Biratnagar and nightlife don't usually belong in the same sentence, but Saurav and Subham Bhattarai are determined to change this. Living by their resto-bar's name, Carpe Diem, the brothers seized the opportunity of providing youngsters in this eastern town a place to hang out, have a beer, play a tune or two on the acoustic guitars, or give an impromptu concert.
Started in September, the place is still getting on its feet and the quality of food served and the limited items on the menu are clear indications that the restaurant is in its infancy. Even for a bar, the selection of drinks is pretty restricted: no cocktails, only the regular whiskey, beer, wine, gin, and vodka.
We started our Friday evening with a customary plate of steamed chicken momos (Rs 80). There was nothing spectacular about the dumplings. The covering was thick, some parts felt uncooked, and the generous portion of readymade masala took away from our gastronomic pleasure. Next came the chicken balls (Rs 110). The eight deep fried balls, which came with a side of carrots and shredded cabbage, were too salty for our taste.
The highlight of our meal was undoubtedly the boneless chicken chili (Rs 120). Well-done to the core, crisp around the edges, and lightly fried, the pieces of chicken went down smoothly. The meat along with onion, capsicum, and tomato toppings had soaked in all the sauce and oozed flavour. As the live band was still in full swing, we ordered yet another round of appetiser: aalu sandeko (Rs 50). It's hard to go wrong with this simple Nepali snack, but our potato was doused in mustard oil and the coriander, tomato, onion, and ginger were not at all well-mixed. The oil simply overpowered our senses and destroyed the dish.
We wanted to end with something from the lunch and dinner selection and since we had overdosed on chicken, we got jeera (cumin) rice (Rs 50), but could not find anything to complement it. The rice was surprisingly good, with the right amount of jeera and very light on the tummy. The momo achar on the side, however, was not needed.
If Saurav and Subham want to sustain their joint in the long run, we suggest they work on adding a little variety to both the finger food and drinks menu. Even if they decide to stick to their 'less is good' motto, the little that they offer has to be prepared with more care.
However, what Carpe Diem lacks in terms of food, it more than makes up in its atmosphere. The place is lit in neon red light, with huge posters of popular Hollywood stars from the 1950s decorating the wall and is usually engulfed in a cloud of smoke (not a place for those who have problems with second hand smoking). Saurav is excellent with his guests. He will sit down to have a chat and even stop his performance mid-way through if he feels that a customer is not being served the right way or is unhappy. Although there are few waiters, they are pretty quick with their service. And the price is exceptionally reasonable. So gather your group of friends and head down to Carpe Diem on a Friday night.
How to get there: travel south from the main bus stop in Biratnagar, before you reach Roadcess Chok, if you look on your right, you will see Hotel Pacific, Carpe Diem is on the ground floor.