Thursday, 17 July 2014


Simi Mathew and Shibaji Ghosh on one of the food trails. They are passionate about food and history. All pics courtesy: Simi  Mathew

What happens when a practising psychologist and the head of an ad agency get passionate about food? They walk the extra mile. 

When her friend promised to treat Simi Mathew to the "best biryani in town", she did not expect to be trekking to Avenue Road (in Bangalore, India) at 6 am. Who would serve biryani at sunrise and who would want to eat it, she thought. However, there were around 100 people waiting outside Military Hotel to be served biryani and by 6.45 am one of the dishes was over. "That day I had a glimpse of the food culture of Bangalore," Mathew recalled. 

Tucked away on the busy Banaswadi Main Road is this
 Gujarati Farsan & Sweets shop
That was eight years ago when she moved to Bangalore from Delhi. It was the beginning of her dalliance with discovering the city through food; today it has culminated in The Oota Walks. Partnering her in this venture is Shibaji Ghosh, head of an ad agency, More Films (India).

"Bangalore became my adopted city," Mathew said. "But I didn't know it the way I knew my hometown in Kerala." She decided to discover the city. Food became an aid, since she loves food. Also, she enjoys her food when "there is a story" around it. This led her to small eateries with a history.

Prone to eating out at least four times a week and living with a non-foodie husband whom she didn't "want to harangue", Mathew started The Oota Company, a not-for-profit meet-up group of like-minded foodies. The group would eat out and bond over food.

Occasionally, Mathew and Ghosh would organise food walks for the group. Last year, when they organised one such food walk in Malleswaram for their friends, they were surprised to find 42 people turn up at 6.30 am. All non-Bangaloreans. At the end of the trail, the group not only came to love the city a bit more, but also wanted "more such walks". That was an 'aha' moment for Mathew and Ghosh. Six months later they started The Oota Walks.

Best part of the food walks, apart from
the food, are the stories

Mathew does extensive research before planning a food trail in iconic neighbourhoods. Right now, they conduct food walks in Basavangudi, Malleswaram, Whitefield, Frazer Town, VV puram and the Pete area. A trail lasts three hours covering 2 ½ to 3 kms. They stop at five eateries; taste the signature dishes from a menu curated by the duo. And all along they are given digestable, bite-sized historical facts about the place. "That way people learn that Bangalore is more than an IT or garbage city," Mathew says. The participants are given a kit bag with a map and small cards with historical notes of the place, water, cutlery, napkin and tissues. All for Rs 700-1000. 

Currently, The Oota Walks is gallivanting on the Ramzan trails. They have conducted six walks in the last two weeks on MM Road alone (Shivajinagar and Johnson Market area are next). Mathew and Ghosh spent five days trying out every single dish on MM road before finalising the trail. "Tasting all the dishes is mandatory for the duo." What about the side-effects? "I spin one hour every day burning 800 k cal," Mathew says. And Ghosh cycles 40-45 km every weekend. There is no love sincerer than food. And that makes these friends spin and cycle that extra mile!

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