The fish curry, two chicken dishes, and fried rice have adorned glorious positions in the menu of the Central Hotel in Thrissur for the last 83 years. Silver screen icons like Prem Nazir and political stalwarts like K Karunakaran, Pananpilly Givinda Menon, and AKG were regular customers who loved to enjoy these tasty dishes.
It was Englishman William who opened the Central Hotel, in 1936, near Ramanilayam junction at Chembukavu. The hotel opened only for lunch service then. Special fish curry made with coconut paste and dried Malabar tamarind wooed food lovers to the Central Hotel. Later William served delicious chilli chicken, ginger chicken, and fried rice for dinner. These four dishes have been in the menu for the last 83 years, that too, without any change in its ingredients or taste. Many families have been coming here to experience the unique tastes of these dishes for generations.
Fresh king fish for the curry is bought from Vadanapally. There are takers for fried king fish too. It was a cook who was fondly called Pappettan who developed the recipe of the fish curry during the time of William. He worked for a short while with the current management as well.
Before he retired, Pappettan had taught his disciples the nuances of flavours and the recipes of the fish and chicken dishes. The gravy of the kingfish curry is rich and unique which celebrates the great culinary traditions of the Travancore and Malabar regions. Even the size of the king fish in the curry hasn't changed since the last 83 years.
The paste like gravy of the ginger chicken has loads of ginger and curry leaves in it. CC or Central special chilly chicken is still the favourite choice of many loyal customers.
Fired rice was a unique dish when it was introduced here 83 years ago. Malayali food lovers considered it extremely fortunate to visit the Central Hotel to taste these special dishes. People travel from faraway places to taste these mouth watering dishes. Meanwhile for some others this hotel evokes sweet memories about their childhood and grandparents who bought special dishes for them from here.
People often wonder how the owners are able to retain the same taste for the last 83 years. The current owner Jilsu Thashnathu says, "This hotel is like a family. When we bought it from William, he passed on these flavours as well. We consider it more valuable than our ancestral properties and it belongs to everyone who has been working here for years. So we cannot move away from that path."
People bond over the fish curry meals at the Central Hotel and this election season it has become the place of intense political debates as well.