City Hangout – Coffee House, Majnu Ka Tila
The new-age Lhasa.
[Text and pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi]
House No. 39. Basement at New Tibetan Camp, Majnu Ka Tila – For five decades, Majnu Ka Tila (MT) is where Delhiites go to experience the Capital’s Little Lhasa. A refugee camp for Tibetans who fled to India escaping the Chinese colonisation in 1959, MT is the porn equivalent for the city’s Tibetophiles. It has all the Tibetiana traps: pork momos, yak butter, Thangka hangings, robed lamas, Dalai Lama posters and wrinkled momolas in striped aprons. But the basement Coffee House with its yellow walls, impressionistic posters and pop music is barely Tibetan, save a Tibetan calendar on the counter, and a Tibetan-English dictionary on the shelf (stacked with George Orwell and Salman Rushdie).
The café was started in 2008 by a woman named Tsering Dickey. Its menu has no momos; the only nod to Tibet being the presence of butter tea. Prices aren’t high. There’s no coffee beyond Rs 65 and no tea beyond Rs 35; both are as civilised as any beverage in the city’s big coffee chains. The bakery products are better. Try the marble cake, Rs 20. Buttery and crumbly, it doesn’t have the excellence of Oberoi Hotel’s pâtisserie but it brings the Proust out of you. The peculiarly homemade taste is just like that of the simple cakes your mummy baked from magazine recipes.
The wicker chairs make up most of the 30 covers, though there are sofas, too. Cushions are a little worn out but that’s charming. So are the café’s two waitresses, often dressed casually in Tees and checkered Katpants. Glowing with natural warmth, not for them the rehearsed smiles seen behind Costa Coffee or Café Coffee Day counters.
A magnet for MT’s cool young people, conversations are rarely loud here. Rose-cheeked Tibetans, sometimes fresh from the homeland, chat in their own language. While the white lamas from the West keep themselves busy tapping on their laptops. You may spend an entire evening staring at any one of these firangis thinking… is he from Denver or Dublin? Why he became a monk? How did his family react? Is he heading to Dharamshala or Sarnath? If too curious, feel free to strike a conversation. A lot may happen over a coffee.
Time 8 am – 10 pm, open 7 days Nearest Metro Station Vidhan Sabha
Searching for Tibetiana
Homely & unpretentious
A café moment