Foodies guide to Darjeeling- the hidden gems

Come whatever may, a normal regular Kolkattan will visit three places in his / her life. And, surprisingly, the place’s name is “Di-pu-Da”- now don’t get me wrong. They are basically, Digha Puri and Darjeeling- the three mascots of tourism in and around West Bengal. So, if it’s a one night or two nights holiday, Digha is thought off (Madarmanai is still a newbie) and for a long holiday, sea means Digha and mountain means Darjeeling- period.

Now, here’s from where I started my journey on the cult food joints in Darjeeling.

You can check the part 1- cult joints in Darjeeling here

So, as we were discussing, everybody visits the cult joints there and frankly, everybody should. But, few joints are there, who have made a name for themselves – even in this tough competitive world. This post would talk about our experiences in few of them.

Firstly, let me be candid. The blog-posts by Kanishka Chakraborty and off course my friends from social media helped me a lot in finding and experiencing them.

The first spot is one almost non-descript joint called the Lotus Restaurant. This is situated just beside the Rink Mall and is 4-5 min walking distance from Keventers downwards. The place is kinda desserted and once we pushed the door in, I saw only one waiter and the first question that came out of my mouth was “Bhai, dukan khula hai ? ” . He replied in an affirmative tone and we settled down. The interior is decent and bigger than the earlier ones. And, even before we checked the menu card, my monkey prince was shouting for momo. Okay, so momo it was, but we ordered Kothay- the one-side shallow fried ones.

Though the service was slow, damn slow in fact, but the Kothay was good. Perfectly shaped and the feeling had those chewy piece of meat and the perfect pork fat which came out inside our mouth when needed. And, the next ordered dish was Thukpa. Other than the freshly chopped coriander and onion topping, thukpa disappointed us, because of its extremely mediocre test.

But, as per suggestion, we had the stir fried vegetables. Though the vegetables were not the freshest of the day, but taste compensated for it. They were literally stir fried and not boiled and sauteed like so many other heroes. The crunchiness was intact and the good thing is, it had used less of Soya sauce, unlike what we’re used here in Kolkata. And, the final dish was the Red Hot Chilly Pork. It’s basically, double fried lean pork with loads of red chilly. Surely, it was hot, damn hot and my wife was cursing me as usual. But, I was missing my Rum. If you devour fierce, hot stuff- you’d love it here.

Stir Fried Vegetables
Red Hot chilly Pork

So, main meals of the days were sorted, though we missed a few, I’m sure. But, still we have heard so much about this place called Sonam’s Kitchen. So, if you start walking upwards from the CCD on Darjeeling Mall, just after the stable, the road gets divided in three lanes like a trishul and you should take the middle one. Or ask anybody, it’s an extremely popular joint among foreigners and foodie Indians. It’s a small joint with 3 tables and please be ready to share your table with strangers. Recently, they’ve taken another place just across the street (with a mountain view), but the old one has the kitchen attached and hence preferred by me.

You can check the location on google map here

Don’t think twice and order for their Toast with cheese and masala omlette, off course with another cheese omlette. The toast will be fat slices from local bread, perfectly toasted and topped with ample slices of cheese. The masala omlette will be the old fashioned overcooked stuff with loads of veggies put inside. And, cheese omlette will be an open one with sufficient cheese on top- slightly overdone. My wife loves scrambled eggs. And, when it was served, it was served to her used plate, straight from the frying pan and naturally piping hot. Worth, definitely, this place is worth all the hype. They proudly claim to make the best coffee, so that level of confidence deserves a tasting session. And, coffee was dark and strong, with full cream milk served on side.

toast with cheese and masala omlette
Cheese omlette
Scrambled Egg

But, we love something sweet. and, this place was supposedly well known for its French toast and Pancakes. And, who are we lesser mortals to deny them ? French Toast was made with those sexy, fat bread slices heavily rubbed with honey and banana and dry fruits. Now, this this is heavy and to be only ordered when you have the intake capacity. Pancake also didn’t lack behind. The thickness added to its soft nature and an ample topping of dry fruits and banana didn’t harm anyone- ever. Here, I would suggest not to miss these items.

French Toast with honey, banana and dry fruits
Pancake with honey, banana and dry fruits

But, while you’re in Darjeeling, won’t you taste a cup of good Darjeeling Tea ? Are you sure ? Rather than going for other names, go for the Golden Tips Shop bang on the Darjeeling Mall and ask for this gentleman called Sanjay Dalui. He’s the operations Head in that store and a super gyani person on Darjeeling Tea. I’ve heard, in numerous places, once you taste and shop for a particular variety of Darjeeling tea, what is given to taste and what comes home packed, seldom matches. But, it’s not like that in this place. The inside of this store opens up to a lovely tea tasting boutique and if you seek help, Sanjay will actually give you a tea tasting session complementary, after which you can decide your purchase.

The tea can also be ordered online here on their official website and they’re known to deliver authentic stuff.

Mr Sanjay Dalui with his team member

Needless to say, there are numerous day package tours and we went on something called a Happy Valley Tea Estate visit, which had a guided tour. The tour was fine at a nominal charge per head, but what we didn’t realize is, 1) photography is not allowed inside the factory and 2) winter is not the plucking season, where we can witness the actual process. However, it was a good experience. Below is a video shot inside, with permission.

So, that’s about my experience at Darjeeling. Definitely, I am planning to go there once again the next winter and I’m sure, some more places will be included. Meanwhile, if you know some interesting places, do share for my knowledge please.

You can read about my formal tea tasting experience in Kolkata here

BTW, IRCTC has a lovely joyride for toy train from Darjeeling station and back. Do not, I repeat do not miss it and tickets can be reserved much in advanced via the IRCTC website. As the starting and destination staion will be same, I hope this below screenshot will help with the name. And, luckily, the Teesta Rangit Festival was going on during this period , so some live performances were going on during the ride. Here’s a small video.

Bon apetit !!!

Comments and critics welcome !!!

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