I relearnt a lesson again.

A lesson you don’t learn in any school, college or University.

This is what you learn if you are a foodie, street smart & passionate about your town’s culinary history and taste choices back in those ‘good ole school days’ against these present, disruptive and changing times.

Don’t get me wrong here.

There is no dearth to new Hotels and Restaurants in Kollam, Kerala today. They are sprouting up like magic mushrooms on drizzle drenched Kodaikanal hillsides.

The lesson I learnt was – Do not search for the ‘Perfect Beef Fry’, Curry or Roast in Kollam, my hometown.

Back in the days, Kollam was a quaint town and called Quilon.
Later upgraded to a city and renamed Kollam, my search for the ‘Perfect Beef Fry’ here sadly came to an end. There never was the perfect beef fry ever in town.

Back in the ‘70’s or even today.

This morning (9.11.2019), just as the Supreme Court ended one of the oldest cases in the Indian Law annals and courts – The controversial Ram Janmabhoomi case in Ayodhya, with a verdict from a 5 member bench of Judges, I personally decided on my verdict on the long debated, meaty issue of Kollam Town’s go-to Beef spot..

Kollam or Quilon (as it was known earlier) is definitely a Mutton town. Always was and still is.

My search for the ‘Perfect Beef Fry’ had just screeched to a stop.

But that would not put me down, as I focused my search on which Hotel or Restaurant serves the ‘Best Mutton Curry’ in Town.

Back in the seventies was when Quilon Hotels turned into food institutions. The iconic names then were SALIM HOTEL, Sheriff’s RAMEES HOTEL, Mohammed Kunju’s FAYALVAN HOTEL and a few 8 km out of Kollam – CITY HOTEL.

Back then all famous for their versions of Mutton Curry and Parottas. Beef was never on their agenda.

Not only did we frequent all of them, we knew their owners too.

Sheriff, the owner of RAMEES HOTEL was more than a friend, philosopher and culinary advisor. I still remember him playing a vinyl of Carlos Santana’s Greatest Hits album for us on Tower speakers placed outside the Hotel. As the sun set that night on the town, Sheriff opened up his speakers. Almost inviting folks in with this salsa, soul beat. Santana’s wailing guitar almost gave a perfectly synchronized soundtrack to the aroma of mutton wafting out of Sheriff’s Hotel.)

Sheriff, the showman had turned eating ‘Parotta and Mutton Curry’ at his hotel into an event. Soundtrack, table cloth and all.

SALIM HOTEL, bang on Main Street served up a thicker, gooey version of Mutton Curry.

FAYALVAN HOTEL, complete with Black ‘n’ White portraits of muscled wrestler’s framed up on the wall silently spread the message ‘Strong Wrestlers swear by Mutton’.

This Hotel is where we ate with Head – Load workers who gorged into their famous mutton curry and biriyani rubbing shoulders with other merchants and shopkeepers of the Kollam Market area.

CITY HOTEL was out of Kollam at the 2nd Milestone. Yes, we cycled it then and later graduated to pillions on motorbikes and later inside comfortable, air-conditioned cars. This 8 km ride was always worth it.

All for their Parottas and Mutton curry.

Now, when I experiment and eat stuff at most of the ‘NEW’ Restaurants and Hotels in Kollam, I am yet to cherish any Mutton Dish that I would relish and repeatedly come back for. Sad.
But, believe me or not here is my verdict.
The Best Mutton Curry you can eat in Kollam is not exactly in Kollam town.

It is still 8 km away at the 2nd Milestone.
The very same CITY HOTEL we cycled to all those years ago.
I declare it the Best Mutton Curry and Parottas I have enjoyed in Kollam this trip, along with friends.

Sheriff the bubbly owner of the iconic RAMEES HOTEL has passed on, but his legacy of that classic RAMEES mutton curry has not been continued by his next generation. Sad.

SALIM HOTEL is serving up the same ole thick, gooey mutton curry. I enjoyed it then, but I just can’t ingest all that fat now.

HOTEL FAYALVAN has passed on to the next generation. The iconic wrestlers framed photos have been made into a collage and they have created more space and comfort for their customers in the same location in the market area. Folks are filling in all the time, but sad to say, this mutton curry was not the one that we used to have back then. Maybe lighter with more organic ingredients now, but they lost out on that unique flavor they had.

So the award goes to… CITY HOTEL, 2nd Milestone, Kilikollur, Kollam.

A light, juicy mutton curry with just the right spicing. And every bite of mutton as flavoursome as the rest. Opened in 1960, I hear they used to sell fresh mutton too.

Be it the meat or the masala mix, they serve the best Mutton in town.

I have no Beef with that!

About the Author

Monu Danesh Surendran works for a retail organization in Bangalore and heads it online and branding division. He is a foodie by passion and therefore tries his hand at stuff in his home kitchen. While not dabbling in cooking during his days off he likes his music and of course trying out food. He prefers home cooked cuisine though restaurant fare guarantees a good outing with friends.

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