Food and love come together at these couple-run eateries in Thiruvananthapuram

Feb 7, 2024


With Valentine’s Day around the corner, MetroPlus talks to five couples who have set up dine-in places and takeaways in Thiruvananthapuram.

Cuckoo Vinod and Vinod Panicker

Ambrosia

Ambrosia, run by Cuckoo Vinod and husband Vinod Panicker, has become a household name for gourmands in the last 27 years. “My husband, a commerce postgraduate, comes from a family that was in the bakery business in Punalur [Kollam district], while I am a postgraduate in English literature. But being foodies, we thought of doing something innovative in the food business,” says Cuckoo.

Sans any professional training, they decided to set up a bakery in Thiruvananthapuram. After “a market survey” they brought out freshly baked treats at their first outlet at Bakery Junction. “A lot of thought went into every aspect, right from the name Ambrosia, which means food of the gods, to the theme and the menu. There were many firsts to our credit — different varieties of bread, fresh cream pastries, stuffed bread rolls etc,” Cuckoo says.

Cuckoo Vinod and husband, Vinod Panicker, who run Ambrosia

Cuckoo Vinod and husband, Vinod Panicker, who run Ambrosia
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SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

While Vinod handles production, Cuckoo is into manpower recruiting and management. “When you run a business with your life partner, the disadvantage is that we have to see each other 24×7! We often have disagreements about the business, some of which we take home. However, there are also advantages to balance it. So even if we argue, the result always turns out to be the best,” Cuckoo says.

[Ambrosia has outlets at Bakery Junction, Kazhakoottam, Kaimanam and Marappalam (Atelier by Ambrosia). Contact: 0471 – 2332211]

Sarang Santhilal and Srijita Das

Calvancore

Srijita Das and Sarang Santhilal of Calvancore 

Srijita Das and Sarang Santhilal of Calvancore 
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Calcutta meets Travancore at Calvancore opened last November, by Srijita Das from Kolkata and her husband, Sarang Santhilal, working in Thiruvananthapuram as a government employee. “We love travelling, especially to explore food spots, and enjoy cooking. That eventually led to Calvancore, which serves a blend of the flavours of Kolkata and Travancore,” says Sarang, a professional volleyball player who has played for Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

They met at NIT Suratkal where Srijita, an architect, was doing her masters; Sarang was there as chief guest of their annual sports meet.

Srijita says, “I have been wanting to start a food-related venture for a long time. I am more of a thinker, while he is the one who executes it.”

They were all set to open the space on November 1 when they got a chance to run a stall at the food festival on the sidelines of Keraleeyam. “Even though we messed up on the first day, soon we were on track and got a huge response for kathi rolls, chicken chaap and Calcutta dum biryani,” says Sarang.

The masalas and spices are brought from Kolkata. “Weare at the restaurant after finishing our day jobs. This business entails a lot of work, but at the end of the day it is satisfying,” Srijita adds. The menu has rolls, biriyani, breads etc and they are planning to introduce daily specials as well. Sarang says, “She plans everything and often runs the show when I have to travel for my sporting assignments [he is the manager of Bengaluru Torpedoes at Prime Volleyball League].”

[Calvancore is located at Kannammoola. Contact: 8590238259]

Mahesh Sivaraman and Bindu Mahesh

Ambi’s Kitchen

Mahesh Sivaraman and wife Bindu Mahesh who run Ambi's Kitchen

Mahesh Sivaraman and wife Bindu Mahesh who run Ambi’s Kitchen
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SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

It was the boli-payasam combo that did the trick for three-year-old Ambi’s Kitchen, run by Mahesh Sivaraman and Bindu Mahesh.

Mahesh was running a successful catering business in Tripunithura (in Ernakulam district). After moving to Thiruvananthapuram, just as they were all set to set up the business, the pandemic struck.

“We were in a financial crisis. We started selling homemade pickles and, later, introduced the boli-payasam combo [the dessert served for traditional feasts (sadya) in southern Kerala],” says Bindu, adding that she learned to make the boli from Mahesh. Mahesh says, “She expanded our product range, by including curry powders, masala powders, curries for lunch, sun-dried snacks, etc.”

Bindu admits it is not easy to balance motherhood (she has two boys, aged eight and five) and managing the shop. “He pushes me to take more responsibilities even as I keep worrying about what if something goes wrong!” says Bindu, to which Mahesh adds, “I am waiting for that day when she manages the whole thing so that I can diversify into a related field.”

[Ambi’s Kitchen functions at Manacaud. Contact: 7356222234]

Beta Jayakumar and Jessa Sheena Fabrigar

Eve’s Coffee

Customers at Eve's Coffee at the board games section

Customers at Eve’s Coffee at the board games section
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SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Beta Jayakumar, an HR professional, and Jessa Sheena Fabrigar, a Filipino nurse, met in Abu Dhabi. After their marriage, they settled in Thiruvananthapuram. Eventually, they opened a coffee shop, Eve’s Coffee, in Thiruvananthapuram, Beta’s home town, six years ago.

“We had no plans to start a business. I needed a job. But when that didn’t work out, we decided to do something with our resources. We were also looking at a venture where we could socialise since I had been away from home for many years. That’s how we zeroed in on a coffee shop, which we opened on the first floor of our house,” says Beta. They named it after their first born, Eva, now 12.

Besides varieties of coffee and other beverages, the USP of Eve’s is the 400-plus boardgames and in-house library on the premises. “Coffee is often considered a social lubricant and Eve’s is a place for people to sit, interact and socialise. Although we didn’t have any experience, Jess is a good hostess and my social skills came handy,” Beta says.

“The staff is trained to do everything. But if needed, I step in. Evana aka Akiya, our nine-month-old daughter, also loves to be there. She has become Eve’s ambassador,” she says. Beta adds that the shop is Eva’s pride and joy. “She sits in the counter and helps us during her holidays,” he says.

As for working together, Jessa says, “He is more systematic whereas I am quite relaxed. That helps at the time of a crisis.”

[Eve’s Coffee is located along Pettah-Anayara Road. Contact: 9645263333]

Preethamol P and Rajesh Thankachan

Makachiyude Payasakada

Preethamol P and Rajesh Thankachan of Makachiyude Payasakada

Preethamol P and Rajesh Thankachan of Makachiyude Payasakada
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SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

In 2013, Preethamol P and husband, Rajesh Thankachan, opened a payasam shop on a whim with three varieties of payasam. Today, it is a sought-after place for different kinds of payasam.

“I was working in a private company and my husband was employed with a television channel. We wanted to start a food-related venture. Initially, we planed to open a thattukada (roadside eatery) but knew that it was going to be difficult. That’s when we zeroed in on payasam because there weren’t many shops selling the dessert then. We used to open it after finishing our day job. Later, when the sales picked up, we resigned from our respective jobs,” says Preetha. Makachi is what Preetha is called at home!

“We sell six to seven varieties daily, including some specials. Shops selling payasam varieties have mushroomed across the city and we feel that our success might have inspired some of them,” says Rajesh, a postgraduate in fine arts and currently an LLB student. Rajesh adds that while Preetha is in charge of the daily menu, he takes care of the management. “What makes us happy is that we are able to earn a living from our venture,” Preetha says.

[Makachiyude Payasakada is located along Althara Junction-Vellayambalam road. Contact: 9645147158]

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