Vadodara’s iconic and oldest cafe, Canara Coffee House, that represented the yesteryear charm and served its signature Maharashtrian and South Indian dishes, has met its end. Late on Sunday night, the restaurant was demolished by its owners, with a promise to return in a renewed avatar. For its hierarchy of fans – some second and third generation foodies – the loss is irreparable.
Social media sites were flooded with eulogy from frequent patrons comprising students, executives and senior citizens, who reminisced the waiters with a pencil tucked behind their ears, taking down orders for the signature Poona Misal of the restaurant – steaming hot rice flakes and steamed lentils topped with yoghurt – and its dosas and uthappas; most importantly its inexpensive rate card that remained mostly unchanged over the years. As an assurance to its patrons, 82-year-old patriarch Pandurang Madhav Kudva, who has been running the coffee house, said, “We will be back within some time and this is just a renovation we are doing. It is also an emotional time for us but we have to change with the time. We will be back with the same old taste and love.”
Kudva says, “Nobel Laureate Venkatraman Ramakrishnan (Venki) has been a regular visitor to the cafe, since his days at Maharaja Sayajirao University. The coffee house was also frequented by several popular cricketers from Vadodara.”
Kudva said he had no idea that the Coffee House had a Fanpage on Facebook that was struck with shock and grief – the demolition, although rumours had been spiraling, was unexpected. A long-drawn dispute for the land with its original owners and a proposed road widening project of the VMC compelled Kudva to take the bold new step. He has purchased the plot and is now planning to design the structure to ensure that the impending road widening by the civic body does not hamper his business.
Kudva said, “I am happy now, as we have purchased the place where we ran our coffee house for a such a long time. However, I was upset by some of the social media messages which said, ‘RIP’ and ‘we miss you Canara Coffee House’, I want to say them this is just a new beginning.”
Kudva said that his staff who have been loyal for the last 40 years, will also return. Kudva said, “My staff is like family; that is the secret of our business. My restaurant will be closed for next three-four months but they have said they will work with us. That is the biggest wealth I have earned.”
Kudva who shifted from Karkala village of Karnataka at the age of 20 to help his brother-in-law Vasant Rao Mahle, who founded the Canara Coffee House in Vadodara on June 10, 1954. And, there is more assurance from the patriarch. The price at the brand new Canara restaurant will also be carried forward. “I don’t like to charge more, as poor people are also coming to my coffee house.”