Time travel back to the Tanjore of yore with thaen mithai, goli soda and Athangudi tiles on the floor
Stepping into Thambi Vilas is like going back in time. To a 1650s and ’60s Tamil Nadu of yore. Athangudi tiles splay out under our feet. Old school bakelite switches sit within compact frames on the walls. And a lone gramophone sits like royalty in the corner, relaying soft strains of a yesteryear Sirkazhi Govindarajan song.
Goli Soda and a flashbackBy this point, choosing from a range of Gola Soda, Paneer Soda or Paal Sorbet seems like a natural progression. The only thing left is to do is the meet the senior citizen reminiscing all of these memories back to life — and say ‘thanks for the walk down memory lane’. Funnily enough, it turns out to be a 27-year-old.
“I found out about a year ago that my great grandfather’s father had a confectionery unit in Singapore,” recalls Arun Prasanth. “This was back in the 1950s,” he recalls. Incidentally, this is the same restaurateur who is the owner of Tovo Infusions, popular for their infused chicken. Catering to a niche and mostly contemporary segment of foodies — Prasanth says he had been looking for a while to appeal to a more a mass palate.
Food is a feeling
In this regard, the subtly flavoured Thanjavur Mutton Biryani does not disappoint. The dosas are crisp and rich with ghee. You can opt for your eggs in a meaty Chicken Omelette or a slightly underdone, Kalaki-style. And do not miss the Thambi Vilas Special Vanjaram Fry that is heady with flavour and spice and comes wrapped in a banana leaf. “It’s the kind of food that is relatable enough that when people visit, they want to bring their parents and grandparents and in-laws,” says Prasanth. “And when that happens, you know it’s not just the food or ambience that’s drawing them back, it’s a feeling,” says Prasanth with a smile.
Mutton and mithai
Several trips have been made in lieu of research to villages in Thanjavur to keep flavours and decor authentic. “I’ve dug out rustic bronze jugs
sitting in the attic of our ancestral home, and collected recipes from the oldest member of every place I’ve visited,” he shares. Also laudable is the fact that authenticity in the kitchen is driven all the way from Thanjavur, with native grains like seeraga samba, mutton and thaen mithai that tastes just like it did when you were in school.
With 150 seats, this place is large enough to accommodate your family and extended clan. On crowded weekends, the old school
petti kadai at the entrance with tall jars of butter biscuits, peppermint and kadala mittai makes for a nostalgic waiting area, before you settle in.
Average cost for two Rs 400. Details: 28340620
— Sonali Shenoy