Coffee House on MG Road: End of an Era?

No more coffee stains?

No more coffee stains?

I don’t drink coffee. Never have. But as a student at St. Joseph’s College of Commerce, I whiled away many hours at India Coffee House on MG Road, enjoying a sense of camaraderie with friends – and with complete strangers who knew that we were all, in essence, sipping from the same cup of kaapi: Ye Olde Bangalore.

Yesterday, I learnt that the lease on the Coffee House building has expired, and that they’ve been asked to vacate the premises by 20 Feb, 2009. I’m not sure what concrete steps can be taken to save Coffee House. There is a Facebook group dedicated to the cause; I urge you to join it if you haven’t already done so. Meanwhile, the dirges are already being sung.


15 thoughts on “Coffee House on MG Road: End of an Era?

  1. Yes, I’ll miss it too. But despite the sepia toned nostalgic pictures of Coffee House which will always remains with me, I must confess that the greasy and cracked crockery and dirty spoons didn’t used to draw me too often there in recent times.
    That’s the only spoiler which made an otherwise lovely dosa and chutney highly unpalatable.
    The one thing that also stood in its favour was that it was cheap, for MG Road standards. A cup of coffee for Rs 9, that’s cheaper than Koshy’s. Probably comes only close to the chai guy who supplies coffee/ tea from a thermos for Rs 3. Barista Americano sells at Rs 51 a cup.
    Pls charge me more, and buy some dishwashing soap and scrub! And don’t even get me started on the stinky restroom.

  2. I know, I know. laminated tabletops aren’t my thing either… but I hate to see places like this go down. It’s been around since 1952. Mebbe I’ll do a piece titled “Whatever Happened To…” Whaddaya think? Nominations?

  3. Coffee House is that symbol of everything that is originally Bangalore from the days of yore. It is sad to see our city changing so rapidly. Every tree that’s felled and every old building that goes down, every little symbol of Bangalore that is disintegrated….takes away a little part of us. There is nothing we are doing or can do about it. It’s not really the lousy cutlery or the laminated tables that matter – it is the things which are ESSENTIALLY BANGALORE, things that have become a part of us. We don’t dwell in the city. The city lives in us.

    Well… we can’t turn back the hands of time and stop the waves of change or put an end to the slow poisoning urbanisation, but yes, we can save our Bangalore by saving Coffee House and everything else that is so uniquely BANGALORE!

  4. Well said, Shabbir. It’s exactly that – like I said, I don’t even drink coffee… it’s just that you assume that some things (or even people) will always be there, and when you’re confronted with the truth that they can’t be – it’s hard to swallow. I agree that we can’t stop change. However, I’ll be damned if places like this die out without being noticed or mourned!

  5. Being a BLO (Bangalorean Living Overseas), it breaks my heart to hear news of this sort. I took my wife and son to the Coffee House the last time I visited Bangalore. I felt a pang of nostalgia and reminisced about the hours that we spent here doing nothing and what a great time we had here as teenagers. The walls could have done with a coat of paint or three and the wife was not impressed with the cleanliness or the lack of it, but I explained to her that this was the Bangalore I recognized, the Bangalore I identified with, related to. This was ‘home’………..really disappointing…….

  6. I hate coffee. But I loved Coffee House. I was stunned when I first read about the impending demise of CH. But I am not actually that stunned because the Bangalore I knew is being–or already has been–wiped clear of its symbols. It hurts me to visit Bangalore. If it were not for my parents and the occassional trip to SJCC, I am not sure I would return. I know, I know, it’s a brand, new city; there are opportunities that never existed before. But it’s just not my city any longer. Sigh

  7. Hey Samar – rationally, it isn’t fair to expect the city to stay the same over a 20-odd year period. We ourselves have moved on, to other things and places; we’ve changed as people. While I do feel the same way you do about the homogenization of our cities, I’m also sure that Bangalore means something different to, and holds different icons for, each successive generation – and that each generation will eventually feels the same sense of disbelief and loss when change begins to make itself felt.

