In Darjeeling, watching the sun rise at Tiger Hill, going on a sightseeing spree, including a ride on the powder blue heritage toy train, people watching at the Mall, and waxing eloquent about the snow peaks of Kanchenjunga are some of the must-do things on your list. But did you know you may also go on a veritable culinary journey here? Apart from colonial era dishes, there are Tibetan, Chinese and Nepali food offered by some very down to earth restaurants, the quality of food in many making up for their apparent lack of atmosphere. Most of the restaurants are scattered along the Nehru Road/Gandhi Road area near the central Mall or Chowrasta. Usually, the restaurants serve large portions, so check before you order.
Keventers, Nehru Road
Keventers, one of the oldest restaurants in Darjeeling, is known for its English breakfast spread. The open-air deck on the first floor offers a panoramic view of the surroundings, including the snow peaks of the majestic Kanchenjunga on a clear day. When in Darjeeling, tea is the drink of your choice. But you may start with a cup of hot milk chocolate at Kev’s. One of the much ordered dish is the meat platter containing sausages, meat loaf, salami and bacon, and egg. Be forewarned, the loaded platter may become a burden if you are a solo traveller or a small eater. Food blogger and epicure Indrajit Lahiri suggests the cheese ham combo, apparently available on special request only.
Sonam’s Kitchen, Zakir Hussain Road
A sumptuous breakfast at Sonam’s Kitchen will last you well into the day, especially if you are out on a sightseeing tour. Some of the popular dishes on the menu are cheese toast, scrambled eggs, masala omelette, hash browns, etc. One of their signature dishes is the pancake, especially the lemon pancake and the honey banana pancake topped with a handful of dry fruits.
Kunga, Gandhi Road
The restaurant sports a fancy free look and limited seating but dishes out some of the most delicious Tibetan and Chinese food, swear visitors. Located within easy reach of a taxi stand, it remains pretty crowded. So time it right if you want a seat at the first go. The menu is exhaustive. Some of the much ordered dishes include chicken momo, pork waiwai (noodles) and chilly pork (with steamed rice).
Frank Ross Café, Nehru Road
If you are a vegetarian, head for Frank Ross Café (next to the medicine shop). They have a fairly extensive menu, which includes Indian as well as a smattering of Italian and Mexican dishes.
Hasty Tasty, Nehru Road
One of the older eating joints offering vegetarian south Indian food among other things. They also serve Jain vegetarian on request. An inside room with seating arrangements overlooks the valley.
Dekevas, Gandhi Road
Overshadowed by its more popular neighbour, Kunga restaurant, Dekevas inside Dekeling Hotel usually remains uncrowded. However, the taste of food has a home-cooked feel to it. They offer basic dishes such as fried rice, thenthuk, sweet and sour pork, etc. Go for the piping hot momo and thukpa if you are looking for a speciality of this Tibetan family owned restaurant.
Nathmulls, Laden La Road and Chowrasta
When in Darjeeling, you have to savour the ‘champagne of teas’. Most of the restaurants and cafes offer a variety of teas, a visit to Nathmulls, a company which dates back to 1931, is a different experience. Their outlet on Chowrasta, aptly named The Sunset Lounge, runs a tea bar. You may also buy packaged tea and tea accessories here.
Revolver, Gandhi Road
If you are looking for something exotic, try Revolver and its Naga cuisine. But remember, it has to be ordered in advance. One of the best option is to order the basic platter, and pair it with dishes such as pork with dried bamboo shoot, fish in fermented bamboo shoot, smoked pork, etc. They also serve Nepali dishes.
Glenary’s, Nehru Road
You cannot leave Darjeeling without eating at Glenary’s, say veteran visitors to the hill station. So plan for at least one sit-down meal of the day at this restaurant located near the Mall. With a fairly large seating area, with the valley and the distant hills visible through the glass windows at one end, it is also one of the oldest restaurants in town. Even though the ambience is more contemporary now than colonial. The old menu has also evolved, say old timers. So do not be surprised if you find Chicken Pizza in the same column with Fish and Chips or Pork Chops with French Fries. You may try the Roast Chicken with Potato Salad, Mixed Grill, Beef Burger, Shepherds’ Pie, etc. A word of caution: During peak season, including festive days, expect long queues, especially in the evening.