Wound up at Ananda Bhavan Vegetarian Restaurant without planning for it whilst walking around the area around Mustafa Centre after dinner one day — was only looking for a some post-meal tea-session with our friend but decided to walk into Ananda Bhavan Vegetarian Restaurant after noticing that there wasn’t any tables available to sit down around the drinks and snacks stall at Mustafa Centre. For those who are unaware, Ananda Bhavan Vegetarian Restaurant has quite a history — the establishment was founded in Singapore since 1924; nearly a century-old by now, and first started serving up South Indian vegetarian cuisine. They currently operate from five (5) different locations — the outlet which we had visited is the one located at Syed Alwi Road, whilst two other outlets exists along Serangoon Road; there is one outlet located at Buffalo Road, whilst another being situated at Changi Business Park. The Syed Alwi Road location is decked in a way that one would associate with a quick-service restaurant — the dining tables and chairs remind us of a fast food restaurant of the 1980s, while the menu is displayed on TV screens that are positioned above the counter; one can also watch some of the action that goes on in the kitchen behind the counter that is adjacent to the ordering counter as well. The menu at Ananda Bhavan Vegetarian Restaurant has grown to one that is pretty extensive over the years despite being an establishment that serves only Indian vegetarian cuisine, featuring sections dedicated to Rice, Thosai, Rava and Tandoori varieties, Kebab, Indian Bread, Noodles, Indian Snacks, Tiffin, Breakfast, Chaat, Western, ala-carte Gravy, ala-carte Special, Jain Food and Vegan Menu. There is also a section dedicated to kid’s meal, while the list of beverages range from hot/cold coffee, tea, Milo and Horlicks etc., as well as a range of Lassi.

We left our friend to make the order and we found ourselves having a Bathura served to our table after a short wait — a dish that said friend was pretty excited to have after spotting it on the menu board. The Bathura is listed on the “Indian Bread” section of the menu at Ananda Bhavan Vegetarian Restaurant; it can also be described as a puffed-up deep-fried leavened sourdough bread originating from India. It comes accompanied with two curries — one being a chickpea curry and the other being a curry that consists of cauliflower within; also comes with a single piece of Vadai as well. Our friend explained that the dish is to be enjoyed by first poking the fork into the puffed-up bread, releasing all the air contained within, before tearing up a piece that is big enough to contain the chickpeas / cauliflower from the curry to be wrapped within. The Bathura itself carried a texture that was lighter than that of the Roti Prata we are familiar with. In fact, we do think that the dough used to make Bathura and Roti Prata are rather different — this feels closer to that crisp and light bread that wasn’t too dense, yet comes with a bit of tension to pull apart; despite being deep-fried, the bread was also not too oily, though some greasiness is somewhat expected given the nature of the item. Having both the Bathura with the chickpea curry and the cauliflower curry, both curries were surprisingly rich and flavourful — that being said, the heavier tasting curry would be the chickpea curry. Our preferences leaned towards the lighter tasting cauliflower curry, mostly due to us not really liking beans and nuts in general; the chickpeas in the chickpea curry did provide the curry with a soft crunch for some texture however. An onion relish is served on the side to keep things refreshing from the deep-fried bread and the curries, while the Vadai was crisp on the outside, yet soft and fluffy within being pretty fresh without feeling in any way greasy nor tastes of overused oil.

For those whom have always classed the likes of Indian Vegetarian restaurants like Ananda Bhavan Vegetarian Restaurant to the same category of eateries as mamak-style establishments such as that of KNS Restaurant, perhaps it is time for one to make a trip down to establishments such as that of Ananda Bhavan Vegetarian Restaurant. Ananda Bhavan Vegetarian Restaurant is one establishment that seems to be big in promoting the benefits of adopting a plant-based diet; fine could also tell how deep of a heritage runs in the DNA of the brand name here — they do have a pretty extensive menu of Southern and Northern Indian cuisine here, while they are proud of their heritage even in their marketing efforts on being one of the oldest Indian vegetarian restaurants around the island. Mamak-style establishments on the other hand is a pretty South-East Asian form of cuisine found mostly in Singapore and Malaysia — one that is a fusion of Indian and Muslim fare altogether; some throwing in a western element as well. For those looking for an outlet of Ananda Bhavan Vegetarian Restaurant with a more pleasant environment to dine-in at, the Changi Business Park location does seem to be somewhat newer than their other outlets — the outlet that we had visited at Syed Alwi Road does feel a little run-down and a little aged for those who are especially particular about the dining environment. That being said, those into the pursuit of heritage dining establishments around the island should most certainly include the outlet of Ananda Bhavan Vegetarian Restaurant at Syed Alwi Road into the list — a spot that really deserves some recognition for its contributions to the local F&B scene as it celebrates its 100-year anniversary next year!

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