Jawalakhel Circle: The 'Red Dingo' and More

Destination Issue 76 Jul, 2010

Abright red spiral is luring people these days to Jawalakhel. They are slowly
catching up with the red swirl on a board placed just outside the Standard Chartered Bank, along the road that leads to Lagankhel. The swirl (which resembles the ubiquitous symbol of Manokranti painted on walls all around the valley) is the logo of a recently opened restaurant called ‘Red Dingo’. It’s down the alley behind the bank.

Ask the Australian couple who run the restaurant and they’ll tell you lots of funny incidences they have been through since opening. “There was a guy who popped in out of the blue one day and asked: ‘Is this the boot shop where I can get dingos?’” said Stuart Forbes, who owns the restaurant with his wife Shirley. “We had a hard time understanding what he was looking for until we came to know that dingos are a variety of ‘boot’ popular in this part of the world.”

Stuart later explained that dingo, as in ‘Red Dingo’, is a common breed of dog in Australia and that the couple decided to go ahead with the name, as they wanted some kind of connection to the home country. Shirley was quick to point out that the quest for a home connection did not in any way stem from homesickness. “We love Nepal, but we are also emotionally attached to the country where we were born,” she explained, then added, “We often meet a lot of foreigners who feel the same way we do.”

It was both their long cherished dream, and a reflection of the dilemma faced by a lot of foreigners who look out for good eateries, that motivated the Forbes’ to open the restaurant, they say.

The restaurant may have a symbol that is commonplace, but what it has to offer is anything but ordinary. The earthy ambience, created by the careful selection of colors, furniture and music, relaxes you immediately. The interior is dominated by subdued red, brown and white colors allowing you to settle in as soon as you enter. The smell, the taste and the feel are quite different from what you might have experienced in restaurants in other parts of town.

“We don’t offer just the typical menu. We serve foods that taste like back home,” Shirley said. “So if a foreigner comes in and says ‘I felt like I was at home’ after eating here, we have achieved our goal.” Stuart added: “We are not looking for score 10 from every guest who comes in. The other day someone came and told me how bland the food was. But that’s fine, as we are not competing with restaurants that serve hot spicy food.”

Shirley calls herself a recipe collector. “I have stacks of magazines and books of recipes. I also surf the Internet regularly looking for new things to try in the kitchen,” she said. She plans to introduce a seasonal menu, changing what is on offer four times in a year. To ensure that the foods taste exactly the way they should, Shirley makes it a point to be around while they are being prepared. To ward off any crises in the kitchen, she has also hired a experienced chef who cooks at the Everest Hotel.

Lack of right ingredients at times makes life difficult for the kitchen staff, say the couple, with a hint of frustration on their faces. “Sometimes we have five types of sauces. We taste each one of them until we get the right type. And once the sauce is finished, we go back and follow the same ritual all over again,” said Stuart,
explaining the rigor they put in to keep the standard. 

The penchant that the Forbes have for high standards shows up on the faces of those eating at their restaurant. The main courses (a selection of meat pie,
hamburger, crunchy crust fish, stuffed chicken breast, steak, etc.) are just great and “the desserts are to die for!”, one customer exclaimed. For breakfast they offer a set menu or make-your-own from the ala carte list. They serve a host of hot and cold beverages that include coffee and tea with various ingredients and thick shakes: chocolate, strawberry, vanilla or coffee flavored.

For Westerners living in Kathmandu, the Red Dingo provides satisfying
relief from otherwise heavily fried, spicy foods of Nepal. Locals also like the Red Dingo, for its high quality food and reasonable prices. The Forbes keep local customers in mind.

Stuart said that one of his customers, a local businessman, has virtually made the
restaurant his second office. “He does all his meetings here and loves to treat his clients to the food,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of support from our customers. Since we don’t spend money on advertising, their goodwill has helped us keep the prices down. There are new visitors coming in almost everyday.”

Now we know why so many people are drawn to the Dingo’s ‘red swirl’ and great food–in Jawalakhel.