Three months ago, Vadodara’s Canara Coffee House moved into a new double-storeyed building, only a short distance away from its old location in Dandia Bazar. In June 2016, when the old building was demolished, regulars were dismayed at the loss of their favourite haunt. One such loyalist was US-based Deepak Bhagat who is delighted that the café has reopened after two years. “I was 21 years old when I first came here and it remains my favourite place in the city. The dishes would cost Rs 5 back then. No place ever can make Puna misal like them,” says the 58-year-old.
Many, like Bhagat, are drawn to Canara Coffee House for the taste of its food and its modest pricing — both of which have been retained in the new avatar. Located in a predominantly Maharashtrian neighbourhood, the modernised café is spiffy in blue and white, but a vintage phone, an old wall-clock and a transistor radio by Philips retain a link with the old café, as does the signature Puna misal (steamed lentils with chiwda, topped with yogurt), which still tastes the same.
The café is now spread over two floors. It has tied up with online delivery platforms. The menu, which remains the same for the most part, features three new additions — Mysore masala dosa, masala dosa and cheese masala dosa. It’s open from 7 am to 9.30 pm and, unlike the old café, which was closed on Tuesdays, it remains closed on Mondays.
Canara Coffee House was opened by Vasant Rao Mahale in 1945. Originally from Pune, Mahale had moved to Vadodara five years earlier.
The present owners of the coffee house, Rajesh P Kudva, 43, and his wife Gauri, 41, Kudva, took over in December 2018, after Rajesh’s father Panduranga Kudva, died in August that year. Panduranga himself had taken charge of the cafetaria after Mahale, his brother-in-law, died in 1981. With the opening of the new cafe, the business will remain in the family’s hands, since Rajesh and Gauri’s son, who is in his last year of school, has expressed an interest in joining his parents. He is already making sure to spend time in the café everyday to learn the business.
A land dispute with the original owners and a proposed road widening project by the city had compelled Panduranga to go ahead with the demolition of the original premises. The new café, however, is slowly regaining customers. “We used to get enquiries about the caféteria when we had closed after the demolition. We did not advertise the new location, nor have we put up any signage anywhere. But our strength is our customers and they spread the information by word of mouth. Every day some old customers turn up and tell us that they came to know that we have resumed the caféteria and have come immediately for a visit,” Gauri says.
This article appeared in print with the headline ‘Families in Food – A Cuppa and Nostalgia’