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Mcleodganj: A food lover's paradise
Mohanram Inbaraj
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April 04, 2007

Continuing our reader-driven series on must-sample restaurants and eating places across the country, Mohanram Inbaraj talks about the tasty fare ranging from authentic Tibetan food to Italian at throwaway prices in Mcleodganj, Dharamsala, while on a visit with a friend.

Our first impression of Mcleodganj in Dharamsala was that of a spiritual town. Since the Dalai Lama himself lived there, lot of Buddhist monks were found walking around in the streets. Prayer gongs and incense sticks of all shapes and sizes were stacked in the town's colourful bazaar.

As foodies, we were a pampered lot -- we stayed in Delhi, which is a food lover's paradise.

The three of us reached Mcleodganj at around noon, checked into our rooms and set out for lunch.

We chose the Snowlion restaurant and settled down for a Tibetan lunch of tasty momos, Tingmo (made of refined flour rolled like a ball and steamed), Bakleb (Tibetan style samosas) and Thukpas (a meal of soup and noodles). For dessert, there was the delicious Lemon Cheese cake. We were on cloud nine when the check came (Rs 225).

After a good afternoon nap, we ventured out to the bazaar area until we came to the Nowrojee junction (the oldest departmental store in town, started in early 20th century, is located here). We found an English style bakery at Nowrojee junction and were soon gorging on pastries, cookies, et al. We had lemon tarts, Black Forest cakes, chocolate mousse, gateaus all washed down with a mug of cappuccino. Still hungry for more, we took home assorted cookies to munch on the way. This feast came at a bargain price of Rs100.

Soon it was time for dinner and we set out to the bazaar again, this time going a bit further on the Bhagsu road, where we found one of the culinary jewels of Mcleodganj -- Nick's Kitchen, which has an open terrace overlooking the valley below.

Run by Nick, an Italian, it serves authentic Italian food at dirt cheap prices. We ordered some fine white wine, which we sipped while munching on some thin crust pizzas (flavoured with natural herbs and baked in wooden ovens).

For the main course, we had Penne In Alfredo Sauce, Tagliatelle With Spinach In Olive oil and Risotto With Mushrooms. We ended the day with one of the finest Tiramisus we had ever tasted. Our appetites sated, we went to bed dreaming about the next day's culinary treat.

Next day, for breakfast, we had a staple diet of aloo parathas and chai.

Very soon, it was time for lunch and we stumbled on a place called Pemathang, which turned out to be the best pizzeria we've ever visited till now. We started off with some pasta followed by Macaroni and Penne In Arrabiata sauce. Everything was delicious, but the thin 'melt in your mouth' crust pizza with spinach and cashew topping was the one that bowled us over. We ordered one more (two 12" pizzas for two people) and finished our meal off with carrot cake.

For dinner the following evening, we visited Ashoka. The ambience was 'Old Delhi' style -- crowded with closely arranged tables. This restaurant serves Tandoori as well as good Lebanese food, which is unusual. We ordered Hummus, Falafel, Tabbouleh accompanied with some fluffy Pita bread and Tahini. The fare was authentic and we washed it down by draught beer.

The next day we breakfasted at a French cafe with an ambience to die for, with low seats overlooking the Dhauladhars. We had a typical French breakfast of toast, assorted jam and sauces, farmer's sandwich, croissants, Danish pastry -- all washed down with some fine tea.

After a bout of sightseeing, it was time for lunch and for that we visited Kokonor on Bhagsu road. Here they serve excellent authentic Italian and Tibetan food. We started off with some fantastic Bakleb accompanied by fruit teas, which was then followed by Spinach Ravioli and the best Gnocchi we've ever had. They even put the best Italian restaurants in Delhi to shame! We rounded off the meal with divine Bananas In Choco sauce.

Note: Mcleodganj is best explored on foot as all the restaurants/ hotels are centred around the main bazaar area. A meal for two would cost around Rs 250-Rs 300. Apart from these, there are many more run-of-the-mill places that serve staple dal-roti-rice meals. Keeping in mind the Buddhist traditions, most of the restaurants are vegetarian.

Mohanram Inbaraj is a self-avowed foodie.

Do you have a favourite restaurant or cuisine? Or have you sampled the latest haunt on the block? Be it Manali or Kanyakumari, Kashmir or Goa, Jaipur or Nagpur -- we would love to know more about the eating out options in your village, town or city.

Self-confessed foodies, recommend a restaurant. Rate the food (vegetarian and non-vegetarian), ambience, service, accessibility and whether you plan to head back.

Don't forget to add the restaurant's address and phone number, along with your full name, age, the name of your city, your profession and contact details.

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