While traditional flavours rule, Gangtok is a forward-looking city, with chic cafes and buzzing bars with live music. From city institutions to hidden gems, this guide tells you how to eat your way through the capital city. By Malavika Bhattacharya

 

With diverse communities including the Lepchas, Bhutias, and many Nepali sub-groups, Sikkim’s ethnic fabric is rich and varied. Cultural influences from around the region—Tibet, Bhutan, and Nepal—have seamlessly amalgamated with the state, giving rise to a cuisine that liberally borrows from all these styles. Think hot dalley chillies and cheesy soups, fluffy Tibetan breads and handmade local pastas. Navigate through Sikkim’s capital city with this dining guide and explore the hotpot of Tibetan, Nepalese, and Sikkimese flavours.

 

ABSOLUTE DEMAZONG

When asked where to find truly local food, residents are likely to direct you to the hard-to-locate Absolute Demazong. Decked with bamboo furniture and private booths, the large space remains off most tourists’ radars. Indulge in local dishes such as pork with bamboo shoots, pork with rayo saag (mustard greens), and sekuwa (a dry chicken or pork dish). To sample a variety of flavours, choose the set Nepalese or Sikkimese thalis, with rice, local vegetables, lentils, meat, and pickles. The winning factor here, however, is the availability of otherwise hard to find local drinks such as raksi (a distilled millet-based drink) and so-chang (millet beer). NH-31A, Hungry Jack Complex; +91/837-203-7216

 

 

CAFÉ FICTION

The iconic Rachna Books has been a city institution for over a decade. The indie bookshop has expanded to include a B&B called Bookman’s. On the ground level, it houses the artsy Café Fiction. With a glass frontage, the cosy space looks out onto leafy greens as jazz music plays in the background, and the aroma of freshly brewed coffee lingers in the air. Posters advertise poetry reading sessions and live gigs. The varied menu, scrawled on a blackboard above the counter, features French Press coffee, Vietnamese Cà Phê Dá (iced coffee), pork rice, and sandwiches. Creative souls and itinerant travellers frequently gather here to read in the space upstairs, and enjoy good music and food. bookmans.in

 

 

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LIVE & LOUD

In the midst of the backpacker lodges and outdoor gear shops of Tibet Street, sits this rare pub with a vibrant late-night scene. Gangtok’s young and hip crowd comes here to party till the wee hours, while most other establishments in the city pull down their shutters early. Enjoy Indian, Chinese, and Continental staples in the outdoor sitting area with a view of the city. There’s a cigar station in the corner, and the fastest selling drinks here are the two local beers—Hit and Dansberg. Tibet Road; +91/359-220-5024

 

 

NETTLE & FERN

A charming American-style diner with great views of the mountains, the in-house restaurant at the Nettle & Fern hotel is a good spot for lunch or dinner and drinks. Comfy booths, kitschy posters of movies and musicians, a well-stocked bar, and a good selection of cocktails—rare in the city—make it a major draw for both the city’s youth and travellers. Choose from continental dishes, a range of breads and pastries, and end with a strong Irish coffee. Jiwan Theeng Marg, Development Area; +91/359-220-4355

 

 

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TANGERINE

Redolent in shades of orange, the restaurant at the Chumbi Residency is a hidden spot offering local delicacies otherwise not easily found. The restaurant’s under-the-radar status means you’re likely to have the quiet, romantic spot to yourselves. The local Sikkimese dishes—sochhya (a nettle stew) and ningro (wild ferns) with churpi (local cheese) are must-tries. Conclude your meal with local tea from Sikkim or Darjeeling. Chumbi Residency Hotel, Tibet Road; +91/359-220-6618

 

THE COFFEE SHOP

Head to this bright and cheery restaurant first thing in the morning, seat yourself in the balcony overlooking the quaint Market Street, and tuck into a hearty set breakfast. I’d choose the Local Sikkimese Breakfast, featuring Tibetan bread, gorkha chutney, alu dam, and Himalayan sausage, and a cup of strong coffee. Later in the day, the place buzzes with well-heeled locals enjoying a glass of wine under the setting sun. Return for sundowners coupled with cheesy pastas, pizzas, burgers, and other continental dishes. New Market, MG Marg; +91-359/220-1300

 

 

SNOW LION

In the ornate Hotel Tibet, with rustic wooden furniture and traditional motifs, Snow Lion restaurant is a luxurious spot for a meal that’s out of the ordinary. Here, the menu is a mishmash of various cuisines. Unique finds include the mynak polo (sweet momo) and sha bhaklap (meat patties). The Japanese yaki gyoza and sukiyaki are rare finds in the city, and make the trek to the out-of-the-way restaurant worthwhile. Hotel Tibet, Paljor Stadium Road; +91/359-220-3468

 

 

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