Darjeeling’s narrow lanes throw up surprises at each turn – you may chance upon a charming tea parlour selling teapots or an ancestral shop with exquisite Tibetan artefacts and jewellery. In this charming hill station, you can shop till you drop and rejuvenate yourself with a cup of tea on every street. Here are some shops and restaurants worth visiting.
Centrally located on Nehru Road, Hasty Tasty has been around for about two decades. Crowded during lunch hours, this vegetarian, self-service restaurant serves North Indian, South Indian and Chinese cuisine. Grab a table by the window, and tuck into wholesome, simple food. Try the North India and South Indian Thali.
At the centre of Chowrasta and Nehru Road, Hotel Shangri-La is a reputed name for its food and service. The restaurant’s old world charm makes it ideal for a leisurely drink and scrumptious meal in the evening. Do try the Malaysian flat noodles called Kway Teow and Dragon Prawns here.
Tucked in a crowded lane, 7A Restaurant is the place for authentic and affordable Tibetan food. Walk beyond Chowrasta after Bhutan Tibet Arts and look for 7A on your left. Take the cramped stairs up and you will see colourful interiors with Tibetan patterns. Their menu has limited, but well-prepared specialities. Choose anything from thukpas to noodles but definitely reward your palate with a portion of momocha. These are stuffed dumplings (or momos) in thick, tangy gravy. If you wish momos could be spiced up, this will answer your prayers.
Himalayan Java Coffee
Himalayan Java Coffee is a recently opened cafe with modern decor and a contemporary but limited menu. They have perfected the art of coffee-making. Try any of the coffees with a waffle, as you watch pedestrians strolling on Nehru Road.
Nathmulls The World of Tea
A walk away from 7A Restaurant towards Chowrasta is Nathmulls The World of Tea (and Sunset Lounge). Educate yourself with the variety of tea produced in Darjeeling before packing some for home. They also have interesting and creative teapots and accessories.
Go onto Mall Market where you will find winter wear and trendy accessories like bags, Rastafarian-coloured headbands or beads and quirkily designed hot water bags. Don’t forget to bargain.
Biswa Bangla and Das Studio
Head to Biswa Bangla and gawk at Bengal’s crafts, saris, artefacts and organic cosmetics and taste some Bengali sweet treats. Only a few steps away is Das Studio which dates back to 1927 and is the place to admire (or buy) archival art, posters and photographs of Darjeeling. The postcards here are especially charming.
There is a small store of Tribes India which is a good place to buy tribal jewellery, traditional wear and other local produce, including Darjeeling and Assam tea. Their card machine tends to be out-of-service so go prepared with cash.