Best Breakfast in Darjeeling
Few names immediately pop up when I think of having a good sumptuous breakfast in Darjeeling. For me, It's not just having a deep bite into warm toasts & eggs and sipping fresh coffee, it's also about feeling Darjeeling when starting the day.
The first such name has to be, I am kind of biased here, and it must be Keventer's. Well it's hard to even think that a place so fond in the hearts of thousands of Darjeeling lovers for the kind of full English breakfast it has been serving for over a century, can start having serious competitors. Well, I don't like to believe this but the fact is there are now couple of places giving it a hard run when it comes to having real good food for breakfast.
Keventer's Darjeeling, front facade
But having said that, Keventer's has an aura which is virtually impossible to surpass. As I said, it's not about just having fresh bean roasted fine coffee or a soft crunchy pancake topped with warm honey, it's also about the place. And this is where Keventer's would beat all. This is more than 100 years old eatery and has been existing since the British colonial days. It structurally looks the same the way it used to be originally. The downstairs is a shop selling bakery and dairy products including sausages, cottage cheese etc, the restaurant is upstairs. While inside dining is small, you can sit outside on the open terrace and see the entire landscape of Darjeeling.... so wonderful and refreshing.
So what do you eat here? My favorite is chicken salami, meat loaf and eggs, and accompany that with toasts and of course fresh Darjeeling green tea. Cheese omelet is also nice. You can also get coffee served in a pot instead of tea. In breakfast, there are several other choices including pork and chicken specialties like Chinese sausage & fried eggs, bacon, ham, pork salami, Frank Furter fried etc. Perfect menu for western breakfast.
There are few things to note in Keventer's when it comes to food and service. Actually the quality of food is not bad. It's the way they prepare them is something to be thought through. There was a time when sausages & meatloaf were only to be found in Keventer's and no where else in Darjeeling, and then such preparations of sausages and meatloaf were something very coveted. But today when you see sausages deep fried and coming soaked with oil and hard to chew, this is not something what you expect. In fact meat loafs and even fried eggs come with lots of surface oil.
While I love the fact that Keventer's has retained many old-time staff some of who have been serving for well over 30 years, it also takes a toll on the attitude towards service. They should bring in more fresh blood in its service as not all tourists understand the underlying stories of Keventer's but come here mainly for it's prime location. They want to have good food and get good service. Keventer's is located on Nehru Road, on the way to the Mall.
Another name, possibly the best in food when it comes to breakfast is Sonam's Kitchen. I have been following this eatery since ages when it started out from a small garage space on the narrow Zakir Hussain road, a minute's walk from Chowrasta Mall. Now they have a newer extension opposite to the old space. However the tiny old space which is almost overflowing into the road with only few limited seats remains as the favorite place to eat. The couple Sonam and Puran run the eatery. Sonam is the chef and Puran takes care of logistics. However customer interaction is mostly handled by Sonam herself, as Puran is a little shy kind of a person, while Sonam is quite versatile and outspoken.
Sonam & Puran in all smiles, as I said CHEESE!
They have set breakfasts tuned to western taste.... like Hashbrown, fried eggs, tomato, cheese & toast, or French toast with honey, or Pancake with fruits, nuts and honey, etc. Well I love the brown toasts here, they are prepared to perfection and soaked with butter. Another favorite of mine is the vegetable omelet. You can also take porridge, sandwiches (can you think about Tuna in the hills? yes they have it, canned though), and of course a cup of Darjeeling tea served in a pot. Try out the ginger honey tea which is served in a glass instead of a cup.
Well, while food is really good at Sonam's Kitchen and she makes it with fresh ingredients, that is almost all that you can expect in this small eatery. I mean you need to come here to eat, relish good food and go. You can't look around for any ambience as all you will see is a narrow busy and often filthy road in front and buildings next to it. Well if you come with your friends or a newspaper, you can spend some time over tea. And if you are seating at the old space with your back facing the road, then all you will see are heads of other eaters and a wall ahead. You will see many foreigners here, mostly backpackers, and seldom any locals.
Glenary's Bakery is another great place to have your breakfast, although the breakfast menu is not very elaborate. You get sandwiches, pies, pastries, pizzas, rolls, cakes and of course Darjeeling tea and coffee. While Glenary's is famous for its bakery items, breakfast here is special because this restaurant which is run by the Edwards family has been there since the British colonial days.
Bakery Counter, Glenary's Darjeeling
It has maintained the aura and charm of the old period. There is even an old traditional red colored telephone booth at the bakery and right at the middle. Take a table by the window side after you walk past the bakery counter, and you will be rewarded with lovely views of the mountains as well. Glenary's is located on Nehru Road, yards away from Chowrasta (Mall) and is a landmark by itself.
The next name for breakfast is Revolver Restaurant. It's a restaurant of a small budget hotel but open to all, and located on Gandhi road. They get items like bread from Glenary's, and cocktail sausages from Keventer's. While they serve you the same sausages as Keventers, they ensure that they prepare it the way it should be.... no surface oil.
They have a set breakfast among other choices (they call it 'Morning Delight'). It includes toasts, fried eggs, bacon, sausages, baked beans, butter and jam. I could not finish the full breakfast every time I tried it... I get too full. But if you want, you can add or go for corn flakes or muesli with milk, mashed potato, pancake with honey, sandwiches etc.
The Dining Area, Revolver Restaurant
And you can accompany that either with Darjeeling tea (choice of milk tea, liquor, masala and lemon tea) or handmade coffee from roasted fresh beans. In most cases, Vikas Pradhan, the owner makes the coffee himself and he is proud of the coffee he serves here. When I asked him what's so special about the coffee here? Fresh coffee at CCD
is available only a few minutes walk away at Chowrasta Mall anyway. And he said 'They use a machine, I use my hands'. So lot's of love is also poured into your cup of coffee. He also offers coffee made from Lavazza coffee capsules.
Another place which overall scores high in breakfast for better than average food and excellent views & ambience is a place called Foodsteps Cafe. This place is not easily visible but located at a prominent place very near Chowrasta Mall. Next to Pineridge Hotel, a stairway leads upstairs to this impressive eatery. There is another floor above the first and that is the place to go and enjoy the lovely views of the mountains. With slanted wood & glass finish ceiling, a bright decor with wood finishing in most part, and glass top tables by the window-side, it is perhaps the most attractive of all the places I described above. Alas, had the food perfectly complimented it, it would have been on top of my list.
But having said that, the food is okay. They are well known for delicious homemade waffles and pancakes, however in recent times there have been some complaints. But I would still consider this better than many other places. Western breakfast is good and accompany that with Darjeeling tea or coffee. This place has long been a locals favorite (particularly couples who love to spend time instead of money). A board on the top floor is an indication of that - after a stipulated time, there is an additional charge by the hour for occupying a table. The service here needs to improve though.
If you are the type to have only North Indian type breakfast like puri bhaji, alu paratha & pickles, chole batora etc or South Indian type like dosa, idli etc, then you should head for Hasty Tasty on Nehru Road near Glenary's. This is a vegetarian restaurant. It's more like a Indian fast food restaurant where people walk in for hot food at reasonable prices, eat and walk out.
So, there is nothing much about the ambience because tables are placed in rows one after the other with barely any space between them and you will likely be eating in a noisy environment. However, this is what most of the Indian budget travelers look for... it's a very popular restaurant here. Go down to the end of the dining room where couple of tables are laid out with nice views of the valley.
Go through Hasty Tasty
for details about the restaurant.
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