I'd never frequented Vesper Café, but had noted its slick interior, the pleasant garden, and the wonderful red building next to it. The cuisine, I assumed, was of a piece with Jhamel's many upmarket restobars, tilting towards continental offerings. So much so that I didn't even think I'd replicate earlier reviews of the place in other publications. But the other day I just happened to have lunch there, and came away with very distinct impressions.
Now, I have nothing at all to say about the main courses offered in Vespers. For the three of us present, it was a salad-fest, at least on my part because of over-indulgence towards the meaty side of the spectrum in days past. A Goat Cheese Salad, a Caesar Salad, and a Warm Chicken Salad. Light, substantial, tasty, right?
Wrong. After waiting longer than one might expect, slurping up bits of over-chopped mint through a straw and spitting them out discreetly, I eagerly looked at the approaching waiter to see a Tuna Nicoise take the place of my Caesar. "Bhai, yo ta Nicoise ho ni…"
The waiter stalled, retreated, and came back insisting that the Nicoise was what I had ordered. When I stared at him, he said a Caesar could be prepared, but that it would take 15-20 minutes, because the bacon would have to be cooked. I gave up, and reluctantly agreed to have canned tuna for lunch. And it was just as dull an experience as I expected, with nary an anchovy in sight.
What's worse, with the exception of the delicately grilled, flavoursome chicken, the rest of the ingredients in the other two salads were a disaster. While I praised another establishment recently for experimenting with a range of leaves in a salad, it seems everything just has to catch on in Nepal. Here we had parsley, fennel, green garlic, mint, some other unidentified shrubbery and, oh there you are, lettuce. Believe it or not, there is such a thing as too much variety. And instead of nicely crumbled goat cheese Vespers opts for three slices of bread lathered with the stuff to top the salad itself.
As we left, disgruntled, the waiter came rushing up to inform me that they'd given us too much change back. It was the first thing they'd got right that day.
After New Orleans on the right side of Jhamel's Restaurant Lane.