Behind Norbulingka Institute Dharamshala-176219
Meal for two:?Rs 1,000
At a charming little cafe tucked away in a picturesque bylanes behind the zen garden of Norbulingka monastery, with the snowy vistas of the Dhauladhar range in the backdrop, Joyful Cafe is a dreamy trattoria away from clangorous Dharamshala.
After a long day’s trek, we find a corner at a burnt-wood table to perch on. A group of nuns muse on the ornate menu: should it be the mulberry fizz? Perhaps the peach lassi? The menu is eclectic, and we settle for the mildly-flavoured rhododendron-mint-basil tea (Rs 60), along with the zesty Melanzane-al-forno (baked eggplant in tomato sauce with cheese, Rs 200).
As the langorous afternoon rolls on, the pleasant owner tells us we must try the Everything Pizza (Rs 350), loaded with sausage, ham, mushrooms, green pepper, olives and burnt onions. Using an oversize spatula, he slides the pizza into an red-brick oven, which emerges 20 minutes later in its toasty goodness. The crust is light, with a slightly burnt texture, and a cheesy top. The Sugo al Burro e Pomodaro (Rs 200), a buttery tomato-based spaghetti, is a little soggy and could do with more seasoning. But the Chicken Involtini (Rs 250), flattened chicken breasts with cheese and rolled casing, is a piquant ride.
But the most exciting part of the carte du jour is its array of homemade desserts. Affogato (Rs 80), cream slathered with a shot of espresso, is heavenly. The showstealer was the inimitable Banofee Pie (Rs 80), dipped in a caramel-chocolate-banana sauce. For their scrumptious desserts and the serenity of Norbulingka, I’ll be back.