Despite it being Nepal's second most populous city, Biratnagar is sparse when it comes to fine dining. The city is far more an overblown industrial outpost than a metropolis beating with diversity. The only viable restaurant of choice for the finicky is the decade-old Hotel Xenial in Panchali.
Sable bow-tied waiters, white ceilings fashioned with floral moulding and festive friezes portraying a pastiche of Hindu mythology are attempts at an outdated hotel standard. But the piece de la resistance—and this is no hyperbole—is its A/C, a coveted luxury in the Terai. At full frigid blast, Xenial's A/C is worth a duck-in to beat the heat and humidity.
Down to the grub, the carte comes in three (literally three laminated menus) in a geo-culinary map of proximity: Indian, Chinese and Nepali/Continental. It's a who's whos' menu accommodating to frequent travelers to the eastern capital, mostly tradesmen from south of the border and UN dispatches from the capital.
The Chinese dishes were mediocre. The soup was baby-corn chowder heavy on cornstarch, while the chow mein reminds us why stir-fried noodles are best off street stalls and hole-in-the-wall quick stops. The mutton strips and pineapple in a sauce, which isn't sweet, sour or spicy but can only be described as 'red,' were just decent.
Plus VAT and service charge, Xenial's prices are typical for Kathmandu. But this isn't Kathmandu. At Hotel Xenial you're paying for a niche standard and cool air.
On a street parallel to Dharan Rd, the swankiest digs in town is just a two-minute rickshaw from the bus park