As some readers probably know, I’ve been in Nepal, hence the quiet month of November. It was a last-minute rush, to see family, as soon as the country came off the “Red List”, and perhaps timely looking at how the pendulum of travel restrictions seems once more to be heading in the wrong direction again. Now, I did drink wine in Nepal, but (aside from the home made) it was all from Chile.
I don’t want to disrespect Chilean wine, but these few bottles were all of a type we might have been drinking twenty years ago (and others doubtless still are). They were rich, oaky, bottled in heavy glass and none were below 14% abv. All decent, even good within their context, but wines I’d call higher end commercial examples.
We did drink plenty of alcohol, however. Nepal has its own “craft beer” industry, making increasingly good examples to supplement the brands I’ve written about before (Gorkha, Sherpa, Everest…). No Tongba this time but we did buy a brilliant home-made Chang from a farmer’s market. Rum is a Nepalese speciality and the more I drink the Khukri brand, the more I like it. It may not be in the mould of the fine old rum many will drink back home, but as one rarely consumes fewer than two bottles in one sitting, just as well. A hot spiced rum (cloves, ginger) is very effective against the cold winter nights (daytime temperatures in Kathmandu in November hit 22/23 Degrees Celsius, but drop thirteen or fourteen degrees below that when the sun goes down around 5.30pm).
One new addition to evening drinking was Nepal’s first blended malt whisky, Bandipur, named after a rather beautiful hilltop village on the way to Pokhara. Expensive for Nepal, but still under £30/bottle and it was excellent. These various beverages all made up for being unable to source any Pataleban wine. Everything seemed to be sold out, and the past couple of vintages have had their problems. Seems we were too early for the 2020s.
The alcohol aside, the real star of our trip was, as always, the food. I’m a fan of all Asian cuisines, but that of Nepal is vastly underrated, usually forgotten overseas (as is that of Pakistan) amid the domination of the Indian cooking (both regional, and the generic) which we see so much here in Great Britain. There are actually some rather exciting Nepalese restaurants in the UK. Edinburgh in particular has many, and in Gautam’s and Solti, owned by the same family, two I can recommend highly having dined in both this autumn.
Several people asked for more photos from our trip. I’m reticent to put up too many tourist snaps, but I feel confident that some regular readers will be interested in some of the dozens of dishes we ate, both in Kathmandu and at the Namobuddha Resort a few hours from the capital, where we stayed in small cottages on a hillside with perfect views (not always guaranteed) of the Himalayas spread before us. I hope you enjoy them.
Namobuddha Resort and the road to Dhulikhel. Namobuddha Resort grows almost all of its own organic produce on a nearby farm. In Nepal terms it provides enough luxury with far more authenticity than many grander spots, set in a beautiful hillside garden with the finest views you could wish for (weather permitting)
Siddhipur Sweets & Chat House (Lalitpur)
A Chat House isn’t somewhere you go to talk…the centre of the nine photos above is a “Samosa Chat” (sometimes Chaat), basically chickpea curry on an open samosa, one of Nepal’s classic styles. Below it sits a plate of momos, Nepal’s (and Tibet’s) national dish and one of the world’s finest foods, deceptively simple but very addictive.
This shop and cafe is probably a little out of the way but the food, and sweets (mithai in Nepali) are genuinely sensational.
The dishes above are at C-YA Vegan (@amruthaz_vegan_food_service), certainly Kathmandu’s finest fully vegan restaurant, in Jhamsikhel. There really is no meat in the dishes above.
Bandipur Whisky and Chang (in Nepal most often just brewed with rice, brown rice in this case. At 6-7% abv it can creep up on you, especially as a good one goes down like fruit juice).
Sam’s Bar in Thamel (Kathmandu). It’s my favourite bar in the city but it is usually rammed, a sad sign of Covid’s effect on the tourism industry in that part of Kathmandu which is tourist central.
The Walnut Tree in Lazimpat, an excellent new discovery.
One of the finest maize-based snacks on the planet
There are many photos on my IG feed if you need a Nepal fix…