Saturday, August 19, 2006

Mango Tree, Hampi

It’s been a little while since I’ve updated my food blog – largely since I’ve been traveling a bit internationally which makes scheduling food reviews hard and have been caught up with work, and also since I haven’t eaten anyplace really worth writing home about. Until now. When I visited Hampi. While the lovely Mango Tree restaurant isn’t in Bangalore (the theme of this blog), it’s stirred me enough to pen this piece.

Turn right at the Virupaksha temple at the end of Hampi Bazaar, head towards the river, turn left by the bathing ghats and walk about hundred yards down and you’ll see the little hand painted sign of the Mango Tree restaurant on a tree. Walk down the little mud pathway through the banana plantation and you enter a little house with a thatched roof. Park your sandals by the side, wash your hands at the nearby basin and you are ushered inside the lovely restaurant facing the spectacular Tungabhadra river.

The open air restaurant offers seating on straw chatai on granite slabs pleasantly spread across multiple levels like steps in an amphitheater that eventually descend down to the river. A large mango tree towers above the restaurant, offering shade while still providing splendid views of the river. A lovely swing tethered high up on the tree hangs down – an idyllic rocking chair which at full swing reaches out dreamily into the expanse of the mighty river.

The restaurant itself is quite modest, providing simple low seating with reclining support on sloping walls, gas lamp lighting, and basic furnishing. But the sheer beauty of the place offers an ambience that is sensual, lively and vibrant while still being relaxing and refreshing. A natural and unassuming ambience that few 5 stars hotels can hope to provide, and far less can achieve.

While my expectations of food were quite low, I was quite delighted by the excellent thali offered (Rs. 30). The menu offers a range of continental dishes, with a variety of interesting variants like nutella chapatti (inspired by crepes?). When you consider how remote Hampi is, and the lack of qualified chefs, the range and quality of the dishes served up was highly commendable.

If you are headed there at night, plan on taking a torchlight along since the streets leading to the restaurant are not well lit. Also, you may want to know that alcohol is not served at establishments in Hampi since its a pilgrimage center. But then, in such an ambience, you can be assured - your spirits will be high nevertheless.

Cost: Rs 50-250
Cleanliness: Excellent
Quality: Good
Service: Good
Ambience: Terrific
Bottomline: If you haven’t been to Hampi, make it your next holiday hop. And when in Hampi, plan on a lazy afternoon at the Mango Tree.

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