Kathmandu has thus far stayed clear of statbuckification or any other international coffee retailer for that matter. Why? Two possibilities: govt policy for foreign investors and an insignificant market size. Either way, the absence of international retailers has bode well for Nepali coffee enthusiasts as it has allowed for home-grown cafe culture to evolve unhindered. Kathmanduites and Nepalis in general are a tea-drinking populace and while only a handful of the population have taken to drinking coffee, Kathmandu today is some to a variety of wonderful cafes. Here’s a list of the best cafes in Kathmandu.
1. Cafe Mitini
Away from the tourist district of Thamel and tucked away in the quiet alleys of Lazimpat is Cafe Mitini. They have a wide selection of coffee but the hand-drip coffee in particular is out of this world! This quaint little cafe is run by a Korean social enterprise where they teach underprivileged locals how to be baristas and sandwich artists. Aside from their amazing food and drink, I just love their minimalistic set-up. There are no over the top decorations or blaring music, and the staff too are very accommodating. Yunmi is the main person running the show here and in addition to the cafe, she also runs a design center where they conduct regular classes for anyone who signs up. Yunmi will be more than happy to show you around the premises and you’ll be glad to see that they are doing an excellent job in helping many disadvantaged communities in and around the city.
2. Gaia Coffee Shop
Although Gaia is located among the hustle bustle of Thamel, they are situated in a cozy little corner and it doesn’t quite feel like you’re in a tourist district. Hence this is where I go for my regular fix of caffeine every time I drop by Thamel. They have a chilled atmosphere and they specialize in locally grown organic coffee. With a friendly bunch of staff and superb breakfast sets, it’s no wonder that you’ll find many travellers here in the morning.
3. Himalayan Java Coffee – Basantpur Durbar Square
Java is the largest coffee chain Nepal and while their drinks and food are pretty standard across all locations, I particularly like the outlet in the historic Basantapur Durbar Square. The cafe has full length windows on two sides which gives you visual access to what is arguably the pride among all of Kathmandu’s architectural wonders.
4. Cafe Swotha
The cafe is an extension of the boutique guest house and it’s small, but in it’s size lies its charm. You’ll find Cafe Swotha among the ancient temples of Patan Square and this one is not to be missed when you visit Patan. Just as the size of the cafe is limited, so is the selection in their menu, and here again the limited dishes on offer are done perfectly! Personally, I’d rather a limited but well executed menu than the opposite, and this why I love going here.
5. Kaiser Cafe
Ok, this one’s a bit on the pricier end but with a location like the Garden of Dreams, Kaiser cafe is perhaps best suited for hopeless romantics :p Jokes aside, the building that houses the cafe was once part of Nepalese aristocracy, couple this with impeccable service and the garden of dreams right next door and there is no reason you shouldn’t visit even if just for a cup of coffee.
6. Cafe Nina
Hands down, the best burgers in town! Don’t take my word for it, ask all the employees of the American Embassy (a 2 minute walk away) who will be found here on most afternoons chowing down on . 😉 In addition to the burgers, the proprietor Nina is super-conversationalist and will go to great lengths to ensure that the food and service is nothing short of spectacular. Among all the cafes in Kathmandu, I find myself at Cafe Nina’s the most chomping on Philly Cheese Steaks with a cold beer on the side. If you do find yourself at Nina’s then be sure to end off with their apple crumble!
7. Lakhuri Cafe
Chocolate cake, anyone? If you went, “Yes! Where? When?” then Lakhuri Cafe serves up the best chocolate cake in Kathmandu. I’ve never really met the baker but I picture a 50 year old aunty wearing glasses and a checkered apron pouring out all her love into every cake she bakes. 🙂 Here’s the catch though, the cake is named Devil’s Chocolate Cake, so I guess there’s no aunty then. In addition to their baked goodies, I drop by Lakhuri on weekends for their Eggs Benedict to get the day started.
Roadhouse Cafe in Boudha
Many of Kathmandu’s food connoisseurs will readily vouch for the pizzas at Roadhouse Cafe. While I am not quite ready to jump on that bandwagon, I will say this though, Roadhouse Cafe in Boudha is about as good as it gets when it comes to enjoying that cuppa with a view. There really isn’t much to say here, just picture yourself enjoying a cuppa beside this awe-inspiring monument.
The rest of Kathmandu will be found in roadside chai (tea) stalls. 🙂