8-14 January 2016 #790

Himalayan Beanz Coffee/Sara Bakery

It's the place I invite friends to meet-up, a work space that remains mine as long as the coffee lasts, and a pick-me-up stop
Someplace Else by Khanchuwa

I first began frequenting this cafe-cum-bakery in April last year when the earthquake forced many restaurants to close shop temporarily. Opening just a day after the quake, the Himalayan Beanz Coffee/Sara Bakery proved itself to be a survivor and a haven for those seeking a sense of normalcy amidst the continuing chaos and aftershocks. It helped that the facility had backup power and reliable wifi connectivity.

Eight months later, Sara (as I like to call it) has become a personal favourite; it’s the place I invite friends to meet-up, a work space that remains mine as long as the coffee lasts, and a pick-me-up stop.

Usually my order is pretty simple: a cup of café latte (Rs 140) and an egg sandwich (Rs 210), two things that satiate my caffeine and food cravings. But as restaurant reviews demand, a critic must try more from the menu, don a more critical lens, and use all her five senses to judge even the simplest dish.  

And so I entered Sara this week, for what must have been my umpteenth time, with the goal of venturing beyond its coffee drinks. To start I ordered the American Breakfast set (Rs 450); the other option was the English variant. I expected a generous plate of the archetypal meal. However, what was served were two slices of untoasted brown bread and measly serving of baked beans, scrambled eggs, a piece of fried sausage, and a cold potato patty. No coffee included.

The offering was disappointing for more than just its portion size. The beans cooked in tomato and sugar sauce tasted like they came straight out of a can. The eggs were not light and creamy as scrambled eggs are supposed to be, but terribly runny and overcooked. The patty had a bland grainy taste and the fried sausage, which my meat-eating friend ate, was uncooked. Because I am a ‘resilient’ Nepali, I refrain from commenting on the cold bread because batti thiyena.

After a disastrous first dish that pleased neither our appetite nor our hearts, we decided to move onto the bakery part of the joint. We each sampled a slice of the chocolate bread (Rs 75) and banana bread loaf (Rs 75). While the chocolate bread was dry and tasted stale, the banana bread was moist and delicious with the right amount of sweetness. Next, we picked a piece of the visually appetising chocolate tart (Rs 150). The crust was crumbly, the chocolate filling was light and the glaze on top was rich. All agreed this was the best of the lot.

On a separate visit I tried Sara’s Veg Panini (Rs 210). The grilled sandwich came with the same side of radish and cabbage slaw, potato salad, and carrot pickle that is served with all other sandwiches. The dish was fulfilling albeit nothing to wax poetic about.

With no backup for wifi and electricity, the café has also ceased to be an ideal workspace during the current times of blockade and extreme loadshedding. The staff’s inattentiveness is also slowly becoming an irritant.

Regardless of who is on duty, the cashier always fails to inform a customer of a scheme that offers one, her seventh cup of coffee for free. The waiter usually takes half an hour to bring you a glass of water. Over time the barista and the wait staff have grown familiar, but sadly not friendlier; smiles are quite elusive among the staff.

Despite the many flaws of this place I still visit it regularly, like a lover in a bad relationship, well aware it would be better to search for a place that values and treats me right as a customer, but not finding the strength to break the attachment.

How to get there: Himalayan Beanz Coffee/Sara Bakery is located on the ground floor of a commercial building, right beside the Jawlakhel Ground.