As a child, a trip to ‘Mussoorie’ had serious potential to terrorize my tiny heart. This little hill station was a 10 year old’s nightmare – mother fronted shopping sprees, excessive sweater tryouts and bored dads who disappeared as soon as the ladies entered the first shoe store.
Many years later, I return to Mussoorie, as an (almost) adult. But this time, by myself. I stroll the busy streets with a cup of hand whipped coffee and a sense of déjà vu. And there is only one word to describe what I feel : Enchanted.
Not like Cinderella in a pumpkin carriage, but like Shrek in a swamp. Like I was home.
While for most people (honeymooners included) Mussoorie is a great escape from the cruel summer heat, for me it’s always been a great place to observe a mix of cultures, school children guzzling milkshakes and of-course, a chance to meet the famous Ruskin Bond.
Its hard to find a sully face in Mussoorie. What you will find instead are happy faces in between shared plates of hot brownies and ice cream
When it comes to food, Mussoorie has the usual touristy fare – ‘Italian’ cafes, Punjabi, Chinese and a rare cuisine called momos. Which ordinarily should come under Tibetan/Nepalese/Chinese, but then we all know that it’s pretty much a country in itself.
What’s really exciting is that Mussoorie has a great representation of food across cultures and cuisines. And while it takes a little digging and poking around, there’s enough to satisfy even the fussiest eater. I went off the tourist trail to find some heartwarming food and stories.
Here’s my pick for a hearty three course meal to make your time in Mussoorie super delicious. The catch? Each course is at a different cafe/restaurant. So you can have your carbs and walk it out too. Who says eating out can’t be healthy?
Course 1 : Dessert
(We both know dessert is always first)
What does Mumbai and Mussoorie have in common? A love for a certain jazz exponent Chic Chocolate who’s tunes have created such an impact, chocolates are being made in his name! This equally legendary chocolateria is a great spot for some sweet, sweet lovin’ (pun intended).
This bustling little cafe opened doors in 1942, and is well known for its delicious chocolates apart from the regular snacky fare, milkshakes and of course, dessert.
I loved the array of chocolate flavours. I tried some classic ones like rum & raisin, peanut butter and strawberry. Then there’s interesting combinations like chilli, coconut, ginger & vodka, to make you heart sing . And if you’re still craving some sweet action, there’s a very dapper blueberry cheesecake for the taking.
Course 2 : Entree
Now that you’ve started your trip with dessert, lets move to entree. To the neighboring town of Landour. My vote goes to this super simple but delish pizza. Which is a lot more Indian than Italian.
Remember a time when our mums would use simple everyday veggies, broiled chicken and amul cheese to make a tiffin version of pizza? I mean who even knew what Mozzarella was. This is a lot like mum’s pizza and a little more.
What makes this pizza a winner? All the ingredients are fresh and homemade. From the dough to the toppings and even the fresh tomato sauce. The owners also bottle this very robust sauce for retail. I still have a jar in my fridge that makes an excellent Spag Bol and a great dip for a midnight snack attack.
Course 3 : Mains
Missing Tibetan food in Mussoorie is like missing tequila in Guadalajara. I mean what’s the point of even going all the way. While there are dime-a-dozen places serving this cuisine, I found Doma’s to be the most charismatic.
Run by a local couple, who taught themselves everything – from cooking to running a business. Their dedication to preserving thier heritage is mirrored on the walls of the cafe, that are adorned by gorgeous tankha paintings. I met with the wife, who speaks very passionately about making a difference and being remembered through food, a sentiment that I feel very deeply about.
Much like her company, I enjoyed hot bowls of thupka accompanied with cheese momos and an crunchy pasty filled with mince. Soul food indeed!
I would seriously recommend visiting Mussoorie in the summer and if you’re feeling a little adventurous, towards the end of winter. Its a great place to spend time off the beaten track, especially when you want to kick back and relax.
And of course, don’t forget to make a little space for the unexpected. You may find yourself in the middle of a spirited conversation over a hot cuppa chai at Char Dukan, arguing the merits of democracy with students from a language school nearby.
Or have your favourite storyeteller sign a copy of The Blue Umbrella, with three words that will transform your life “Never Stop Writing”
All Images by Ishita Thakur
Special Thanks to Isha Chitnis