes and capsicum or potatoes cooked in different ways.
Another curiousity – this is South Indian food conceptualized and designed in Ahmedabad, Gujarat! Yes, Sankalp is a chain that originates from this city. We found its sambhar closest to the Kannadiga ( Karnataka) variety since it is slightly sweet.
You also get Kerala parotas accompanied by ‘Malbar’ curries here apart from a wide choice of idlis and dosas.
A little heavy on the wallet compared to others, but definitely not an exorbitant ‘fine dining place’ you can definitely visit for a special occasion or when you want to really treat yourself to a feast.
Veera Swami, Sadar
The other end of the spectrum from Sankalp – but definitely 100% South Indian. Tamil. There is stand and eat only, but the aroma of the sambhar will drag you inside whether you are hungry or not!
This place was one of the first to offer Only South Indian tiffin – served for those in a hurry. You have no time to sit, to talk, you are not particular with whom you are rubbing shoulders with – but you want to imbibe something that is soul satisfyingly South Indian. Go to Veera Swami!