Our Favourite Food in the Thamel District
Deri Mitho Cha – The Tastiest Food in Nepal’s Capital
I’ve been visiting and living in Nepal on and off for the last 17 years, and over that time I’ve managed to get a pretty good grasp on what’s hot and what’s not in the capital food-wise. I’m also a classically trained chef and spent ten years on the pans of up-scale restaurants around the world before becoming a guide and co-founding Lost Earth Adventures.
Over this time, things have really changed; the cuisine available has diversified, hygiene standards have improved (in some cases!), but eating great food at reasonable prices is still very much achievable.
Thamel is the best district to be based in for a stay in Nepal in all ways, not least that its vibrant streets are home to a wide range of culinary delights able to satisfy the cravings of any hungry adventurers.
1. Rosemary Kitchen & Coffee Shop
Best for: quality ingredients
This is the best restaurant in the whole of Nepal! I can attest to this because I lived in an apartment directly above it for months at a time over a 7 year period, and during this time I never tired of eating pretty much every breakfast, lunch and dinner there. Its food is excellent, the price is very reasonable, and tables set with linen and a great selection of French and Spanish wines make this the ideal place to celebrate any occasion in style.
It’s impossible to pigeonhole the Rosemary kitchen as being either Nepali or Western. They do things their own way, based on sourcing the best quality local ingredients and developing a menu around them. Helped along the way by training from a Swiss chef, the restaurant not only has fantastic chefs, but also excellent standards of hygiene.
One of their specialities is Himalayan River trout. Don’t panic, this is not trout caught from the polluted Bagmati River, but rather from the crystal-clear rivers of the Himalayas. Served with a delicious zesty lemon sauce, the freshest vegetables and the best mashed potato you’ll find in Nepal, this is a dish not to be missed.
My other top recommendations would be:
- Goat’s cheese and roasted garlic starter
- Mongolian chicken
2. Thamel House
Best for: Nepali food
Dal Bhat (lentil rice) is the most famous of Nepal’s dishes, and Thamel House serves some of the best in Kathmandu. Order either the veg or non-veg set menu.
Wherever you order dhal bhat, you will get a selection of the house pickles, all a little bit different from restaurant to restaurant, but always delicious. My personal favourite at Thamel House is Alu Tami Bodi – fermented bamboo shoots. Their Bandhel Thareko, spiced wild boar, is the best I’ve had anywhere.
Take the opportunity to do it the Nepali way and wash it all down with raksi, a traditional home brewed millet-based drink.
3. Roadhouse Café
Best for: pizzas
Pizzas. Really, really good pizzas. There’s not much else to say about this one, except if you want proper oven-stone cooked pizza that’s not shy with the cheese, this is where you need to go.
Interested in trying Nepal’s diverse culture? Find your own journey in Nepal here.
4. Kathmandu Guesthouse
Best for: relaxation
Kathmandu Guesthouse is without doubt the best place to take a break from the chaos of the capital and unwind. Its beautifully maintained garden is a little slice of tranquility, perfect for whiling away the day, conducting business meetings or just enjoying a long lunch.
Menu-wise, they serve a range of cuisines, but the Chinese dishes and Indian curries are excellent; all prepared using fresh herbs and spices. My personal recommendation would be the chili chicken.
5. Mitho Restaurant
Best for: Nepali & European food
As well as good food, Mitho Restaurant also has a great story behind it. The owner has built this restaurant from a hole in the wall with questionable hygiene standards to taking over the whole building. He’s cleaned his act up (literally) and the place is unrecognisable from the early days. He also only employs people from very poor backgrounds with no education, provides them training and gives them a livelihood and a chance of a better life.
Try the badam sandecho – a really spicy roasted peanut salad.
6. Himalayan Java
Best for: coffee
After days or weeks on Himalayan trails, sometimes all you want is coffee and cake! Himalayan Java is the place to go for this: it is home to the best barista-made coffee in the whole country. If that’s not enough to tempt you, its chocolate brownies are to die for. They are also determined to maintain a sustainable business model, looking after farmers at the grass roots. Great coffee with a good heart – you really can’t ask for much more!
Its flagship coffee house is located in Thamel, but it now has a number of outlets guaranteeing satisfaction to coffee snobs from all around the world at a number of locations in Kathmandu and beyond, including Namche Bazaar and Jomson.
The Durbar Square outlet is right by the entrance to “Old Freak Street”, so called after the hippies who made it their spiritual home in the 60s and 70s. It’s experiencing somewhat of a revival at the moment; all the better for getting a feel for the Kathmandu of yesteryear.
Best for: steak
Sometimes nothing will do except a massive piece of meat and some carb-heavy chips. Welcome to PHATKATH, where you can get yourself a huge yak steak or a PHAT burger with all the trimmings for under a fiver. As you might imagine, this can all be enjoyed in a friendly, laid back environment. Its super-chilled vibe might just mean you end up staying there a little longer than you’d planned.
8. New Orleans Café
Best for: BBQ & music
If you’re staying at Kathmandu Guesthouse, then even more reason to check it out as it’s conveniently located so even the most tired of legs can make the short walk home.
9. Newari food – the best food in Nepal
Pictured is a plate of buffalo testicles to whet your appetite!
You will need the help of a local friend who enjoys a few beers to take you to the best of these places as they’re generally located on back alleys, open late at night, and with signs only in Nepali.
It is undoubtedly worth it to try amazing food prepared by chefs all trying to outdo each other. Just don’t look in the kitchen; you might regret it.
10. Tibet Guesthouse & Royal Penguin
Best for: late nights
If you’re struggling with jet lag and find yourself roaming the streets at unsociable house, then this is an invaluable local tip! Both these establishments have 24-hour kitchens serving chicken chilli and chips, a staple of Nepali fast food. At 2am in the morning, this is a much better option than eating from street vendors who work all night long with no access to hand-washing facilities. Trust me; I speak from experience.
11. Everest Gurkha Nepalese Restaurant, Fossgate, York
Best for: Nepali food at home
Not strictly speaking actually in Kathmandu, but if you’re keen to suss out your favourites before you go, then Everest Gurkha is the perfect place to do a bit of research. Run by a retired Gurkha Officer, sourcing local, organic ingredients and prepared in the traditional Tibetan style, it offers excellent food at very reasonable prices. Call it part of your research.