My Out of Office, Office
A trip to Pokhara for most tourists often means a few days, or weeks, frequenting the bars and restaurants of Lakeside in, or not, between treks . Whilst only 160Km from Kathmandu it’s a bit of a long bus ride which on average takes about 8 hours, the last leg of which is a real bone shaker as the driver thunders over and around countless pot holes. The Annapurna trek starts in Pokhara and whilst Nepal’s second largest city, for most tourists Pokhara is little more than the half mile strip that is lakeside. Admittedly it’s a delightful place to relax and enjoy the mountains that ring Fewa lake, especially if you have just arrived from the hustle and hassle of Kathmandu and Themel’s street hawkers, and compared to many global destinations Pokhara is extremely cheap with room rates between 700 and 1500 NPR ($7-$15 or £5-£10 ) and meals the same or less.
Whilst Nepali cuisine is a far cry from India’s rich and varied offerings, and a little more expensive, it is still resonable good. However if dal bat (plain rice and watery lentils) doesn’t quite wet your appetite then there there are numerous pizza restaurants where a pretty good pizza can be obtained for under a fiver ($7). An insipid coffee made from Nepali grown beans will though cost you about 180NPR ($1.80, £1.20). Whilst many will and do disagree with me that the coffee is crap I would aver that there is a reason why you have never heard of it before: because I’m right. No coffee lover would buy Himalayan Java whilst the real stuff exists. However move away from lakeside and the price comes down and the quality goes up. Take a stroll up Phewa Marg from Hallan Chowk and walk towards Nayabazar Road. The M &S coffee house is on the left about 50 yards from the junction of Nayabazar Road. Alternatively catch a bus for 20NPR to Nayabazar Road and you will find my favourite place for a coffee: the M & S Coffee House.
The M & S Coffee house is small, tastefully decorated and furnished, and for 130NPR you get a much better coffee than what’s on offer in Lakeside. For an extra 50NPR you can have a double shot and, if like me your more used to Mediterranean coffee where the first one opens the left eye, the second the right and the third gives you heart palpitations, then you wont be (overly) disappointed. It’s still though Nepali beans, so still inferior to coffee from anywhere else in the world, but so far its the best I’ve found in Nepal.
What though literally adds the cherry to the cake is the Black Forrest Gateau. It’s let down a little by the fake cream but with four layers of beautifully made sponge it would give Mary Berry an orgasm. Perhaps bakeoff is missing a trick here, a possible remake of when Harry met Sally? When Paul met Sue and Mary said ‘I’ll have what she’s having’. It’s similarly an absolute steal at 65NPR (50 cents or 40p) a slice.
If though you prefer something a bit more sweet then there is the butter scotch version which you can double up on with a butterscotch Latte. In fact The M & S Coffee House offers a fair selection of fancy deserts and coffees, but for me I prefer my coffee like my whiskey, just a splash of milk (water in the case whiskey).