One highlight of our Himachal trip this year was the delightful food in Manali. In most of our trips (apart from Goa of course), we end up eating at the guest house/hotel that we are staying in, because after all the walking and hiking or driving that we do, we are ravenous by the time we hit home and therefore too lazy to venture out for food. Also, we are generally in slightly off-beat places like Fagu or Naldhera or Mukhteshwar or Chila, where guest house food is the best bet.
But this time in Manali, we explored a few eating joints – probably it was mainly because there was no restaurant at the log-huts, and ordering in the room reeked too much of a couch-potato-ish holiday. We stuck primarily to the log hut area, because that meant less walking, but also because it was a nicely nestled area with many promising places. The price ranges in almost all these places was middling, but none of them accepted a card, so carrying cash is the one thing you would want to remember. There is one SBI ATM on the mall road, but that is all.
Some places that we sampled:
Manali Heights, Near log hut area – The hotel apparently has more than one restaurant, one of them on the roof-top. However, we went at lunch time, and we were visiting Manali in something of an off-season, so we found only one of them functioning. The place was empty, we being the only customers – and the food took quite sometime in coming. It had good Indian cuisine and enjoyed devouring it. The options however, were quite limited, but you could enjoy the lovely view of snow-peaks if you sat near a window.
Mount View, Mall Road – The place promises to have a world cuisine, but it is mostly oriental. The service is poor and the atmosphere is that of a middle class family eating joint (with those stiff dark table covers). The music is quite disappointing too. However, the oriental fare is surprisingly good and the place offers variety. Do not be too greedy while ordering because the servings are huge.
Jhonson’s Bar, Log hut road – This place, located on the loghut road, but quite close to the Mall road, was a really fancy pub – the kind you do not generally expect in a hill station. With a spacious hall strewn with couches and a few bar stools, it was an ideal place to enjoy a good evening. The place apparently has a DJ of its own, but that evening we got a chance to take over – we plugged in our own ipod and rocked the floor – they even cleared a small area to make a dance floor for us. The drinks were reasonably priced. Next to the Jhonson’s bar is also the Jhonson’s Cafe, which seemed to have a good continental cuisine, but we didn’t get time to sample that.
Khyber, Mall Road – This was simply good food. At one time this was the only drinking place that Manali had, and therefore was quite popular, but even now, despite other options, it continues to hold its place. The multi-cuisine food is quite good, but do not expect great service. It is another old-fashioned family restaurant.
Mom’s Kitchen, Log Hut Road – This was a clear favorite. I simply loved the small cozy place – it is actually a house converted to an inn and kitchen. The owners (an old couple) recommend the best of their menu, and a geared up chef prepares it. The serving size is just perfect for one person. If you are here – definitely do not miss the dessert – a home-made ice-cream with some exotic fruits. The owner himself prepared these home-mixed sundae’s for us, and they are the best I have ever had anywhere. Just the thought of them works up my appetite.
Dhabas at Madhi – Though this is out of Manali, but really the food at Madhi (a village close to Rohtang pass) dhabas is supposed to be awesome, and we sampled that. We ordered simple stuff like daal and paneer, and we ate far more than we would normally do. What was even more delightful was looking out at the hills on the side and the valley stretching right in front, cuddling up in the cold breezes with the hot cups of delicious chai.
Of course, I shouldn’t forget the barbeque in our lawn and the maggi and the egg poaches made in our kitchen – but that was strictly for private perusal.