There comes a point in every backpacker’s trip when scouting out exciting new options just isn’t that exciting anymore. Scouring menus, blindly trying to decide on something that warrants losing those precious pennies from your travelling budget, only to be confronted with a small portion or an overly western attempt gone wrong- well, it just gets tiresome. Even worse is when your friend does make the right decision, leaving you to look longingly at their local and hearty meal while you want to throw yours across the table. Step in Asian Teahouse of Pokhara, Nepal.
I was addicted to this place. So much so that the thought of going off on our trek into the Himalaya for ten days, leaving the family to wonder why our usual table remained empty, worried me a little more than it should have. Having discovered this tiny side-street café on our first day in Pokhara, I had come to depend on its unfailing ability to always get it right. Tea is 40 rupees cheaper than anywhere else on Lakeside and served in giant mugs. As if that wasn’t impressive enough when compared to the usually tiny tin cups so common in Nepal, the mugs are an eclectic collection of cartoon characters, flags, colours, polka dots and Disney faces. Before long, you are being served a morning cuppa in ‘your favourite mug’ when you’re hundreds of miles from home. Amazing.
The masala chai is amazing. So amazing, in fact, that I genuinely stopped missing my Mum’s brews (sorry Mum). The breakfast options get even better. As a cereal and muesli fan, just seeing those options on the menu was enough to impress me. Being able to choose muesli with yoghurt, milk, honey or fruit was even better. When I was then asked if I would like the milk to be hot or cold, I almost fell off my chair. And, much like the tea, the portions are huge. The fruits are fresh and the milk is steaming, no, piping hot. Shiva, the owner of this wonderful establishment, does ‘tea-runs’ around Lakeside, delivering cups of chai to the multitudes of shopkeepers, tour guides, builders and taxi drivers all working hard in the heat of the day. His celebrity status does nothing to ease his workload and, along with his wife and children, he serves locals and tourists alike from 5am to 10pm.
When one day all three tables were full and we thought we might have to come back later, the family fell over themselves to fetch us stools from their own kitchen and asked a romantic looking French couple to shimmy up so we could sit down (awkward!) The wonderful, hospitable gene so inherent in all Nepali people simply shines through in the faces of the staff here. My only advice would be to catch the waiter early on if you fancy ordering something different one day- it is more than likely that Shiva will have begun making your usual before you have even sat down.