Saturday night was a time to catch up with old friends in Ahmedabad. We decided to dine at the lovely Vishalla – more an experience than a restaurant.
Vishalla is was designed by it’s owner, Mr. Surendra Patel, as a traditional Indian village, remembering the carefree school holidays he spent in the village. The attention to detail in this village-like environment is constant: there are lanterns as lighting, the entire area is mud-plastered, and the entertainment section uses no modern sound systems. The effect is further enhanced with the staff dressed in a traditional, Indian style.
Dinner is served on large platters made from paan leaves and in true Gujarati style, all the dishes including sweets are served at the same time. The tables are low planks and one sits Indian style on the floor, under an open-air thatched pavilion. The waiters in their crisp white outfits with red topees come by frequently to replenish the platter until one has had an elegant sufficiency, which in my case was well before I had cleaned my plate the first time. The food is all organic and the milk products – buttermilk, butter, ice cream – are all made in-house. Needless to say, the food is to die for!
Wonderful though the food is, the main attraction for me is the museum of old utensils known as Vechaar. Established in 1981 Vechaar is the only museum of its kind in the world. It was started three years after setting up Vishalla, when the owner, Mr Patel, was trying to locate large utensils to add to the authentic village atmosphere. He came across a place in Saurashtra where old utensils were being melted and sold for the brass value. It broke his heart to see such treasures of Indian domestic history being thrown away, so, with the help of an anthropologist, he created the museum. There is a staggering number of utensils there: hundreds of betel nut cutters, enormous cooking pots, teapots in all manners of shapes and sizes; toys; masks; pooja (prayer) utensils; dowry boxes; locks from tiny to ones so big it would take several strong me to lift them and much, much more. The museum is free to enter if one is dining in the restaurant, and the experience is enhanced by knowledgable staff who explain and demonstrate the exhibits. Note: it’s a good idea to allow hours for a visit to Vishalla.