The Lehperson’s Guide To Eateries (cont)
(fr. Travels Through My Stomach)
Eating out should either be functional or an occasion. To wait two or three hours for a meal makes it a memorable occasion, albeit an aggravating one, especially if there’s a bus to catch or a toilet to rush to. And the latter is a facility which is grudgingly available – if at all. Both Dreamland and Snow Lion keep theirs locked and you have to ask for the key.
On the other hand, the Potala, near the polo ground, doesn’t have one at all. What it does possess is a manic waiter. Aficionados of Fawlty Towers will recognise Manuel (video) – eager and speedy with a wide smile which only fades when his English fails. At that point, the owner-manager reluctantly leaves his corner shelter to approach, note pad in hand, to take your order. Meanwhile, Manuel will be ducking, weaving and running between tables and the kitchen delivering someone else’s order. Great entertainment.
I recommend the rice pudding here which comes sprinkled with nuts and seasonal fruits, mainly chopped apricots and apples. Others recommend the curd which, unusually for Leh, is made with fresh milk rather than the powdered variety.
Curds are recommended when the dreaded stomach trots occur. The only other establishment serving ‘real’ curd is Hotel Pamposh, which is the chai stall next to the Jammu & Kashmir Bank. It’s ok for breakfast and generally closes in the late afternoon.
Continuing down the road ’til it bears right and up out of town to Changspa, and at the junction with the track which comes from the Tibetan Market, past the vegetable market, one can find the Tibet Hotel.
Popularly known as Tashi’s, this is a traveller’s delight. Run by Tashi and her husband, there is a simple menu: cho-chow (fermented vegetables), thukpa (noodles) salad, and vegetable omelettes: tomato soup and rice pudding: lemon tea and milky coffee. Tashi will take the order and not get muddled, which is surprising given the eccentricities of one’s fellow travellers.
We try to get a window seat, which is something of a misnomer because there is no glass. It’s the nearest to a pavement café you’ll find in Leh, except those inside can have two-way conversations with those passing outside. A place to see and be seen.
Those so far described are traveller’s haunts. Ladakhis do eat there but they are far more likely to frequent the smaller and cheaper places in the back streets or on the roads leading to the Main Bazaar. The Yak Boy, Youth and Jambala are clean, but lack the ambiance that travellers seek. The Potala Hill Top and Gulhomar could be more popular if they lowered their prices. Both are in the Main Bazaar, on the first floor looking down.
For current info on food and eateries in Leh, check this page. It’s very different from my experience … except for references to “very slow” and “snappy but casual” service.