First off, any resemblance of the title of this piece to a well-known food delivery service is purely coincidental! But yes, let’s talk about food. If we look back even 15 years you might remember there were very few places to eat out in town. There were bhattis selling a variety of Newari or pseudo-Newari food along with a lot of locally made strong liquor. I do confess to have been to quite a number of these, particularly in the winter when they serve warming tumba. There were ‘tourist’ restaurants in Thamel serving ‘continental’ food that was really a variation on a roti. Italian pizza: roti with tomato sauce and cheese. Mexican burrito: roti with refried beans. Middle Eastern pitta bread: roti cut into triangles. You get the picture. Naturally there were one or two good ones. Long running Fire and Ice for example. Outside of Thamel there were also long running restaurants such as Ringmo in Lazimpat. With its pictures of, surprisingly enough, Ringmo Lake on its stained and dingy walls. I never found out whether the owner was from Dolpo or whether it was a dream destination. Ringmo, I believe, has been selling its chowmein and chop-suey since the 1970’s.
And the Bakery Café was the go-to place for local families for Saturday treats. Nanglo in Durbar Marg was iconic. And Mikes Breakfast was always a great place to eat. I remembering eating there in 1990! At the top end of the market there were restaurants like Krishnarpan in Dwarika’s Hotel and the Coffee Shop in the Annapurna Hotel. But few restaurants were on the ‘must try’ list for ordinary folks and their families. A point of interest: all of these restaurants I have mentioned which have been running for 20 or more years are still running very successfully. The secret is consistency I think.
So why did the culture change from eating at home to eating out? Which came first: a change in taste driving demand or an increase in the number of restaurants seeking to attract customers? And when exactly did this happen? Fifteen years ago there were some restaurants ahead of their time. There was Organic Village in Baluwatar run by Nepalis who had returned home from the US. Organic, healthy food was served, mainly attracting an expat crowd.
There was a small, delightful restaurant run by a Nepali guy and his South American wife opposite Bhat Bhateni that sold tasty South American food and delicious cakes. These two, along with others I’m sure, could not sustain with expat custom alone and closed down. Then, as far as I can figure it, around 10 years ago something shifted. In any case now we can definitely say we live in Foodmandu!
Just recently I went to two new restaurants. One providing South East Asian food and one serving continental. Both being franchises out of India but neither selling anything remotely like Indian food. Just today I heard there is a Ramen restaurant newly opened in the premises of Park Village Hotel. To counter this there is now quite a few restaurants selling Thakali food. These are kind of upmarket places but how authentically Thakali their fare is I would not be able to tell. I do know many moons ago a treat was going to a restaurant in Surket (yes, you read that right) run by a Thakali couple. Nothing upmarket about that restaurant.
Now it seem like every time I turn around there is another restaurant opening up. As I complete my 360 degree turn, there is another hotel too. With a number of restaurants and coffee shops inside. Not that I am complaining about the variety and choices now available! No, indeed. But if I have a complaint it is that there just isn’t enough time (or money) to get round all these new eateries. Unless anyone wants me as full time food reviewer…