By John B Monteiro
Mangaluru, December 8: I am happy to read that Inasam’s Pereira Hotel in Hampankatta, Mangalore is celebrating its centenary as shown on the Daijiworld homepage. My date with this heritage restaurant dates back to 1954 and it is not a cherished memory. A little background to dispel the fog is needed.
After taking the SSLC at SVS Bantwal High School in 1954, my next destination was St Aloysius College, Mangalore. There were few service buses connecting Mangalore to mofussil points in the area. So, starting early in the morning, my dad and I walked through hills and valleys to join the main road at Farangipet (a historic foreigners trading post (Farangi – Portuguese who sailed the Netravathi River from Bunder). Then we walked down the road (more like a cart road then) to reach Padil where we could catch a town bus to Hampankatta. All the while I had to carry a steel “trunk” containing my sheets and towels. meager clothes for my stay at the St Aloysius hostel in a building big name “Palace of the Hill”.
Our first destination after getting off the city bus was the Inasamache hotel. We were served steaming boiled rice on a large plate and the waiter went to the kitchen to bring the rest of the bonus. I was so hungry that I took a handful of rice and stuffed it in my mouth. My father got angry and strongly lambasted me for my lack of manners and patience.
But I never blamed my dad or the hotel for it, as the following excerpts from an article I wrote six years ago for The Hindu Metroplus attest.
People are nostalgic for old restaurants. One of them, the Pereira Hotel, is located in Hampankatta, in the heart of Mangalore. It is an institution where dozens of workers and middle class people satisfy their hunger at affordable prices. It serves authentic Mangalore cuisine, using recipes passed down to cooks by its founder, Ignatius (Inasam) Pereira.
It is recalled that while working as a butler at the parish house of Milagres, Pereira was encouraged by the vicar, who also provided seed money to start a restaurant. It was launched in 1921, in a small room with a low tiled roof, where it offered simple and healthy meals.
Hotel Pereira, then known as Hotel Inasamache, drew crowds of farmers who came to Mangalore from rural areas and managed to find cheap food.
Inasam ran the hotel until his death in 1975, passing the ladle to his son, William, who ran it until his death in 1987. It was then inherited by his two sons, Oscar and Oliver, the latter being the owner since 1993. the original one-storey structure has given way to a multi-storey building, with the hotel operating on three levels. It can accommodate 100 guests on the ground floor and 70 others on the first floor. The current manager of the hotel is Mr. Victor D’Costa.
A meal basically consists of a full plate of boiled rice, a bowl of rasam (saaru, for vegetarians) or fish or meat curry, a vegetable and a salad. The lowest price for a standard meal is Rs. 15. There are extras on offer which can be ordered on a “full” or “half” plate basis, depending on one’s budget and appetite.
While workers frequent the downstairs dining room, there is a family dining room on the first floor. In addition to meat and fish dishes, the hotel offers sannas, chapatis, parotas and pancakes. As for the main course, try the pork sarpotel, chili fries and vindaloo and roasts on special days. Special masala fish, molly fish and oil fried masala fish are some of the other specialties. A similar range is also available in mutton and chicken. The hotel’s specialty is “Porc Chilly”. The premium item of the “Pork Fatless Special” menu is priced at Rs. 150. The other popular dish is the “Pork Sarpotel” priced at Rs 50 for half a plate. The availability of fish dishes and their (variable) prices depend on seasonal supplies. The hotel emphasizes providing authentic and healthy Mangalurean meals at affordable rates. .
Many NRIs, returning from abroad, often return to the hotel for their tasty meals and to take in a bit of nostalgia. Even as new hotels and restaurants have spread throughout the city, this restaurant has, and would have, its share of regular and loyal customers.