Welcome to a village home
The Times of India
5 Sep 2002, Priya Bala,TNN

Malleshwaram, if you're the type that doesn't venture beyond Anil Kumble Circle, is a happy mix of the cool and the conventional. Old homes with signs outside that say `Veena classes' share the same street as smart apartments. Iyer Mess is only a short way from a hip cafe. Trendy young things jog in lycra and sneakers, passing Kanjeevaram-clad mamis ambling to the temple.Hallimane, the new restaurant just off leafy Sampige Road, blends seamlessly into this neighbourhood vibrant with life and local colour. As the name indicates, the restaurant recreates the warmth and simplicity of a village home. The award-winning Mistry Architects have worked from the concept their clients -- strict orthodox brahmins -- wanted for an ethnic vegetarian restaurant.

It stays with the rustic theme without any kitsch. Terracotta floors interspered with China mosaic, high roofs that let in light through Mangalore tiles and glass, a helical stairway and several niches contribute to the theme. Design elements -- spirited graphics, murals, grills -- create the image of a playful brahmin boy wandering through the restaurant. While plenty of imagination and architectural style has gone into the making of Hallimane, chances are diners won't catch too many of the finer points. The
reason being that Hallimane is almost always packed tight with customers, all clamouring to buy tokens at the counter or jostling for rava idlis, that few of them may stop to appreciate the skilful design.

Still, it is the design that lifts Hallimane from a darshini to a restaurant that's already become a popular hangout. Hallimane is also stand-and-eat, but there's also plenty of seating -- especially at the upper level where the deluxe thali (Rs 50) is served. You first look at the bill of fare written in Kannada and buy your tokens at the entrance. The kadubu comes out steaming hot and is served with a red chutney and a green one. It's soft, mildly spicy, scrumptious. The rava idli is recommended as are the vadas. Dosas -- onion and masala -- are available at a special counter in the evening.

If you want akki roti or ragi roti it's horagade, at a special counter that virtually spills onto the street. Here the dough for both types of roti sit in huge vessels. Deft hands pat the hard-to-handle dough into circles, slap them onto the hot griddles. A splash of ghee and your akki roti comes out crisp and golden-brown in parts. The ragi roti, spiked with chillies and onions, is probably the best you'll eat anywhere. At another street-side counter there's coffee. Hallimane's brew is superb and costs next to nothing. None of the items on the menu, except the thali meal, costs more than Rs 10.

There are, of course, the `Chinese items' which cost a bit more. It is one of those rules of the restaurant industry that even the most authentic, ethnic menu must be marred by Manchurian. Similarly, the deluxe thali here -- there's also a regular version -- aims to please everyone, with tandoori roti, paneer and ice-cream.

But, happily for purists, the rest of the menu sticks with tradition. And the ragi roti will probably see you return to Hallimane, over and over again. Hallimane, 3rd Cross, Sampige Road, Malleshwaram.