We were in Kolhapur – Maharashtra -India on a holiday. Our day had begun early as we had finished with the visit to the Mahalaxmi Temple (Ambabai) as she is more popularly known. The crowds in the temple necessitated a long wait for the darshan (sighting for blessings).
It is a very old temple about 700 AD and is attributed to the Chalukya Dynasty. She being ourfamily deity, at the break of dawn we were there all washed and clean. Love the Temple architecture, in Black stone and it's intricate carvings. The courtyard is huge and has a lot of other associate deities who have been added over from time to time in the precincts in separate shrines.
After being done with the puja it was time to visit the other shrine that is dedicated to the goddess of the stomach & fine palate, Padma. Hotel Padma is a five minute rickshaw drive from the Kolhapur temple. In our first visit we did not even know the directions to it. We were only told, get inside any autorickshaw and tell the driver “Hotel Padma” and unerringly you would be reached. It actually happened that way. Hotel Padma is the other pilgrimage site in Kolhapur but here the devotees take a different form. Those devoted to the pursuit of a qualitative satisfaction to hunger pangs.
This place is close to 80 years old and started out as a boarding house. Over the years the format has not changed; the manner in which meals are made and served is the same but now the boarding house has lodging facilities too. The menu has increased by leaps and bounds to include a-la-carte but no true connoisseur should have anything but the regular meals ( Thali ) here. It is available in 3 varieties Mutton ( Goat), Chicken and Vegetarian. No self respecting foodie should have anything but the mutton thaali.This is the signature item on the menu. It is something to die for. The fare is very basic and simple and costs about INR60- 75 per plate depending on the extras one orders.The line to get in is as long as at the temple but there are lots of tables and clearance is pretty fast. The dining hall is non-ac and huge fans whirr above you and the place was bright and airy in the afternoon. Kolhapur can get pretty hot in the summer afternoons but the double lined stone structure kept the interiors cool enough.
We did manage to get in and sat at the corner of a large steel table that would accommodate 12 covers. The others were too filled up immediately. We ordered one Mutton and one Veg Thali ( for the wife, she can be rather devout when she chooses to be ) . The buzz in that place is seen to be believed. At one glance around 200 odd people were stuffing themselves and the waiters were being kept busy. Within five minutes of sitting the glasses were arranged and the Thaali was on our table. We had also come here at peak meal times and it was a standard order to the kitchen.
The Veg Thaali had two vegetables one dal one paandhra rassa three chappaties and one portion of rice along with chopped onions and pickle. The simple mutton thaali that I ordered (They also have a special ) consisted of Mutton Masala cooked in traditional style, one bowl of white curry ( paandhra rassa), red curry ( taambda rassa), one bowl of kheema ( mince) and three chappaties which were piping hot and smeared with peanut oil. Freshly chopped onion rings was the garnish, rice would follow. Hailing the godess we dug in. The first portion of mutton that went in my mouth melted, so beautifully tender was it. The gravy is thick and medium spicy. The white curry made up of peanuts and poppy seeds and coconut is to offset the sharpness of the spice. Then I tried the mince. It was roughly grated mince, chunky, deliciously cooked and flavoured with garam masala. This is very unlike the kheema that one gets in the Muslim or Irani restaurants of Mumbai, Delhi , Lucknow or Hyderabad the only four cities that do justice to the mince in India. I added a fifth name to the city list today. How is it, the wife asked and I just nodded my approval with my mouth full, chomping and chewing incessantly. "Abso Brilliant" said I when finished chewing and promptly filled it up with another morsel. She didn’t seem mighty excited with the Veg thaali and was enviously peeping into my plate. Within ten minutes had finished my first thaali and ordered my second..This time a special. The wife stared at me aghast, while the waiter had a “this always happens here” look and promptly brought my repeat.The special had an egg curry additional with a sweet. It was a rice kheer. The total damage to our wallet INR 275 including tip
We polished off the great meal with two long glasses of buttermilk and slept like logs till seven in the evening at our hotel. It is my strong belief that proper respect and devotion to GREAT cuisine is best expressed after consumption, by being in a supine position, with blankets drawn , fan or ac on full blast . Snoring is optional.
Hotel Padma ,Sadar Bazaar Kolhapur, Kolhapur, MH 416003