Ankur, set up in 1941, is one of the oldest restaurants in Fort. Kiran Mehta drops by the iconic eatery for an exclusive peek of their makeover that includes an innovative bar menu to compliment its authentic coastal fare
“Back in the day, when my uncle started the restaurant, the chef cooked over coals,” recalls Devdas Alva, who inherited Ankur from his uncle and founder, Mudanna P Shetty. Taking us through the history of this Fort landmark, Alva continues, “For my uncle, Ankur was more than an eatery, it was a shrine; a temple. He didn’t even allow us to step inside with shoes on!”
The ‘funky new bar’ hopes to pair drinks with coastal cuisine
Started as a ‘respectable’ pure-vegetarian Udipi joint by Shetty, it was only decades later that the need was felt to introduce a bar. “There were a few basic bars in the area; but there was no space that served vegetarian food, while also providing a space for businessmen to conduct meetings.” Ankur decided to fill that gap, and in 1973, it became a vegetarian restaurant and bar.
Fish Kochi is cooked in black pepper and goes well with Neer Dosa
Gradually, Alva decided to cater to the changing palate. In 1994, Alva, much like his astute uncle, tapped into his coastal heritage and introduced non-vegetarian fare. The result — Ankur soon became known across the city for its delectable seafood. Patrons mentioned it in the same breath as Mahesh Lunch Home. “Yet, Ankur was never slotted as a ‘lunch home.’ We have always had the tag of a ‘restaurant’,” says Alva, proudly.
Kokum Margarita is new to the bar menu, and is a tribute to the coastal favourite drink.
From restaurant to bistro
That tag has been re-jigged to that of ‘coastal bistro’, with the menu now sporting an alcohol glass on its cover. The change can be attributed to the fact that a New York-educated mixologist walked into the Mangalorean joint. Gaurish Rangnekar has studied at the New York Bartending School and also has a certificate from the Cape Wine Academy. He recently partnered with Alva to create a ‘funky new bar menu’ for Ankur. And with this, the old-timer, Ankur, is creating a buzz.
— Gaurav Rangnekar (right) with Devdas Alva. They hope to shake things up with a rejig of Ankur’s bar menu in particular. Pics/Atul Kamble
“We gave the bar menu careful thought; while we kept a few old favourites, we’ve introduced a few drinks that pair well with coastal cuisine,” adds Rangnekar. The decor too has been altered to speak out to the spirit-loving patrons, with bottles gracing the walls. The rustic wooden ceiling, cosy seating, and dark-wood bar bring to mind an Irish pub. While Alva adds that “the food menu is exactly the same”; Rangnekar chips in, “the effect of the drinks on the palate promises a new experience.”
With that we’re ready to dig in and slurp up. We ask the duo for recommendations, and they floor us with an array of dishes and drinks. We start with a vegetarian appetiser, the Baby Corn in Green Sauce (Rs 280). Visually appealing with bright green and yellow; it also scores for taste with garlic bits adding bite to a mildly spiced dish while the corn itself gives the dish crunch.
Sea, spirits and smiles
Next, we move to another appetiser, Prawn Kundapur (Rs 450), named after Kundapur, a coastal town in Karnataka. The prawns are juicy and succulent, while the dry, red, hand-pounded masala is as fiery as it looks. In one serving, our eyes begin to water, but the flavours are addictive and we can’t stop. Rangnekar whips up a Tamarind Martini (Rs 400). It seems almost as though the drink was tailor-made for the spicy dish. The cocktail, consisting of tamarind reduction, lime juice, and sugar syrup, teases the palate. Almost numb after the prawn-fest, the palate is refreshed with this concoction.
Next, we bite into the Kerala Mutton (Rs 340). The meat is tender and mildly spiced. Steering towards seafood, we bite into the Fish Thekady (Rs 390), and the Fish Kochi (Rs 390). The pomfret fillet dishes work as appetisers, or as mains if enjoyed with Neer Dosa. The two dishes are similar in spicy-tangy flavour, thanks to a ginger-garlic base, but the Kochi is cooked in black pepper, while the Thekady dish is smeared with red chilli.
Bursting at our seams, yet wanting to savour more, we opt for the mains: Meen Gassi (fish curry) with Neer Tella (neer dosa, Rs 450) and the Paneer Chaman (Rs 250). The Meen Gassi consists of tender fish (pomfret) pieces doused in coconut curry infused with spices. Wrapped in moist, delicately flavoured neer dosa, this dish probably defines soul food. With these mains, Rangnekar serves up the Kokum Margarita (Rs 420). Sugar syrup adds sweetness, which is cut by the region’s favourite, kokum juice, and a hint of lime; while chaat masala lines the rim of the glass. This drink once again was made to complement the flavourful food.
Finally, we wrap up the meal with Caramel Custard (Rs 190). Alva informs, “My wife makes the caramel custard at home; we have just limited numbers each day. She makes the dish from scratch.” Fluffy and caramelised to perfection, it’s a fitting end to a fiery meal.
Ankur means seedling, and given the many transitions of the restaurant over the years, including this recent one, it continues to grow into an enterprise that’s bigger — and with Rangnekar’s input — intoxicatingly better.
The new menu opens to the public on Wednesday, December 3. This was a preview and hence. could not be done anonymously.
Open: 12 pm to 3.30 pm; 6pm to 12.30 am
At: Tamarind Lane (M Shetty Marg), off Nagindas Master Road, Fort.