Friday, July 18, 2014

Cafe Tibet: Excellent Coffee and Snacks Near M. G. Marg Gangtok

Drinking a hot & tasty cup of coffee in a hill station is a always a delight. I got to enjoy this treat in Cafe Tibet which I found while walking from my hotel in the Development Area (Hotel Nettle & Fern), towards M. G. Marg (Tourist Office end). If you are anywhere on M. G. Marg Gangtok, just ask for directions to the Development Area and you will reach Cafe Tibet on the way in about 5 minutes by walk. The cafe has a nice big hall with a few round tables. One side of the hall has windows overlooking the hills. Here, on a clear day you will be able to get a glimpse of Kangchenjunga's peak. Atmosphere here is very relaxed which is perfect for enjoying your coffee while watching the nice view. The coffee is terrific and delightfully cheap. I saw a crispy fried savoury snack dusted with powdered sugar at the counter. The staff said it was "Peni" or "Feni". Whatever was its name, it was the best thing to have along with that great coffee (see picture below). I think I paid INR 40 or something for both. Honestly, I have not had such a great value coffee and snack in a long time. There was no printed or displayed menu which I wish they had. Tourists do not know about this place but I am sure it must be a local favourite. A walk from M. G. Marg to this nearby gem is totally worth the effort. See pictures below...

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Roll Corner: Rolls and Snacks on M. G. Marg Gangtok

There is a nice little outlet called Roll House on M. G. Marg, Gangtok that has been selling really tasty rolls and momos for quite some time now. Roll House sells tasty and ready to eat food, and its located on a street that has more number of tourists than any other place in Gangtok at any point of time. Now that is a sure shot recipe for success. And as we all know, success in business attracts competition. Roll House got it a few months back and its called Roll Corner that opened shop in an alley a few yards away from Roll House, on the same side of M. G. Marg. After seeing Roll Corner, the first thing that came to my mind was that these two establishments need to trade names. Because, Roll House is much smaller in size than Roll Corner when logically speaking, it should be the other way round. But apart from the size of the shop, as of now, Roll House fully deserves its bigger name because they still sell the best rolls in Gangtok. Roll Corner will eventually catch-up. I hope this "Roll House - Roll Corner" did not confuse you. In this article, we are talking about Roll Corner. Keep reading...

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Khan Chacha's Biryani House M. G. Marg Gangtok: Good Style, Horrible Biryani

It gives me absolutely no pleasure when I have to tell the truth about a bad eating joint that could have been really good had it been under a competent ownership or management. On M. G. Marg, Gangtok's Tourist Centre, I have found three restaurants that really are a blot on the good name that Sikkim has earned for itself in the field of tourism - Rasoi Veg Restaurant, Apna Dhaba, and Khan Chacha Biryani House (New Market Beside Star Hall M. G. Marg Gangtok Sikkim Phone: 99330 06060). The last one is a recent addition to the countless number of eateries on M. G. Marg. Apart from "Biryani", Khan Chacha serves kebabs and rolls. Much of the food here is non-vegetarian. There are a total of four vegetarian items - Veg Roll (30/-), Paneer Roll (50/-), Paneer Cheese Roll (60/-), and "Veg Biryani" which is not on the menu but served when ordered. (See menu pictures below) The reason why I wrote the word Biryani in quotes is that what they serve here in the name of Biryani is some undercooked, completely tasteless and unhygienically cooked colored rice that can be called inedible at best. Keep reading...

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Mid Range Hotel Near M. G. Marg Gangtok: The Nettle & Fern Hotel Review

The Nettle & Fern Hotel (Jiwan Theeng Marg, Development Area, Gangtok, Sikkim (Phone: +91-3592-209377) is a decent mid range hotel where you get a deluxe non-view room for under INR 2500 per night including breakfast. Most hotels in Gangtok have this type of accommodation, some rooms with a view of the hills and others facing the city. But there is something that makes Nettle & Fern unique, its in-house bar & restaurant which is deigned like an American diner. The seating arrangement, the walls decorated in the Rock & Roll style and a lively bar counter are what make this basement restaurant look and feel like an American diner. Its not entirely a happy story though which I will explain later in this page. The hotel is located at about a 10 minute walk from the M. G. Marg, Tourist Office end. If you need to tell a cab, say "Development Area". Its a nice and clean area and cabs go right upto the hotel's gate. Speaking about the hotel gate, it closes at 11.00pm after which you need to call the guy sleeping inside on his cell phone to wake him up to get the gate opened. Coming to the accommodation, the non-view deluxe room I got was large with a King bed, a small but clean bathroom, a window overlooking the road outside, a small LCD TV on the wall, a small cabinet and a tea-coffee maker with some supplies. The bathroom had a water heater which worked well. Sleep quality was good. Keep reading for pictures and more about the property...

