SRINAGAR – In Srinagar, Chai isn’t a just a beverage. It is synonymous with being a concept, or an elixir of endless work if you will. As an outsider, I’ve come to notice whenever I am offered a cup, I get asked whether I’d like ‘nun chai’, or the usual ‘Lipton’.
I have had my experiences with ‘nun chai’, and I’d describe them as challenging. But there is a sense of comfort in every sip of what the Kashmiri’s describe as ‘Lipton’ chai, or what I’ve grown up calling, Masala tea. Finding really good tasting tea is a little bit of a challenge in Srinagar, because people are so used to the concept that we’ve accepted mediocrity. Which is why in the pursuit of finding something outside the ordinary, I traveled to Ahdoos, a place fabled for its restaurant. The bakery at Adhoos is known around the city for its pastries and confectionery items, but what many people perhaps don’t know is that they can enjoy a cup of chai here as well, along with their favorite cakes and cookies.
Walking in to the place, I was greeted with the sweet fragrance you’d associate with a bakery. But not just any bakery, a high end establishment showcasing imported chocolates and novelty items, one immediately gets teleported to a metropolitan city café, the likes of which hardly exist in Srinagar. There’s Western music playing in the bakery, and the assortment of pastries makes one feel as though the café belongs in Mumbai or New York City. But alas, we are in Srinagar. The city deserves a bakery of international standards and quality. I have a look at their chalked out menu, and instantly chose Ahdoos Special Tea, and a piece of glistening carrot cake.
The fragrance of the tea, as their name suggests, was indeed special. Served in a transparent glass tea pot, there was a dark red glisten to the tea, and on the side a cup of milk, leading the tea drinker to decide just how he or she liked their cup. I poured myself half a cup, two drops of milk and a pack of brown sugar. The tea was literally uplifting, and after a cup or two, I genuinely felt happier. The carrot cake has soft, delicious and shone under the lights of the establishment. Though the cake was a bit on the drier side, it didn’t take away from the fact that it was extremely comforting and left a warm, fuzzy feeling inside me.
Ahdoos is a place that can only be described as special, and a rarity in Kashmir. But a cup of tea and a piece of cake, are so synonymous in the daily existence of a Kashmiri, that I wonder just how many people will be willing to cough up close 200 rupees for one visit. The quality of the products served here is excellent, but I don’t see the place being regularly frequented by the chai connoisseurs. And if the main targets are tourists and outsiders, perhaps they could be located on Boulevard or closer to Dal Lake? Maybe this is just my cynicism as a reviewer, but I implore you to not let this take away from the fact that Ahdoos is spell bindingly good, and definitely worth a visit.
The quality of the products served here is excellent, but I don’t see the place being regularly frequented by the chai connoisseurs. And if the main targets are tourists and outsiders, perhaps they could be located on Boulevard or closer to Dal Lake? Maybe this is just my cynicism as a reviewer, but I implore you to not let this take away from the fact that Ahdoos is spell bindingly good, and definitely worth a visit.