Running errands down at the end of New Road recently, my hurried pace was brought to an abrupt halt by a wobble from the rear of my scooter that any driver is all too familiar with: a tire puncture. Never welcome at the best of times, when you’re in a hurry and have places to get to and items to check off your list, this is just the sort of thing that tries my patience and puts me in a less-than-happy mood. I’m not sure what made the difference this time, but I just sighed instead of getting annoyed. When there’s nothing you can do, there’s nothing you can do, right? There is a little repair shop on a small galli between where I was and Jhochhen Tole (Freak Street), and with some effort I managed to get my crippled scooter there.
While I was waiting for my scooter to be made roadworthy again, I remembered a little cafe around the corner from where I was standing. I hadn’t been there in years. Was it still even open? There was only one way to find out.
At first glance, I thought it was gone: this small alley off of Jhochhen has had a facelift, and new shops have mushroomed all around. I nearly missed the old glass window sandwiched between those shiny new facades, but there it was. The display may have been from long ago, but the pies and cakes lined up neatly on the shelves looked fresh and delicious as they ever had.
I pushed open the door and walked into the dimly-lit interior. The owner behind the counter greeted me with a smile as if I was an old friend, a regular. Looking around, I found that each table was filled with jovial faces: chatting, eating, drinking. (Upstairs, I recall, used to have seating but is currently under renovation.) After checking out the goodies on offer, I ordered a piece of apple crumble and a coffee, then took one of the few empty chairs at a table opposite a stranger to enjoy them.
The apple crumble—I could also have chosen apple pie, chocolate cake, or one of many others—was juicy, well made, and delicious. The coffee was simply produced from one of those instant Nescafe machines. Of course, these days in Kathmandu we are spoiled for choice when it comes to fresh coffee options, but somehow sipping from my little cardboard cup brought back lots of memories from years gone by, when this was the only alternative to chiya you could find, and that too if you were lucky.
As I enjoyed my crumble and coffee, I watched and listened to the cheerful, busy hum of the rest of the customers. Is this place fancy? No. In some corners you might say it could do with a good scrub. But, the vibe is fantastic, and the pies and cakes are second to none. Oh, and the price is right, too: for my order I was charged just 155 rupees—when’s the last time you felt so good for so little money? It was enough to make me thankful for a flat tire, and also glad that there are still some of these old landmarks remaining.