Besides delicious breakfast spreads — classic English with sausages, indulgent stew with appam, the works — one of garden city’s most iconic restaurants serves old-school charm in spades. The latter, courtesy of its impressive clientele, which spans the likes of former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and Queen Elizabeth II. Even today, locals head here for large bites and leisurely conversations — taking in the city’s famed breezy weather with a side of piping-hot filter coffee. Here’s what makes Koshy’s Parade Cafe so special to Bangalore’s locals.
Somewhere on St. Mark’s Road — with the bustle of passing vehicles for background score — a set of sign boards in an eccentric medley of blue, black, and white stand out. Each displays the name Koshy’s in a distinctive, bold red. Inside, faded photographs tell stories of Bangalore’s past and the low chatter of diners permeates the room. The latter are often an eclectic bunch — retirees who can’t get enough of the famed filter coffee, students discussing assignments over plates of steaks and sausages, and tourists perusing the menu to discern the most authentic local options. This stands testimony to the space’s welcoming reputation, furthered by its popular patrons — politicians to celebrities.
“In the 25 years since I settled in Bangalore, only one institution has kept me continuous company – Koshy’s Parade Café,” historian Ramachandra Guha declared in a Telegraph feature. “I may die before my favourite café does. I can probably (just about) live without music, cricket, and even books, but life without Parade’s is impossible to contemplate,” he added. A legion of locals echo these thoughts, with many heading to the dining destination as often as several times a week for a bite. This, despite the flurry of new and contemporary restaurants opening up right next door, complete with extravagant menus. We’re taking a closer look at this iconic old-school, nostalgic space.
Koshy’s Bangalore began as a bakery
In 1940, PO Koshy started a provision store, later tapping into the business of food by building a bakery in a small room. In 1950, in the Cantonment area — where St. Marks Road now sits — he set up the Parade cafe, a coffee shop. In 1952, a restaurant popped up next door. As days passed, the likes of journalists, businesspeople, writers, students, and families began frequenting the spot. Guha’s experience, as stated in the Telegraph feature, adds to this, “After nets we cricketers would repair to the café, where the men drank coffee and I, 12 years old at the time, drank lime juice.”
It once housed a jukebox, dance floor, and live performances
A few years in, the owners of the establishment added an air-conditioned, no-smoking section called the ‘Jewel Box’ to the mix. This, along with the bakery collectively came to be known as Koshy’s. Right above was the British Council Library, an exclusive, elegant spot for the city’s literature enthusiasts. Soon the space boasted live band performances, a dance floor, and a jukebox in a corner that busted out diners’ favourite tunes. Needless to say, Koshy’s was all the rage.
The menu is eclectic with roast chicken being a specialty
Reportedly, the menu here once featured a dizzying 1,200 options. However, since the cash machine could only process about 900 items, it was revamped. Like the cafe itself, the options here are a medley of European and Indian creations. The latter being primarily Kerala creations, the founding family’s cultural heritage. Popular options include the Roast Chicken, English Breakfast, Stew with Appam, Mushroom Toast, Vegetable Cutlet, Mushroom Toast, Ham Sandwich, Bacon Omelette, Zoey Paneer, Kerala Pork, Fish Biryani, Fish and Chips, Chicken Puffs, and Joshua’s Steak. The filter coffee is a must try as well.
Several sources say that British soldiers would dig into Koshy’s Roast Chicken at Bowring Club, which the restaurant would cater for. The likes of Nikita Khruschev, Queen Elizabeth, and Jawaharlal Nehru have dined here as well and regulars would (and continue to) order without so much as a glance at the menu. Some are treated to the restaurant’s famed crisp carbs, Potato Smileys. “We try and keep the art out of the way,” Prem Koshy shared with Scroll. “We don’t serve food because you need to be seen there and eat it because you ought to be eating it. People come here when they want to get their soul replenished.”
Koshy’s retains its old-school principles in a modern world
Time stands still at Koshy’s, with the customers and staff a steady presence. Not to mention, the third generation owners stick to old-school principles. For instance, Prem Koshy, PO Koshy’s grandson and a popular figure at the cafe — which he runs along with his brother Santhosh — continues to follow his grandfather’s ways of running a business. He revealed to Scroll that he never counts money and allows his employees to have a sense of ownership, some of whom have been around for over four decades. “One day I told my waiter Joseph, was nodding off, ‘etta, why don’t you rest at home?’ He said, ‘No. I gave my word to your grandfather, that whichever one survived longer we would look after the other’s family. So I am here to look after you,” he shared.
This, combined with the classic food lend this space a certain timelessness that makes locals feel at home, especially in the face of consistent change. The owner elaborates, “In the old days there was glass on the tables and we had cane chairs,” Koshy said. “Now we have formica and foam, but this is all largely as it was, from 1952. It’s our bit of Bangalore that won’t change for many, many people.”
Address: 39, St. Marks Road, Bangalore
Contact: +91 80222 13793
All images: Courtesy Eshita Srinivas
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1. What is famous in Koshys Bangalore?
Koshy’s is known for its old-school, colonial charm and eclectic menu. Popular items include Roast Chicken, English Breakfast, Appam and Stew, and Filter Coffee.
2. How old is Koshy’s?
Koshy’s is over 71 years old.
3. Who is the owner of Koshy Bangalore?
Prem and Santhosh Koshy’s are the third generation owners of the establishment.