The Victoria Hotel, once located in a quiet corner of Commissariat Road, attracted people from different walks of life for its quiet gardens and sumptuous breakfast.

An illustration of Bengalurus Victoria Hotel made by artist Paul Fernandes Paul Fernandes
Features Heritage Tuesday, March 09, 2021 - 11:42

The concrete building, widely known as Bangalore Central Mall, stands at the spot where a regal estate sprawled across an acre of land once sat, with a humble bungalow surrounded by lush gardens on all sides. The erstwhile Victoria Hotel was an iconic spot in the city until the year 2000. Ornamented with British architecture, the bungalow was on the corner of Commissariat Road, popular for the range of their breakfast foods as well as the breakfast club they ran. The trees surrounding the bungalow have heard discussions of different kinds from the visitors who sat down, relishing their steaming hot meals and choicest of beverages. The whirring fans hanging from the high roofs of the structure watched the people revelling in the surroundings of Victoria.

The once-famous restaurant was popular even among celebrities who frequented the restaurant to enjoy a quiet meal. Personalities like Rahul Dravid were also the patrons of the hotel. “Victoria had become like a second home for many patrons in the city. Our motive was to serve people meals, make them feel welcome and comfortable," said someone who worked at the hotel.

The Bangalore Central where once was the heritage building of Victoria Hotel 

When quizzed as to what he thought attracted customers, many said that it was the hospitality, the food, the gardens, their porch and the charms of the British architecture that made many gravitate towards the hotel. “We ran the restaurant, had a fully functional bar and had 28 rooms that we rented for stays. It was during the 1980s, 20 years before the hotel shut down, that we started the breakfast club at 8 am on Sundays. It was the breakfast club that took our hotel to a new height of fame,” he reminisced.

Prem, a resident and patron of the hotel, says that it was the most happening spot in Bengaluru when he was a college student. “I have frequented the hotel often with family and friends, had staycations there. The taste of the English breakfast they served is still fresh in my mind. There were not many hotels serving alcohol. I distinctly remember drinking beer in this place,” said Prem.

The Victoria hotel was known for their piping hot appams and steaming stews to accompany them. Apart from that, their English breakfast consisting of toast, eggs, sausages, sauteed mushrooms, tomatoes and baked beans was popular among people. 

Describing the hotel, he said, was a daunting task. The emotions, memories and feelings of nostalgia cannot be encapsulated in a few words, he said, the emotion apparent in his voice. Prem explained, “The bungalow was very welcoming. You would find people sitting in and around the place for hours, chatting away while relishing on their food. The lodging rooms were so spacious, the high roofs, wooden beams and the ventilation in each room were excellent, unlike today’s hotel rooms that are so cramped. Each moment spent there was precious.”

Heritage building

If the building had not been demolished, it would have been considered one of the heritage buildings of the city today. The property was earlier owned by the late Sir Joseph Anthony Donatus Victoria Kt OBE MVO and his son, the late Joseph Salvadore Victoria JP. Control of the property was later handed to Donatus Victoria, Estates & Hotels Pvt Ltd, which comprises members of the Victoria family, according to Rex Victoria, the CEO of the Donatus Victoria Estate & Hotels Pvt Ltd and the son of the late Joseph Salvadore Victoria JP. 

Before becoming a part of the city’s identity at the time, the modest site was a reading room built for a famous British client: Winston Churchill, author Maya Jayapal noted in her book, Bangalore: The Story of a City (1997).

Like a typical British house, Victoria had high roofs, monkey-top windows, a pointed hood and canopy of clay tiles over a window, with flat slats above shuttered windows. Each slat ended in intricate, embellished detail. The hotel had some of the fine pieces of colonial furniture, including a planter's chair that was preserved despite the renovations.

Victoria Hotel was a typical old Bangalore bungalow, Maya Jayapal said, while recalling the time she visited the hotel.

“From the little memories I have from the visit, I remember seeing the place was replete with people. The gardeners were often spotted trying to maintain the beauty of the garden in the porch and the backyard of the hotel. What stood out for me during the visit was meeting a British national at the restaurant,” adds the author.

Upon being asked what was special about the incident, she said, “I was just at the hotel speaking with people when I saw this gentleman and I began speaking to him. The British national had grown up in the house as a kid and was visiting the place to refresh his memories of the place. The memories of the encounter are now hazy but I remember him talking about the house quite fondly. The person had remarked that the house had retained its charm that had enchanted him as a boy.”

End of an era

However, patrons were saddened by the news that Victoria Hotel would be demolished. As most of the old buildings were given way to development, this beautiful old majestic building was razed down to dust in 2000 after the family decided to shut down the hotel.

What remains of the hotel today are memories of the patrons, mentioned in some books like Jayapal’s. “The archives were not preserved well,” the author said, speaking on how there are not many documents on the building of the hotel in a digitised space.

New Beginning

Salvadores, a restaurant on the rooftop of the Bangalore Central mall, was created, designed and is now being run by Rex Victoria, which he says is dedicated to the memory of his late father Joseph Savadore Victoria, who was known for his love of food, fine wine and his commitment to the hospitality business. A portrait and write-up of Joseph Salvadore Victoria can be found at the entrance to the restaurant. 

Today, Salvadores serves European food, creating a fine-dine experience with an aerial view of the city. The menu also includes  the classic Steak Victoria, which is tenderloin served with mashed potatoes and Victoria Hotel's special sauce.

Although, the look is new and so is the menu, the hospitality that people once received at Victoria remains unchanged.

Editor's note: An earlier version of the story had incorrectly stated that the owner of the Victoria Hotel was the Motha family. The owner is actually the Donatus Victoria, Estates & Hotels Pvt Ltd, which comprises members of the Victoria family. The article has been amended and the error is regretted.

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