During my recent visit to Gwalior, I decided to visit Indian Coffee House, which is near the railway station, for a shot of filter coffee and dosa. I was so impressed by the quality of food, that I ended up visiting this joint on all three days.
The India Coffee House has an interesting history and it is unique in the way it operates. The chain was started by the Coffee Cess Committee in 1936, when the first outlet was opened in Bombay. In the course of the 1940s there were nearly 50 Coffee Houses all over British India. Due to a change in the policy in the mid 1950s, the Board decided to close down the Coffee Houses. Encouraged by the communist leader A.K. Gopalan (popularly know as AKG), the workers of the Coffee Board began a movement and compelled the Coffee Board to agree to handover the outlets to the workers who then formed Indian Coffee Workers’ Co-operatives and renamed the network as Indian Coffee House.
There are 13 co-operative societies in India to run the coffee houses. These societies are governed by managing committee elected from the employees. There is also a federation of the co-operative societies as the national umbrella organisation to lead these societies.
These are the dishes, which I tried – Mysore Masala Dosa, Dahi Vada, Chili Dosa, Veg Cutlets, Upma and Filter Coffee.
Mysore Masala is a classic, when it comes to taste. I love the chili garlic paste, which is smeared on the inside. The dosa appeared brown and crispy on the exterior and soft inside which enveloped a mildly spicy potato and onion masala. The portion served was quite large. The quality of sambar and coconut chutney was excellent (compared to many eateries who offer similar dishes in Gwalior).
The Chili Dosa was similar to Mysore Masala Dosa, but a tad spicier.
The Dahi Vada was good, but I wish the vada was a little soft than it was served. I also missed the taste of pepper and curry leaves in the vada. The smoothened curd was mildly sweet and tasty.
The Upma was again served with sambar and coconut chutney and probably is the lightest meal one can have. The quantity was good.
The Veg Cutlets had a mixture of potatoes, carrots, beetroot, onion and green peas and was shallow fried to perfection. I only missed the salad – thinly sliced onion and carrots – which they normally serve with these cutlets.
The service is quick and efficient. One will enjoy the costume worn by the servers – white trousers and matching shirts, cumerband and a starched white turban on the head. There is nothing much for ambiance, but the food grabs all the stars, if you are rating Indian Coffee House.
PS: Most of the South Indian dishes are priced below Rs 100, The biryanis are priced below Rs 200 and you also get a selection of North India cuisine.