Established in 1924, Anandha Bhavan Restaurant is the oldest Indian vegetarian restaurant in Singapore. It first restaurant located along Selegie Road, at the rim of Little India, embodies the establishment’s historical background of over seven decades and serves people of all walks of life.
You might want to ask the shopkeepers for help with the menu items though; I was pretty clueless on what to order as the menu pretty much very confusing as I had a hard time differentiating between the various menu items.
I recommend Ananda Bhavan if you want to try prata that is out of the ordinary and not those usual coffeeshop ones; but not for those on a tight budget.
Ananda Bhavan is something like a fast food concept shop and just like any fast food place the food is served fast and the environment is noisy. I had a traditional indian thali, and as the name suggests it was a plate with a lot of different food, namely rice, potato curry, dhal, a salad, raita and a sweet. I might have forgotten a dish or two but you'll have to forgive me for that, there were at least 100 things that were going on that plate. Though that can be taken as a good sign; lots of choices, the disappointing fact is nothing stood out. I tried everything with my rice and the only thing I was registering in my head was "spicy, less spicy, sweet, something missing, yogurt, spicy again". That can't be good given the fact I paid a hefty 8 dollars for the thali.
That brings me to the masala tea. For a fact, Indians take their teas seriously, as least I do. It's a delicate business of making masala, which means spice, work with milk and tea. When I ordered the tea, I expected a decent version of it given that it was priced at almost 3 dollars a cup. What I got was something undrinkable, it was watery and the tea was not brewed enough. After a sip, I could not risk another. I feel disappointed to think that tourists who have never tried Masala tea before would get a totally wrong impression of the drink if they are to try this for the first time.
Overall, a disappointment. The price is high and food quality is sub standard. There are other better eating places that I would frequent in a heartbeat if I fancy a vegetarian meal.
Ambience at Anandha Bhavan is similar to a fast-food outlet, where you place orders and make payments at any of the cashiers, before taking a seat. Furniture is also similar to a fast-food outlet, somewhat smallish and not very comfortable, and the general atmosphere is noisy and brightly lit by fluorescent lights. Anandha Bhavan has a open kitchen concept, and you'll be able to watch the chefs at work, which is a plus point.
Service at Anandha Bhavan is limited to staff preparing your food, serving your order, and clearing the tables, which is done very efficiently. Besides this, there isn't much interaction with staff.
Because Anandha Bhavan does Indian vegetarian, don't expect any meat on the menu. Potatoes are a common ingredient across many dishes, and provide the base / filler that makes the dish satisfying. I also like that Anandha Bhavan has a good range of desserts / sweets, moreso than other Indian eateries.
Prices for food at Anandha Bhavan are slightly higher than average, akin to fast-food prices. Snacks and desserts easily cost about SGD $5 - 8 per dish, while mains cost around SGD $4 - $12 per dish.
The Pav Bhaji is different from the traditional Indian version, as it isn't in the form of a thick gravy, but rather a solid mash / mix of potatoes and vegetables. While tasty, it's not authentic, and much more filling / heavier as a meal compared to the traditional Pav Bhaji.
The Pani Puri has a slightly sour taste from the spiced flavoured water, but isn't very balanced against the near lack of sweet tamarind chutney. But I like the liberal topping of sev.
Boli is a traditional South Indian sweet dessert, from Tamil Nadu, India. Boli is made with all purpose flour / maida refined wheat flour, powdered turmeric, sugar and water, then stuffed with a filling made from chickpeas, powdered cardamom and ghee (clarified butter). Boli is shaped like a golden-yellow flat pancake. Sometimes, shredded coconut or brown sugar is added for additional flavour. Boli is typically served as part of a banquet / sadhya.
The menus are also not as customer friendly to those who do not know the language or gourmets of indian food as the foods are listed(not in english) have no descriptions.
I restaurant is also very noisy and not excatly a perfect place to sit and relax. On a bright note, service is fast and is good for those who have little time to spare to eat.
When it first opened, I loved eating here. My wife loved the food as well. The price was reasonable. The drinking water faucet was a novelty back then but it was impractical. They served thosai with pudhina chutney (mint) that was so good, you would come back for seconds..the chutney that is. But it seemed that the owners got complacent after riding the waves of success.
Prices started going up. The pudhina chutney simply disappeared. The biggest travesty is that the chutney became almost watery like soup!
Let's talk about tea, the tea is not brewed...it came from a sachet (3 in 1 anyone?) and sometimes depending on the overall ineptness of the drinkmaker, you could be forgiven to think that you are drinking drain water.
I am not going back here anymore, you want excellent Indian Vegetarian cuisine? I'll take you to Cuff Road. I'll show you what excellence is (and value).
While Komala's may have expanded into the fast-food chain, Ananda Bhavan is known for their old-fashioned, authentic honest-to-goodness Indian vegetarian food. My favourite order is their South Indian Meal, which consists of rice, plus several other small side dished that come in olden days small metal holders.
The meal is super filling, but it's always so tempting to have more helpings because it's just so good! A sure recommendation to anyone looking for good Indian vegetarian food.
Unlike many other stalls that sell thosai that is dry, their thosai is slightly moist in the centre. It tastes slightly milky, and that's what I like about it. The ingredients they use are also 100% vegetarian, so if you're a vegetarian, you don't have to worry about the type of oil they use or whether they add any form of meat in their curry.
Another favourite of mine is their Batura. Their batura is thick and very filling. You can also tell that the flour they use is of good quality. The batura comes with a curry dip with chick peas inside. Their prata is also worth trying. I've only tried the plain prata (I don't think they sell egg pratas, seeing how it's a vegetarian eatery) and I was left pretty satisfied! It was slightly crunchy on the outside and warm on the inside.
As with other eating places, it is best to consume their food there instead of buying takeout. However, the food tastes just fine if you bring it home. The taste isn't compromised as much even when it's cold. Just heat it up in the microwave for a while and you're good to go.