Since most of my Himalayan journeys to Lahaul, Ladakh or Spiti begin or end in Manali; it is one place that I’ve slow travelled for years together.
Johnson’s & Chopsticks are my long term favourites among the well known restaurants, here is a collection of ten hand-picked places to eat in Manali.
Yun Café – A delightful little cafe run by an old Korean lady, close to Drifter’s Cafe in Old Manali. Innovative ideas are galore in this café decorated in a very exotic style; the exhaustive menu is flattering and confusing but anything you try will be worth it. All items on the menu are freshly made, and absolutely worth the wait.
Manali Sweets – In one of the alleys of the Mall Road, is Manali’s finest place for Indian savouries. Their jalebis & samosas with chai are lip-smacking. It is a favourite with the locals too, so that you know you are in good company. Sink into sweet heaven with gulab jamun & dall ka halwa.
Café 1947 – This quaint eatery with great coffee and bruschetta prides itself on having super fun owners who make this place a winner. The decor is stylish and musical instruments occupy a vantage position in the interiors. Their outdoor seating is located beside the Beas river and serves delectable continental & italian fare. Get treated to a live guitar performance if you are lucky!
Lazy Dog – This lazy lounge (as the name suggests) is located on the banks of Beas River in Old Manali. Decorated with touristy knick-knacks from everywhere; the sweet sound of the gushing water make this an absolute delight to while away time and watch life go by. Laze on floor cushions, indoor chairs (or anywhere you please) and there is also classy outdoor seating to sip beer or wine and order desserts to top it off!
Green Forest Cafe – Tucked behind a lane just before Hadimba temple is Manali’s number one place for authentic Tibetan momos (steamed and fried). There is an apple orchard very close to this idyllic café and it is one good place to see village life in Old Manali. Their Thukpa is delicious too and the outdoor seating makes you realise why it was named ‘Green Forest Cafe!’.
Casa Bella Vista – For the finest wood fired pizzas in Manali (Johnsons : watch out), head to this trés chić place. Their range of toppings is delightful and fulfilling. Watch the smoke billow into the sky from the perfectly placed oven in the garden amidst the fruit trees. The aroma of the burning pine wood mesmerising my senses is my finest memory of Casa Bella Vista.The yellow plum trees growing in the garden add to the ambiance.
World Peace Café – Stunning views from this rooftop restaurant will captivate you with its location alone. This is the best place in Vashisht to chill, with lovely views of flowing Beas river coupled with majestic valley views. It is a no frills restaurant to enjoy some food sitting on a vantage view-point. The world peace café lies on the left side while walking to Vashisht temple.
Fat Plate Café – Halfway on the way to the artistic village of Naggar lies this magically located cafe. It is near Prini village and gives an old Raj-era feeling with the beautiful architecture. I love lazing in the garden on clear sunny days as the food here is prepared with much love and takes long to arrive. Who is in a hurry though, in Manali of all places?!
Dylan’s Roasted & Toasted – Conveniently located in Old Manali, Dylan’s is a travellers favourite for real espresso coffee and an out-of-the-world delicious crumbling cookie. Its been there forever and has sumptuous desserts too. The backpacker vibe is infectious in this chilled out café, and is a great place to make friends with people from around the world.
Sharma Dhaba – This is the place to go for homesick tourists. A Punjabi couple runs this authentic Punjabi dhaba adjacent to the mall road. Mouth watering rajmah, black dall are made fresh in front of you and are included in the thali, priced at 100 Rupees.
I’ve kept my current favourite for the last.
Rose Garden – An Italian lady from Florence, with a wood fire oven, located away from the hustle and bustle, set amidst a rose garden beneath a kiwi tree and you have arrived in food heaven! The menu is limited and everything is crafted with love and perfection. The Rose Garden Café has warm wooden indoor seating as well. Real Italian coffee beckons, come here to realise ‘Dolce Far Niente’; Italian for the pleasure of doing nothing.
Travel and food go hand-in-hand.
Have a favourite place to eat in Manali? Tell me about it.