By Juhi Bansal
PS: All pics are from my humble Iphone 6S so the quality does no justice to how the food looked and tasted actually.
Our trip to Mcleodganj was a gastronomical discovery for us. While we were excited about all the food we were going to have on our holiday (like we always do!), we had no idea we will end up exploring cuisines in such a way. We were having more than 5 meals a day and it was still not enough!
Here are our top picks of must visit eateries in Mcleodganj. This list in no way exhaustive since the town is an absolute delight for foodies like me and the husband. Some of these places were suggested to us by friends and family, some came highly recommended on the internet and some we stumbled upon during our one too many walks down the streets. So here goes (in no particular order).
Jimmy’s Italian Kitchen
We were told by someone that Jimmy’s Kitchen is mini- Big Chill. One look inside and you know why it earned that moniker. Same wall colours, same cosy setting, even the same movie posters! The menu also more or less looks the same so we didn’t really beat around the bush and ordered our favourite items from Big Chill- Penne in Vodka, Piri Piri Pizza, Ravioli Florentine and Banofee Pie. While they don’t taste as authentic they were lip smacking!
Meal for 2: Rs. 600 (yes I am not kidding!)
Tip: Opt for the sit down table near the window. In addition to being very comfortable it gives a nice view of the street.
Perched atop a small hill, this little gem of a place comes with a breath taking view! The menu is a mix of Italian, Indian and Israeli food. (There’s only hummus on the menu BTW for Israeli). I loved the balcony tables but unfortunately they were all occupied so we had to make do with the second best seats. The food did make up for it though. We ordered Hummus, Pasta Porcini and a Kora Bar for dessert. I loved their community tables and the simplicity of the place.
Meal for 2: Rs. 500 (yes it gets better!)
Tip: Go there with some time on hand and enjoy the view with their cappuccino. Take a book along or select one from their library- it’s a visit you don’t want to rush.
Who would have thought we’ll end up trying Korean food in Mcleodganj! This is as unassuming a place as it can get. Small space, “blink and you miss” location and a very simple view-the café is a delight. Their menu is accompanied by pictures of all items so that people like me who’ve never really had Korean food before know what to order. We ended up ordering Kimbap (Korean Sushi) and Japche- Noodle Soup and Rice. Both the items were a pleasure to the taste buds. Psst: We had all this food right after lunch and we still couldn’t have enough!
Meal for 2: Rs. 350
Tip: You may want to order meals as they come with Kimchi and Rice etc with almost no additional cost.
Snow Lion Restaurant
We are early risers- all 3 of us and McLeodganj is a sleepy town. Most places open at their own pace (even when their opening timings say otherwise!). So, it was one of those mornings when we were looking for coffee and breakfast at 7.00 AM and chanced upon the Snow Lion. First things first- the coffee is terrific (authentic to the core 😉 ) and I can say this because the last time I had such nice cappuccino was in Florence. (Nah I kid you- but you get the drift right? Coffee is really great at Snow Lion!). We ordered the usual- eggs and toast and the like. And we also ordered a Tibetan sandwich. I just loved loved loved the bread! Warm and soft and chewy. The restaurant overlooks the Kal Chakra Temple and it’s such a calming view!
Meal for 2: Rs. 400
Tip: Don’t forget to order Tibetan food here!
Green Hotel Cafe
It was one of those days -we’d had a scrumptious meal at Jimmy’s and were walking back when it started to come down very heavily. We entered the nearest restaurant to escape the downpour and sat down thinking we’ll just order coffee and bide our time. Coffee turned into dessert and dessert became a full Tibetan meal! We ordered something called Tingstel (because it sounded intriguing) which is an extremely delicious broth accompanied by a side of steamed Tibetan breads. Everything from the dessert to the meal were finger licking good and I wish I could go back right now and have some more of their amazing food!
Meal for 2: Rs. 300
Tip: Sit outside in the patio. It has a lovely view whatever the weather. Also, don’t forget to order some of their scrumptious desserts.
Snacking in Mcleodganj: Apart from this, we couldn’t get enough of the roadside vendors selling momos- both steamed and fried. That was our go to palate cleanser between meals ;).
Liquor: For drinks we tried various places but Indique tops the list because of the view! It’s a rooftop café with enough options (for Mcleodganj-which isn’t saying a lot) for liquor. They do not have many cocktails on the menu though. Also, their food menu leaves you a little unsatisfied.
We ofcourse loved the liquor menu at our hotel- Fortune Moksha– they had an elaborate selection of cocktails and were also open to mixing drinks at our suggestions.
Desserts: For desserts, apart from the places mentioned above- Woeser Bakery is another must visit. It’s an extremely small place with a very limited menu. The owner home bakes every little piece of cake every day. No wonder it’s absolutely, gobsmacking-ly good!
Things that you may want to know about restaurants in Mcleodganj:
- Most of them give a hand-written bill which does not include service charges or taxes. That’s why we would always do a double take when we saw the bill amount!
- The amounts are frightfully low but that also means they do not accept cards at most places.
- They leave you with a paper and pen to write down your order on. No – “Sir may I take your order” or “please get me this and this”.
- They do not serve water on tables. You have to specifically ask for it and most places expect you to buy a bottle.
- People do not visit the cafes for food. Ofcourse they visit them for food but it’s not like order, eat, leave. They take their time. They settle in- play board games, cards, have real conversations. They are in no hurry to get back to their lives and the restaurant management doesn’t hurry them either-even when there is a long waiting outside.
Our food experience in Mcleodganj was absolutely divine! I wish we could stay a little longer and eat to our heart’s content but then that’s what second trips are for. I am already looking forward to my next trip to this quaint, sleepy town- stay glued for some must do activities in Mcleodganj coming up next!