  8. Bu that’s exactly where I disagree – it will always be your city, even if you no longer recognize it as such. My sons will always be “my boys” even if they grow their hair, pierce their eyebrows (LORD NOOOOO!!!!) and end up with traits and values I disagree with or dislike. There will always be a part of me in them, and vice versa.

    • hey suman… are abs right.but I do miss those time while driving past SJCC on brigade la bamba…taken over by some builder now…new Eva mall….but that side seems a loot more organized now.The St Patricks side still is the same…scoop,Kanti’s,Gurdial Xerox shop,et al.But Residency Road is changing fast.Shanbhag has shut down.Premier Book Shop is downing shutters today.Most of those stationery shops on Residency Road are gone.Anyways……..

  9. I miss them too. More the times and experiences than the actual places themselves. Homogenization isn’t my favorite thing either, it robs a city of personality – when there’s a crossword in every city, yo don’t know or care whether you’re in Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore… However, I still feel that those establishments had their day, and that change is inevitable…

  10. Coffee House is one of the only places left on MG Road that is still a part of Bangalore’s old culture and history. I am pretty sure many of us are, by now quite bored of the glitzy Malls and shops and KFCs that line MG Road/Brigade Road today…..common symbols of rapid commercialization. It may not be spic & span, but Coffee House has always maintained a rustic charm that is uniquely Bangalore. It will be a shame and a great loss, if Coffee House shuts it’s shutters.

  11. Ok guys, here’s the good news…[but, pls do take it with a pinch of salt…more, if need be, as it’s second or third hand info…]

    Sri Thambu Chetty’s grandsons [the current owners of the building] have been magnanimous in their gesture.

    First, they gave them 3 months notice, nw they hv told them that they can be there until they find an alternative.

    Nw, where on M G Rd wl they find a place for rent @ Rs. 13,000 per month [what they r paying presently]. So I guess they’ll be there on M G Rd for some more time.

    Let’s all thank Sri Thambu Chetty’s grandson/s’ magnanimous gesture in preserving our heritage and legacy.

  12. Long, long ago in an ancient land a restaurant opened to the glee of its subjects. It was a perfect addition to the charismatic and nonchalant atmosphere of a cute little town called Bangalore. Well, this is not the beginning of a fairly tale but in a way it is the story of a revered old institution of this great city. This unpretentious cafeteria hasn’t changed in a hundred years. Amazingly someone had the brainwave to name this joint India Coffee House. And they did manage to change the cushions on those dilapidated chairs a couple of years back. The ambience is spartan with narrow tables and rickety chairs to match which uncannily imparts a retro look to the café. The walls are grubby and lined with jagged litho frames of turbaned ancient old rustics with handle bar moustache and bushy beards.

    The restaurant has two floors; the ground floor is visible from the pavement aided by a sheet of clear glass, which is rather annoying as inquisitive strollers habitually make it a point to peek inside. Reaching the first floor is no mean task as you have to virtually dash across a reeking toilet.

    The food is an assortment of Indian and Continental breakfast dishes. The ubiquitous toast of various hues and taste is on offer. A few of my favourites are scrambled eggs on toast and tomato minced omelette. The vegetable cutlet (Mutton cutlet is also available but it is not as good as the Vegetarian one) is almost certainly the best I have had anywhere. If you like traditional fare then the masala dosa is another scrumptious option, but the crown jewel of India Coffee House is the traditionally brewed coffee. The strong brew assaults your nose first with its robust aroma and then holds on to a lingering after taste in your mouth of very robust & native caffeine. However, be forewarned the waiter in ICH is a breed apart, he is slothful, shabby, mucky & downright uncivil and also expect your food to arrive late.

    If you are lucky you will spot a few celebrities in the café but by and large it is frequented by journos from the next building and senior citizens whom I understand have been visiting the café since several decades. It is indeed sad that this pristine institution is shutting down and we Bangaloreans are subjected to witness the demise of another historical place on account of pure commercial avarice.

  13. First the Victoria Hotel, and now India Coffee House – and many other British era buildings demolished and replaced with glass fronted structures, in between – not even sure what can be done to wake up the city planners!

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