Hotel Rahmath, aka Border Rahmath Parotta Stall, located in Tenkasi, the Kerala-Tamil Nadu border, is a small eatery with limited number of dishes but it is also a tourist and celebrity hotspot.
Back in 1956, when the two states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu were recognised, multiple small food stalls popped up on the border where a toll booth used to exist.
They all sold similar dishes and were packed with goods carrier drivers, travellers and locals.
Later, in 1974, Mohammad Hassan, a resident of the nearby village of Vallam, also set up a restaurant in the area. Just a tent with a couple of tables and chairs, the restaurant served authentic South Indian dishes steeped in coconut oil attracting more customers. It was for this reason alone that the restaurant survived even though all the others, including the toll booth, closed down.
Today, that restaurant is known as Hotel Rahmath or Border Rahmath Parotta Stall in Tenkasi, Tamil Nadu and has come to be an iconic eatery in its 48 years of existence.
“We sell only a limited number of items here. But each of them are prepared in traditionally made coconut oil and hand-pounded, homemade masalas. These recipes have been in our family for a long time, probably since my grandfather was alive,” says Sheik Abdullah, the younger son of Hassan who now runs the restaurant with his brother Ismail Kothari Bava.
What’s more? All dishes are served in banana leaves.
Apart from the highlight coin porotta and country chicken curry, the stall serves nattukozhi pepper, chicken 65, mutton biryani and chicken salna. The eatery is open from 12 pm to 12 am every day on the Shenkottai-Punalur road, which is a major tourist stop near Coutrallam falls.
A major tourist attraction, one can have a filling meal for less than Rs 200.
“Our location and history is a major reason for our popularity. The reasonable prices could be another factor,” says Sheik. “When our father started this place with just two tables, he would have never imagined it to grow into what it is today. We are grateful to Allah for the success.”
Food fit for a President
Over 100 food lovers visit Hotel Rahmath every day and most of them order the star item – porotta and chicken. The hotel makes around 35-40 porottas a minute by a dozen skilled chefs in the kitchen.
This iconic eatery is also a celebrity hotspot with Tamil cine stars to cricketer Dinesh Kartik, many have visited and enjoyed the delicious food served by the family-run joint.
“Most of the time, celebrities come for takeaways. They don’t prefer to eat here due to the crowd. But when Dinesh Kartik visited a few months ago, youngsters were in a queue to take selfies,” says Sheik.
Of the many photographs hung on the wall, one can also spot a picture of Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, the Late Indian president who visited the place. Sheik recalls, “I don’t remember the year, but he was in the vicinity on official purposes when someone recommended our restaurant. Our father was running it back then and he was super happy to host the president of India!”
R Dhanavel, a shop owner and a regular customer of Hotel Rahmath for the past 40 years says, “I’ve been devouring the food here for a very long time. My father used to bring me here as a kid and now my kids visit too. Their pepper nattukozhi is my personal favourite. I have it with porotta or dosa.”
He also shares that the speed of the chefs’ food preparations is noteworthy. “It takes less than two minutes for our order to arrive but it will be sizzling hot too. These people have got some real skills,” he adds.
Santhosh Krishnan, a member of the Bengaluru unit of a travel community called Sanchari who visited the hotel in 2018 shares, “A relishing bath at Coutrallam falls and a filling meal from the Border Porotta Stall is a must for many tourists. When we went for a drive there, we got to know about the stall from a friend who is also a food enthusiast. He had covered it in one of his TV shows. I’m a vegetarian so I couldn’t try a lot of the dishes there but all of my fellow riders enjoyed the food.”
If you happen to pass through Tenkasi and spot a trilingual board reading ‘Hotel Rahmath’, don’t leave without this iconic eatery’s food. “You won’t be disappointed,” assures the owner.
Edited by Yoshita Rao
Photo credits: Naveen Bhaskar