Great Destination in Nepal

Sure, there are moments where the menu varies, such as when leaving vegetarian Sherpa lands for the meat-eating hills of the Limbu and Rai tribes, but for the most part, meals are prepared from a limited palette of rice, lentils and greens. By the time they return to Kathmandu, many trekkers are openly salivating at the very thought of such delicacies as burgers, chips and pizza.

For some, the repetitive diet of rice and lentils can inspire extreme measures. An on-the-spot examination of trekking packs will uncover hidden bottles of ketchup and Tabasco, zip-lock plastic bags of seasonings and secreted salamis, saucisson and beef jerky. On the other hand, anticipating the culinary delights that await on your return to Kathmandu can be an almost transcendental pleasure.

Nepal has been calling out to the world’s adventurers for decades and restaurants have sprung up in the backstreets of Kathmandu catering to every imaginable palate. You want pizzas? You got ‘em. You want Thai curries? The lemongrass is already being pounded. You want Korean barbecues? The grill is already sizzling. Despite its rugged location and patchy transport links, Kathmandu serves up the world in a menu, and we guarantee your first meal back in the city after trekking will be a feast. Here is our pick of Kathmandu’s culinary highlights.

Wood-fired fabulousness

After weeks of lentils in the hills, the flavour sensation of tomatoes, pepperoni and mozzarella can be an almost religious experience. Nobody in Kathmandu does it better than Fire & Ice, an upscale favourite in a smart setting in an arcade on Tridevi Marg. For one thing, the ingredients are authentic, which means anchovies, salami and olives flown in fresh from Italy, hand-made mozzarella and hard-to-find options such as pizzas made with wholewheat dough.

Himalayan jambalaya?

New Orleans Cafe isn’t just a restaurant, it’s a Thamel institution. This courtyard café has been serving up globe-trotting cuisine to generations of travellers, with everything from Creole jambalaya to barbecued beef and jacket potatoes on the menu. There’s live music twice weekly and travellers have been known to join the on-stage musicians for impromptu jams – not a bad way to shake off the traildust after a knee-knocking circuit around the Annapurnas.

A monument to momos

Delicious parcels of meat, cheese or vegetables wrapped in wheat-flour shells, the momo is the dish that binds Tibet, Nepal and India together – transported across the mountains by the wandering monks who introduced Tibetan Buddhism to the Himalaya. These magnificent morsels come steamed or fried, with a side dollop of spicy chilli sauce; both locals and tourists agree that the tastiest in town are served at the low-key Yangling Tibetan Restaurant, prepared by hand to a family recipe passed down through the generations.

Sky-high sushi

With the Japanese embassy just down the road, Lazimpat’s Kotetsu has the market cornered for Japanese food in Kathmandu. Despite being 650km from the nearest ocean, the seafood here is so fresh you can almost hear the breaking waves (in the absence of direct Nepal-Japan flights, it comes in daily by jet from Thailand). As you’d expect, the house sashimi is expertly sliced, the Kobe steaks are delicately marbled and the teppanyaki fillets are deliciously moist and tender.

A meal in Kathmandu should always finish with Nepali tea © wonderlane / CC by 2.0

Terrific tandoori

Rather surprisingly, Indian food is somewhat under-represented in Kathmandu. Many dishes that claim to be Indian are actually Nepali interpretations – tasty enough, but rarely packed with the authentic flavours of the Indian plains. For the real deal, head to the elegant surroundings of Third Eye, where higher prices secure you rich, spicymasalas and succulent skewers from the tandoori oven. One caveat though – chilli levels can be toned down, so ask your waiter to add a little garam (heat) to your plate.

Beef up your life

A post-trek steak is a traveller tradition, and K-Too – partner restaurant of the long-established Kilroy’s – serves them fat as doorstops and as rare as you care to ask for. The dining room is packed out nightly with trekkers toasting the end of another expedition, and with chunky chips and fried apple momos for afters, it pays to bring an appetite. Plan a lazy itinerary for the next day while you digest!