Brothers restaurant in Alappuzha has been the favourite haunt of film personalities for over four decades. It attracts patrons by offering the typical cuisine of the region and almost every special dish served here has a cinema connection.
It is said that the pulse of a place can be felt from the food served there and a visit to Brothers' restaurant helps a customer to peep into the soul of Alappuzha. With its lip-smacking menu, the restaurant turns patrons from other places into compatriots.
Brothers has been attracting cinema folk ever since Kunchacko transplanted Malayalam cinema from Kodambakkam in Chennai to Kuttanad. Most film personalities now refer to Brothers as, “My home in Alappuzha.”
Among the first trademark dishes with a cinema connection at Brothers is the ‘Duck roast.’
Before relating the story behind the duck roast, restaurant owner Balachandran aka Balu lists the day's specials - duck roast, mutton curry, 'neymeen' (seer fish) masala, beef fry, chicken fry, egg curry, bengal gram curry, 'chiratta puttu', appam, idiyappam and dosa.
The first dish to be tasted is the mutton curry, he advises.
Balu is the son of Ayyappan Pillai, who started the restaurant with his brother Madhavan Pillai. They had initially named the restaurant 'Thamara'.
Balu is familiar with film personalities who were even involved with the classic film 'Chemmeen'. He knows every actor's and director's favourite dish as well as their dislikes.
Relating the transformation of 'Thamara' to 'Brothers', Balu goes back to 1974, when Alappuzha was the commercial capital of Central Kerala. Ayyappan Pillai and his younger brother Madhavan Pillai opened a restaurant in Alappuzha town by the side of the road leading to the beach. They called it 'Thamara' (Lotus). The dishes served had a home-made taste and customers poured in. At the time when the eatery had become one of the most popular in the town, Kunchacko opened his 'Udaya' film studio in Alappuzha. Incidentally, the Pillai siblings changed the name of their restaurant to Brothers during the same time.
The film personalities in Udaya studio, during their search for Alappuzha's own taste, soon reached Brothers. Ayyappan Pillai and Madhavan Pillai by this time had built lodging facilities attached to the restaurant. This, along with the food, made Brothers the preferred accommodation of cinema artists.
Nowadays, the main dish at the restaurant is 'chiratta puttu' and duck roast combination. Once, it was fish curry that reigned supreme. But duck upstaging fish too has a story behind it - obviously with a film connection.
The tale behind duck roast
Cameraman Sukumar was once returning to Brothers after an exhausting film shooting at Kuttanad when he saw some ducks on the way. He bought one and brought it to the restaurant. Owner Balu explains, “I was stunned seeing Sukumar with the duck. We had never prepared duck items before that. However, on Sukumar's insistence, we finally chopped the duck into the pieces, applied masala and boiled it in a pressure cooker.”
“Though the meat was not very soft, everyone liked the taste,” says Balu. Since then, duck became a regular part of the menu at Brothers.
By word of mouth, the fame of duck roast spread far and wide and it soon became the special branded item of Brothers restaurant.
A favourite among the famous
Legendary travel writer S K Pottekkad wrote about Brothers restaurant in 1981: “My stay in this Brothers Tourist Home was very comfortable and the service quality satisfactory.”
Comments by several other internationally known personalities can be read in the visitors' book of Brothers which Balu has preserved safely.
Many common people belonging to Alappuzha are also regulars at the restaurant. Chandu is one among them. “I come here along with my wife and son whenever we find time. Our favourite dish is biriyani,” he says.
Like Chandu, wife Anju and son Dharmik, there are numerous fans for the restaurant in Alappuzha who have ensured that its fame reaches far and wide.
“Breakfast with chiratta puttu, idli, dosa, idiyappam and appam will be ready by 7 am every day,” informs Balu.
By 9 am, meat and fish items will be served, he adds.
A creative place
Many film personalities have created their best work from the rooms in Brothers. Balu reveals more. Kaithapram Damodaran Namboothiri wrote the lyrics ‘Devadumdubi sandralayam’ in Room no. 19. The room has been the stage for the launch of several highly successful films like 'Manichitrathazhu', 'Aniyathipravu', 'Pappyayude Swantham Appoos', 'Harikrishnans' etc. No. 19 is considered a lucky room,” he says.
Preliminary discussions of several films by noted directors like Siddique and Lal were held in this room. “Even now, film-makers arrive to pick up some luck from room no. 19 as well as to taste the food,” reveals Balu.
According to director Kamal, Brothers offers the dual charm of traditional taste and an antique setting.
Film-maker Lal Jose too has praised the hospitality of Brothers saying that, “This is my home in Alappuzha.”
Food aficionados from the north and south are drawn to Brothers by the magic of cinema as well as the menu on offer. The charm is still intact even after decades.