Nepali Times
Café Soma


The anodyne to almost any ailment—be it writer's block before a pressing deadline, a dogged hangover from a night on the town or plain old heartbreak that reaffirms the folly of a holiday deriding singlehood and reveling the grand illusions of courtly love (humph!)—Café Soma hits a spot that no paramour or inamorato can dare arouse.

The quaint nook in Jhamel is more than just a coffee shop vending decent coffee, filling sandwiches and good reads; it's a neighborhood den whose homely charm readily invites a morning or midday routine.

At Soma's core is a breakfast menu that kindly accommodates to white nights and sleeping in on weekends (available 7:30 AM to 11:00 AM weekdays; 7:30 AM to 2:00 PM weekends). The mother of all panaceas is Soma's version of Eggs Benedict (Rs 280; all prices are inclusive of VAT): Two perfectly poached eggs over smoked ham stacked on toast in lieu of the traditional English muffin and smothered with a tart, creamy Hollandaise sauce. The decadent emulsion of egg yolk, butter and lemon juice is a literal injection of the old adage, "The way to a man's heart is through his stomach."

But the Lucullan feast does not end there. A house special on the list of coffee beverages is the Browniccino (Rs 190), a delectable portmanteau that blends brownie bits and espresso into a frappe that could have only been the brainchild of an American franchise.

To risk prattling on about portmanteaux, Soma does brunch.

The sandwich selection is comprehensive of all appetites, catering to latecomers, high teas and lunchboxes. The All-day Breakfast (Rs 295) is a warm breakfast mitt of eggs and sausages, while the Eggs, Mayonnaise and Capers (Rs 270) is just that and divine. The Mozzarella Cheese Steak (Rs 350) packs tender prime beefsteak and slithers of mozzarella in a toasted white loaf with grilled onions. Sandwiches and burgers like the healthy Grilled Chicken & Rosemary (Rs 295) are dished with a scant serving of slaw and a bowl of hearty potato wedges, a rare and welcomed fashion in the valley.

For sweets indulge in desserts like Crêpes with Sugar and Lemon (Rs 120) or take on to the counter where in-house baked goods wait behind a glass case. The Carrot Walnut muffin (Rs 75) is fluffy and heated to order. Ask for a knife and a slice of cold butter. Other favourites include the brittle Almond Cookie (Rs 55) and the twisted Almond Danish (Rs 80), but I can go on.

A non-deafening soundtrack of crooners like Louis and Billie on play, free WiFi, accessible outlets (though subject to load shedding), clean comfy couches, good lighting and bookshelves selling the everyman's library of contemporary and classic tomes create the closest thing to an ideal coffee shop in Kathmandu.

Service at Soma is a tad too lax and can be more attentive. Should we queue up or sit and wait for a menu? However, regulars on their portables attuned to long hours in a 'coffice' (yet another portmanteau) seem to appreciate Soma's laidback atmosphere and the cure-all comforts it feeds.

Across from a bicycle shop down the street from Herman's Bakery in Jhamel

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)