You name it, they’ve got it!
Panampilly Nagar has evolved into Kochi’s food hub. TNIE reporter Steni Simon and lensman A Sanesh walk through the avenue to check out what’s cooking
Old-timers swear there is something special about Panampilly Nagar avenue. It’s in the heart of the city, yet mostly tranquil. And refreshingly green, flanked by lush trees. It’s the quaint residential area where Mahadevan, Govindankutty, Thomaskutty and Appukkuttan — the evergreen In Harihar Nagar gang — roamed on their motorcycles back in the 1990s.
On the gastronomy scene, Panampilly Nagar’s crowd-pullers of yore were the Appu Aur Pappu veg restaurant run by Konkani Brahmins, Tina bakery’s hot puffs and the ‘homely’ fish curry meals at Maria restaurant.
And then came a ‘Yadav Chaat Shop’ in front of the government high school here. Probably one of the earliest chaat joints in Kochi, the makeshift shop drew foodies from across the city. People came in driving swanky sedans and sports bikes and waited patiently for the hot samosas and all-time classic bhel puri. The eatery soon became a must-visit spot for those touring Kochi.
Then, the old-timers recall, there was a snooker parlour named Down Town, at Manorama junction, that served coffee and burgers. It was the place to be if one wanted to be a ‘cool dude’ in town. That was just the beginning. Over the past 20 years, Panampilly Nagar has undergone a sea change — a food sea change. Today, the avenue has transformed into a 1.5km-long food court, with almost every second outlet offering some savoury or other. There at least 35 registered eateries here. If one counts the unregistered ones as well, the outlet count would go over 50.
The diversity of cuisines at this hotspot is worth noting. Malabar and Middle Eastern, North Indian, Indo-Chinese, continental to even homely food — any cuisine you name can be found at Panampilly Nagar.
Locals have become more accepting of the flavours of Middle Eastern and Arabic cuisine and the dishes are now available in every nook and corner of the state. And Panampilli Nagar is no different. Zaatar Arabic Restaurant, located on the main avenue, has been enticing food lovers with its wide range of traditional Middle Eastern and Arabic dishes for the past six years. Some of the hot-sellers here are beef and chicken platters that come with barbecue and grilled dishes and kuboos.
Samak Mashwi, also known as the Spicy Arabian Grilled Fish is served at Zaatar and has its origins in Alexandria in Egypt. It is quite popular in Lebanon as well. This seafood treat is garnished with lemon slices and parsley and is typically seasoned with salt and olive oil.
Different varieties of shawarmas are also available at the restaurant. “During the lunch and evening hours, there will be a huge rush of customers. Platters are our hot-sellers,” said Vimal, manager at Zaatar.
Bab Arabia and Ali Baba & 41 dishes are two other restaurants serving authentic Turkish cuisine and Malabar cuisine. While Ali Baba specialises in Thalassery cuisine, Bab Arabia is a melting pot of Turkish delights. Tarik Baba, the Turkish chef at Bab Arabia, has brought out a range of delightful lip-smacking dishes for the Malayali palette such as Kapama meal. The dessert corner is rich with Kunafa — a heavenly, syrup-soaked cheese pastry served with pistachios and Um Ali — a traditional bread pudding made with pastry, sugar, milk, nuts and raisins.
‘Nadan’ all the way
Panampilly Nagar is also known for its street food corners. One such place is ‘Raman chettande thattu kada’, which has hosted a couple of celebrities such as Nayanthara and her husband Vignesh, and Sreenath Bhasi. Functioning from 6.30pm up to 12am, the eatery serves dishes such as fish curry made with grated coconut, beef dry fry, beef roast with thick gravy, chicken varattiyathu, etc.
It was started about 25 years back by Raman C I’, originally registered as Reshma Fast Foods. The eatery is frequented by families and youngsters alike.The fish curry -- Raman chettan’s wife’s secret recipe -- is a must-have dish that sees advance bookings over phone!
Uppum Mulakum thattu kada is another crowd-puller. Some eateries also serve homely meals during lunch hours. Anika Homely Meals at Parambithara Road is a hot spot. It is run by Chandramathy and her daughter Jayanti.There are also restaurants serving Kerala-style seafood dishes such as Kumbalanghikkaran Seafood Restaurant.
For the love of veggies
Hotel Aryaas Park and Gokul Oottupura are the two prime restaurants serving vegetarian dishes. Hotel Aryaas Park witnesses a huge rush at 7am. While different varieties of dosa are the hot sellers, the restaurant also serves North Indian and Chinese dishes in veg.
G Suresh, owner of Hotel Aryaas Park, says, “We have regular customers and occasional ones. Dosa is the top seller. We have recently set up a chaat corner, too.”
Continental, Asian & Thai
For those who love continental food, Cocoa Tree is a perfect spot. Here you must go for their sandwiches, burgers, salads and pasta. East India Street Cafe serves dishes influenced by continental and Oriental cuisines, including filet mignon and nasi goreng.
Ming’s Wok is a top pick for Chinese food. Crispy chicken, chilli red pepper chicken and shredded lamb with celery and bell pepper. The list also includes the inevitable chowmeins and the chopsueys.
Let’s not forget the momo lover — head straight to Shifu Momos.
This list can go on and on!
Want to get a taste of authentic Italian pizza? Head straight to The Hearth Kitchen. It is home to cheesy, sourdough thin-crust pizza with home-grown ingredients. Initially started as a cloud kitchen in Tripunithura about a year ago, the rise in demand for the pizzas led the owners to launch an exclusive outlet in Panampilly Nagar. This pizzeria includes everything from starters to desserts. Chef Rajeev Upadhyay is a pastry chef who has over 20 years of experience in the field.
Starters include calzones filled with mixed herb butter, parsley, fresh garlic and shredded mozzarella cheese. Then a wide variety of pizzas are available. The menu includes dessert pizzas too — cinnabon and double chocolate Oreo pizzas are something only available here. “The response has been very good. Cinnabon is the hot seller in the dessert category. Kerala beef fry pizza, a fusion of Kerala beef and Italian Pizza, is another best seller.