17-23 January 2014 #690

Rosemary Kitchen and Coffee Shop

Someplace Else by CC

As tourists turn from their guidebooks to TripAdvisor, WikiTravel, and the myriad other sites telling you where to go and what to do, restaurant competition in our fair city is changing fast. Now visitors and residents alike can review their own meals and experiences with a few clicks, and a restaurant’s reputation can either skyrocket or crash at the will of its most recent patrons – all the while your humble reviewer feels increasingly redundant.

One restaurant currently enjoying popularity online is Rosemary Kitchen and Coffee Shop, which at the time of going to press occupies the top spot on TripAdvisor’s Kathmandu section. Naturally we had to check it out.

The restaurant’s cosy, Bohemian feel is made all the more so by the lo-fi Southern blues soundtrack and we took a table indoors as sitting in the garden at this time of the year was more or less unthinkable. But cosy is definitely the word and if you’re looking for somewhere you can gaze longingly into the eyes of your date, you might want to pick a place with a little more lighting.

Feeling their way through the dark, the friendly staff looked after us well all night, and opened by serving up starters of chicken satay skewers (Rs 279), bruschetta (Rs 249) and – a wildcard choice if there ever was one – a Bloody Mary soup laced with vodka (Rs 249).

Service was quick but the food perhaps a little lacking in refinement: the marinade on the chicken was excellent, but something about the way stick-stabbed morsels are prepared in many of Kathmandu’s restaurants leaves them dryer than my apartment’s water supply tank.

The bruschetta was more akin to local-style pizza, trading a simple mix of fresh tomato, garlic, olive oil and fresh herbs for a cheese-laden festival of grease. Which is no bad thing, sometimes, but not quite as advertised. Meanwhile our Bloody Mary soup offered up some of that missing freshness and the vodka kick definitely kept us alert.

However, Rosemary Kitchen really outdid itself on its mains. The Mongolian barbequed beef (Rs 349) was unexpectedly saucy, but flavoured with ginger and chilli and oh-so-tender. A generous serving of diced chicken breast in a Dijon mustard sauce (Rs 319) came with a side of scrambled potatoes and was equally delightful. To finish, we tucked into those old familiar staples, apple pie (Rs 249) and carrot cake (Rs 199), both served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and both striking just the right notes of sweet and spice, hints of warming cinnamon running right through.

One of the problems with relying on TripAdvisor for your eating picks is that it is heavily weighted towards Thamel, the only Kathmandu district in which the majority of tourists will ever eat. This in turn means that the city’s other gems might be overlooked and that places serving perhaps more mediocre fare are unfairly spotlighted. Rosemary Kitchen is pretty good and I hear its breakfasts are superb, but it isn’t reinventing the wheel with a menu you’ve doubtless seen before, if not in person then online.

How to get there: from JP School in Thamel, walk straight past Hotel Family Home, Potala Guest House et al, and hook a right. Rosemary Kitchen and Coffee Shop is down a small alleyway on the left-hand side, but is well signposted.

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