Monday, July 7, 2014

Decent Transit Hotel Near Kolkata Airport: Rupasi Bangla Resort Review

Being able to find a clean and affordable transit hotel near any airport is a blessing for air travellers. Those taking flights out of Kolkata International Airport and looking for a good transit hotel do have such a blessing. It is called Rupasi Bangla Resort (VIP Road, Beside Military Camp, Tegharia, Raghunathpur, Kolkata- 700157) situated at a five minute drive from Kolkata Airport and has Deluxe rooms at approximately INR 2000 per night including free airport pickup / drop and breakfast. For free pickup, one needs to call the hotel number after arriving at Kolkata Airport and they send their taxi. Call +91-8584030700, 8584030701 or 8584030702.

The deluxe room I got was decent sized, very clean, had a queen bed, a large dresser mirror, a small LCD TV, a window AC that worked fine, a mini fridge, and a small table & chair too. The free breakfast was poori bhaji and tea served in the room. It was all a great deal but I do have one complaint too. I will write this for the benefit of other people who will stay at this hotel. Keep reading for pictures and more...

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Culture Walk at Varanasi's Ghats: See Local Life Up-Close

The one thing that makes Varanasi unique are its numerous Ghats, that are actually stone steps leading to the banks of river Ganga. These steps are found all the way from Assi Ghat on one end to Raj Ghat at the other end and it is sometimes difficult to segregate one Ghat from another. It is tough to say where the boundary of one Ghat ends and the other begins. According to Wikipedia, there are approximately 100 Ghats on this stretch. I guess it would be a great experience to take a walking tour of this entire stretch but not sure if that will be practical. However, what is easily do-able is to take an afternoon walk from Assi Ghat (home to two of Varanasi's best restaurants - Open Hand Cafe and Aum Cafe) to Dashashwamedh Ghat that is famous for being close to the Kashi Vishwanath Temple. A grand Ganga Aarti is performed at Dashashwamedh Ghat every evening. Hence, this Ghat will be the ideal point to end the tour. This walking tour will take you through 18-19 Ghats where you will get to see some overwhelming scenes of life on the river banks in Varanasi. Keep reading...

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Aum Cafe: Great Vegetarian Food at Assi Ghat Varanasi

Two of Varanasi's best restaurants are located near Assi Ghat. One of them is called Open Hand Cafe. Aum Cafe is the other. Aum Cafe is even more special because it is 100% vegetarian. Aum Cafe's address is B1/201 Assi Ghat, Varanasi 221001. Phone:  +91 93356 31122 and the official directions to find it are like this: If you climb the steps of Assi Ghat, you will find Aum Cafe behind the temple. I am not sure of these but if you asked someone at Assi Ghat, they will most likely show you the way to Aum Cafe. Its a small two-storey house in a narrow lane, converted into a shop on the first floor and a restaurant on the terrace. Perhaps there is a massage room too in this building because Aum Cafe's menu advertises an Ayurvedic massage which costs INR 2500 for one hour and requires an advance appointment. The first floor shop has silk, cotton and rayon garments, Tee-shirts, bangles made of recycled camel bone, etc. The cafe opens from 7.00am to 3.30pm everyday except Monday. Keep reading for the food they serve...

Monday, June 30, 2014

International Vegetarian Food at Niyati Cafe Maan Mandir Dashashwamedh Ghat Varanasi

If you went to Maan Mandir near Dashashwamedh Ghat in Varanasi looking for a "restaurant" called Vishnu Tea Emporium, you would be supremely disappointed. Vishnu is not a restaurant, just a small shop selling tea leaves and spices. But the false advertisement of Vishnu Tea Emporium serves a very useful purpose. It brings people to this narrow lane called Maan Mandir that is home to two real and very nice restaurants in Varanasi - Dosa Cafe and Niyati Cafe. Dosa Cafe is a family owned restaurant that serves the best Dosa in Varanasi. You can read more about Dosa Cafe here. In this page, I will right about Niyati Cafe. Niyati is a vegetairan restaurant that serves Indian and international breakfast, lunch, dinner, in-between snacks, hot & cold drinks, fruit juices, etc. everyday from 9.00am to 9.30pm. Many expats staying in Varanasi dine regularly in Niyati Cafe. Keep reading...

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Vishnu Tea Emporium: A Fake Restaurant at Maan Mandir Dashashwamedh Ghat Varanasi

I went to Maan Mandir (near Dashashwamedh Ghat) in Varanasi looking for Vishnu Tea Emporium (D.15/51, Maan Mandir, Dashashwamedh Ghat, Varanasi-221001), which was supposed to be a restaurant or at least a place where one could have a nice cup of tea. That was the impression I had got after reading about Vishnu Tea Emporium on Tripadvisor. My mistake of course, but Vishnu Tea Emporium turned out to be a sad little shop selling loose CTC tea leaves out of large tin containers. The almost confused boy sitting in the shop told me that they never serve any food or tea. That was strange because in Tripadvisor, Vishnu Tea Emporium is listed as a restaurant ranking at number 6 among the 130 restaurants in Varanasi. A restaurant in the top ten list? What a fraud. I have read quite a few fake hotel and restaurant reviews on Tripadvisor but have never seen a whole listing to be fake. I guess most of the "Excellent" reviews of Vishnu on Tripadvisor are also fake. It is a tourist trap unknowingly or perhaps even willingly aided by Tripadvisor. See the picture of Vishnu Tea Emporium and read more below...
Blog by: Narinder Singh