The last time most Kathmandulays bothered to look, which as about two decades ago, the Patan side of the bridge was the boondocks-rice fields, dirt lanes and a place to buy carpets. Anyone who bought property thereabouts was asked
why they wanted to live near Nakkhu Jail.
Today it looks like Patan is the preferred address for expats, several of the Valley's best schools and is, increasingly, sprouting more restaurant branches than a banyan tree.
Patan Darbar Square is where it all started to happen, and the restaurants and bars are still there. This is where the quality of the view usually far surpasses that of the food. Then again, when you're drinking in the sights from a rooftop vantage you don't need more than a chilled beer and a plate of momos.
Layeku (Newari for darbar square) Kitchen in Mangal Bazar is where you can have genuine Newari food while watching the bustle of Patan unfurl. For an experience in the very heart of ancient Patan, nothing beats the charm of Patan Museum Caf? inside the museum where old world charm melds in perfect harmony with Italian pastas and delicious desserts-try the Orange Bombe.
It's not difficult to find the newly opened Dhokaima Caf?. Precisely at Patan Dhoka, it is designed by architect Siddhartha Gopalan to reflect a certain "1920s down-market Rana chic". It calls itself a caf? but is actually a restaurant that serves a select French and Sichuan menu. "We wanted to represent the changing tastes of Nepalis towards food," says Sandhya Sharma, Dhokaima's head chef.
Moving right along, the food at La'Soon Restaurant and Vinotheque is simple but usually very good, the braised mushrooms with spaghetti for example. It has a good selection of wines and the best espresso in the area, but you'll wish the slices of chocolate cake were less skinny.
Moksh is indeed a kind of salvation for what used to be less than stellar evening entertainment in Patan. Run by model-turned-entrepreneur Dolly Yakthumba, it has been feng-shuid to within an inch of its life. It also has the best apple and celery mocktails and the yummiest chicken cheese balls. Moksh is also a popular venue for jam sessions with 1974 AD, perhaps Nepal's best loved rock band.
The Golden Strip of the moment, however, is the St Mary's School lane which has four new restaurants. Singma serves Singaporean and Malaysian food at very reasonable prices. It's the place for quick lunches and Singaporean Eric Tan is very pleased with the volume of business. The bestsellers are the chicken rice (inset), wonton soup and suprisingly, the pratas-Singapore's versions of parathas. "We've been approached to franchise Singma, but we'd like to stay small," says Eric over the bustling lunchtime restaurant traffic.
Roadhouse Caf? has fabulous woodfired pizzas, and yes those really are the bottoms of green cola bottles stuck into the wall. Unlike the Thamel headquarters, this branch focuses exclusively on pizzas with a few side orders and desserts. A very nice selection of wines from France and Australia, with a stray bottle or two from Chile.
Next door is Dan Ran run by Suga and his wife, Junko, who does all the delicious homestyle cooking. Low key, comfortable and delicious, Dan Ran earns a thumbs up for the wet towels to freshen up with, pretty non-disposable chopsticks (save the trees!) and fantastic options for vegetarians plus a whole contingent of Japanese customers. Only the earlybirds get to sample their bestelling spicy chicken lunch box.
The Sanepa branch of Momos & More, about 200m further down Jhamsikhel, has one of best brownies in the Valley. Strange because most customers usually inhale so many of the momos that there is scarely enough room for anything else. In a quiet corner of Ekantakuna is Yoek Teck, a family-run Malaysian vegetarian restaurant that serves up tofu and yam fis, chic and pra, which are very convincing substitutes for the real thing. Don't judge the place by the interior, culinary suprises, if not delights, await you.
If quick lunches are what you need then make your way to the zoo. Or close to it. Ja-Zoo Caf? de Restaurant offers lunch combos that are unbelievably easy on the wallet. On the way to Lagankhel is Bawarchi, great for Kolkata-style katthi rolls and North Indian fare.
Then there is Godavari Village Resort, only 7km from the Ring Road but feels a world away. It has already popular for its Saturday buffets: entire families loll about by the pool, sampling the generous spread and downing cool drinks surrounded by green hills. But if buffets are not for you, trust us, their excellent rainow trout-farmed locally-will be.
It may be a little difficult to find, but once you've discovered the Summit Hotel restaurant chances are you won't forget the way back. The intimate ambience is unpretentious, the menu select but superb. Summit hosts the best Friday barbecue sessions, something of a tradition among those in the know since the 80s. On a quiet autumn night, dine out on the patio overlooking the garden with the Himalaya bathed in moonlight. Magic.