It had been 15 minutes since we'd been swerving across the sharply cut hills. The destination was home. The heart craved some salt. Just as we turned a corner in the market for the second and last time, my heart stopped at a sight that I could not believe I had missed earlier.
Perched proudly amidst the quaint streets of Kulri, Mussoorie, was Little Llama Cafe. On first sight, it's only a splash of colour against the framed windows that catches eye, making you wonder what surprises it holds inside. After all, in the poignant green of Uttarakhand, the charm of bright colour becomes almost anachronistic, right?
"We have to make a stop here," I'd said to my father.
Upon entering, the setting of the cafe gives a rather rustic vibe - with black seating and wooden tables to enjoy flavourful meals at. In the small balcony overlooking the valley, I ordered away from the expansive menu on that breezy February afternoon, delighted at the prospect of finally having good food in an otherwise minimalistic hill town.
My usual pick-me-up is coffee, and I'm usually picky about it. But the perfect balance of hazelnut with ice over two shots of espresso in their Frappe was just what I needed to complete my trip. This was followed by an overdose of Flanders cheese on not-so-thin crust pizzas.
It takes expertise to make a simple pahadi Maggie or bun tikki taste as good as it should. It's an art, hardly mastered in the over-populated markets of Mussoorie. So of course, I was elated at having something fulfilling at last, even though some would judge me for chasing continental on the slopes of Himalayas.
Mind you, this was the only cafe in the famed Mussoorie mall road that offered quality continental cuisine. Now that you know, don't waste time running in circles like we did.
Halfway into the meal we switched places to inside the cafe, where the sun shone and the crisp breeze of the hills submitted to a deterring linear decor. I barely remember if there was music playing. Well within COVID-19 norms, the place was teeming with people sharing avid travelling stories over a vast choice of vegetarian starters and cold cuts. It was the kind of healthy chatter many seem to miss in the hills.
Before exiting the cafe, my habitual curiosity had taken me to the display section near the cashier. Thank God for that! The evenly textured cakes and larger than life cookies were enough to tell me we'd finally hit the right spot. But it was the chocolate from Masons & Co. that tipped the balance for me and my brother. As the manager told us, it's a luxury to have standard quality cheese and chocolate supplied to the upper terrains of India. What we eye as a star in the meal poses as a ditch in the pockets of the restaurateurs there. Excess cess is paid for the transportation of ingredients that are supplied by the food industries of the plains. This is one of the many reasons why your basic comfort foods are priced higher in mountain cafes.
So we decided to make it worth it. Upon leaving for Delhi from the cafe, our car was loaded with the Orange Cointreau Cake, Red Velvet Muffins, Rum Muffins, Chocolate Muffin, Coffee Tiramisu, and of course, the Peanut Butter Chocolate Cookie (yes, one was enough). I think we all know by now how that must've turned out. If not, it's time for you to find out first hand!