Dr Ravichander was inspired by a movie and his passion for food to venture into the restaurant business
Nandhana Palace’s gen next is in the cloud
WE were on a culinary excursion to savour the flavours of Andhra cuisine in the Garden City. It was past 2 pm when we trooped into Nandhana Palace, an iconic restaurant started in 1989 by Dr Ravichander who was one of the pioneers in introducing Andhra cuisine to Bengaluru. With 15 restaurants and seven cloud kitchens, the Nandhana Group of Hotels has the largest chain of Andhra restaurants in Bengaluru. It is a stand-alone brand which has bagged several awards and due recognition for churning out the authentic flavours of Andhra cuisine.
Recollecting the genesis of the Nandhana Group of Hotels, Dr Ravichander, founder of the restaurant chain, says, “It all started when I watched the Tamil movie, Manathil Uruthi Vendum. I drew inspiration from the role of the female lead of the movie who singlehandedly took care of the entire family, similar to my life. Motivated by the heroine’s sacrifice and my passion for food, I took my first steps in the restaurant business.” Cuisine from the different regions of Andhra Pradesh has been included. “We started creating and curating new recipes from different regions to give it more authentic flavours,” explains Dr Ravichander.
We sampled some dishes from the wide range in their menu. We started with the rich drumstick soup made with moringa (drumstick) leaves and the versatile drumstick which lends it a pulpy texture. All the pulp is extracted to form a thick soup. For non-vegetarians, there is the mutton bone soup, a peppery concoction that can soothe an irritated throat or clear a blocked nose.
|Carrot 65 is a crunchy starter
Carrot 65 is a big hit as a starter, offering vegetarians a bit more than the usual paneer starters. It was crunchy, classy and spicy. What lends the spicy flavour is that it is coated in 65 masala, tossed in red chilli, curry leaves, garlic and then deep-fried.
Other favoured starters are Gobi Pudina Dry and Bendakaya French fries which are best served hot and crisp. It can be eaten as a part of lunch or dinner and also as a snack. For non-vegetarians, there are plenty of options in this restaurant. Our favourites were Sholay Kebab and Bamboo Chicken. The kebabs, with a generous coating of masala on the juicy chicken pieces, went perfectly with the mint chutney.
Nandhana’s Bamboo Chicken, inspired by a recipe of the tribals of Maredumulli forest, seems to be a hot favourite. We learnt that the chefs were sent to the Araku Valley forest near Visakhapatnam to learn the nuances of making the dish the tribal way. The chicken, cooked with spices and minimal oil, acquires a rather mild flavour of the bamboo it is cooked in.
For vegetarians, there is the Andhra Bhojanam, served on a banana leaf. You can gorge on unlimited steaming rice, dollops of ghee, tangy palak dal, trademark gunpowder, gungura and avakai.
The Nellore Mutton Biryani, which traces its culinary roots to Andhra Pradesh, is fiery, spicy and appeals to old-timers whereas millennials prefer Hyderabadi Biryani which is mild. Nattu Koli Biryani, cooked using seeraga samba rice and the fiery country chicken, owes allegiance to the founder’s mother’s recipe. It is punctuated with a variety of flavours, including the sweetness of pineapple.
We tried the Supreme Chicken Biryani, targeted at millennials, and the Paneer Biryani. The best thing about the former is that it comes with boneless chicken pieces. This long-grained rice biryani with its layers of masala is a tad too spicy. One can pair the biryani with the Chicken Kshatriya which was curated in the kitchens at Nandhana Palace. It is indeed an ode to the traditions of the family that runs this establishment.
Believing that innovation is the only sustaining factor for any business to grow, the second generation of the family has carried forward its glorious regional culinary heritage. In keeping with the evolving preferences of customers, the recipe of Donne Biryani has undergone a change currently. What makes Donne Biryani (which is ladled into leafy bowls made out of dry banana leaves) distinct from other biryanis is the mind-boggling array of spices, chicken and fresh greens sans the onion and tomato flavours. The mint-tempered masala and the stock are what lend a unique flavour to the dish.
They are not only continuing serving their grandmother’s special Donne-style biryani but have
|Ramya and Shweta Ravi have started cloud kitchens
also introduced variants of other biryanis, like boneless biryani, from the naati (native) cuisine.
Co-founded by Ramya and Shweta Ravi, RNR Donne Biryani Cloud Kitchens was launched in November 2020. It was established as one of the first brands to catapult Donne Biryani into the mainstream segment and organized sector. Apart from the core biryanis, bestsellers also include the Nati Style Chilli Chicken starter, Drumstick Chilli, mutton bone soup, mutton liver masala, mutton nalli, Nati Koli Drumstick Fry, Nati Koli Roast, Nati Koli Saaru and Elaneeru Payasam (tender coconut kheer).
The restaurant has metamorphosed from a small kitchen serving Donne Biryani to a cloud kitchen with a nominal investment of Rs 5 lakh. “Cloud kitchen is the best route when you are venturing into a new segment. Keeping in mind the low investment model and one of the best channels to test the credibility of the idea, I opted for cloud kitchens. We took the risk, challenge and bold step to launch our brand during the pandemic. Our unique selling proposition is in the packaging.
We deliver biryani in a royal format in a blue tin-box. At present, we have 14 cloud kitchens across Bengaluru. RNR has crossed Rs 8 crore and is now close to touching Rs 10 crore,” says Ramya Ravi.