City Hangout – Everest Café, Paharganj
Cramped and cool.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
At an altitude of 239 metres, Everest Café cannot fit more than a dozen people at any given time.
Tucked in a shaded lane, it is off the main street in Paharganj Main Bazaar, a central Delhi market favoured by foreign backpackers for its inexpensive hotels and close proximity to New Delhi railway station.
Opened in 2000, the café is hippie-like. Come here if you want to get a sense of the carefree 1970s when things like bathing were considered a bourgeoisie indulgence.
Wicker chairs and low tables occupy a space so small that you find yourself squeezing against barely-clothed backpackers. One rack is stacked with toilet paper rolls; it faces the cake counter. A new seating area opened in 2010.
The dim lamps are relaxing. Stray dogs come in freely. Rats are not discouraged.
Popular among the backpacker tourists, different languages and accents twitter together turning the café into a sort of poor people’s UN canteen. Since the owner is Nepali, the house-music is the Nepali-language songs of love and longing. There’s also a Kathmandu newspaper with headlines of the 2001 royal family massacre framed on the wall.
The menu has Nepali thali. The Yak cheese comes from Kathmandu. Start the meal with green salad (Rs 45). Spread on a bed of wet lettuce leaves, fresh vegetables come tossed with sesame seeds in a yogurt dressing (mayonnaise on request).
For main course, ask for lemon grilled chicken (Rs 130). It’s accompanied with mashed potatoes and steamed vegetables. Spinach lasage is a fast-moving item. Consider vegetable momos (Rs 50). The delicate steamed dumplings are served with a seasame-flavoured sauce. Though not on the menu, yak cheese pizza is rustled up on request.
For dessert, try chocolate cake (Rs 40). The crumbly wedge has a crusty top. Wash it down with ginger honey tea (Rs 15).
There are Lonely Planet guidebooks. Once I spotted Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace. A chapter in Sam Miller’s Delhi: Adventures in a Megacity opens in Everest Café.
Where H. No. 4591, Dal Mandi, Near Hotel Star Palace, Main Bazaar, Paharganj Time 7 am to 11 pm Nearest Metro station New Delhi railway station
The world within