Friday, 11 September 2015

Iyer Mess in Malleswaram - What a Let Down!

Being a true-blue Tam Bram, and wanting to eat a traditional meal in Malleswaram, I had Googled for ages and decided to hunt down Iyer Mess for a delicious Friday lunch. I was quite familiar with 7th Cross and 8th Cross Roads, and was confident of finding the place in a jiffy...Little did I know I'd be going round and round for well over 20 minutes!

Finally, I had no option but to pop into Sri Krishna Sweets, an old favourite, and enquire there. They very kindly offered to show me the exact location...and so, I trudged along till I spotted a large board pointing to "Iyer Mess". Turns out it is at the very end of a really small (as in less than 3 feet wide throughout) passage. I was wary and apprehensive on seeing the dimply lit passage...As I neared the entrance to the passage itself, a large black dog bounded up from another gate and was hastily shooed away by people around...Not a Good Omen, I said to myself!

I entered a small, not very clean room, about 10 feet by 10 feet, and at one corner sat the owner lady with her cash box. Dour-faced, unfriendly, she stared back at me as I neared her desk. I requested one meal and she turns to the side and barks at one of the serving staff, "Are the vadas still available"? Then, she says it would cost me 60 INR. She then thumps a plastic token on the table, points out to a  2-seater table and tells me to "Go, sit there". I crossed the small room and plonked myself on the rather uncomfortable steel stool, then proceeded to unfold the banana leaf, splashed a few drops of water on it and wiped it clean - all set for what I'd come here - LUNCH!

There were 4-5 other lunchtime diners, at various stages of their meal. I waited, and waited some more. No action from the owner lady? And then, the power goes off! Our lady gets up, only to shout at someone to "Switch on the generator"...A loud noise and a whiiiirrrrrr, and the stench of diesel fills the air, the lights come back on. And I am still hungry...It was sheer determination that made me sit tight and hold on to the thought of a good Tam Bram meal. I was as close to the entrance (exit?) as possible, next to a  window. The urge to flee was very strong indeed...

And finally, one of the serving staff comes to my table and plonks a Masala Vada and a bowl of White Rice. Another comes along to place a small plastic container of Yogurt by the side. Another wait...Then come the Pickle, Carrot/Coconut Dry Curry, and Drumstick Sambhar. I quickly started gobbling up the food as I realised I was being stared at in a rather uncomfortable manner by the idle serving staff and some hangers-on (I guessed, from delivery services)...The sambhar was the typical "arachuvittai sambhar" (with fresh ground spices and coconut) one gets in Tam Bram households. Halfway through this course, someone places a Fried Papad on my banana leaf. Half of that goes in too...

Again, another wait for a few minutes till someone comes to enquire if I wanted more Sambhar or Rasam. "Rasam", I mumbled, by now, totally freaking out and wanting to run out...The place was getting creepier by the minute! Rasam was nothing to write home about. There was then just the Yogurt to consume, and then I could be out of this place, I told myself...A few more people had come in by then, and were also being served slowly. I hastily finished my "Curd Rice" and found out diners had to proceed to a rather dirty hand basin, next to a trash bin, to wash their hands. Not a very pleasant experience...

As I ran out of the little passage and made my way to the afternoon sunshine, I thanked my lucky stars I was not as desperate as the regular diners of Iyer Mess! Once was enough in this dingy, unclean eatery - never would I make my way to it again for as long as I live...To all those who CLAIM to be foodies, please STOP recommending Iyer Mess as an option for Malleswaram! The location is hard to find, the place itself miniscule, hygiene dubious, food very ordinary and service poor...As a single diner, and a woman, I would not suggest this eatery to others like me.


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