Inspiration Galore

In Nepal when you think of food connoisseurs the first name that comes to mind is that of Dubby  Bhagat. When you sit down  with him he will talk to you about the  good things in life, food and travel with so much zeal that you would want  to hop on a plane and explore the food in your new destination  like there’s no  tomorrow.

Hailing from an army background he first started his career with Desmond Doig, Jug Suraiya and a few others in the late sixties and early seventies with Junior Statesman.  He first came to Nepal to cover King Mahendra’s coronation in 1975 and it has been an eternal love affair ever since. He knows of a Kathmandu before Nanglos was conceived and where it still reeked of calm and old world charm. He’s seen those times when Gundruk (dried, fermented greens) would be hung in little bunches on the doors of people’s homes   to the present day restaurant frenzy especially in those little lanes of Jhamsikhel.

dubby bhagat food critic nepal

Lukla holds a special place in his heart having invented a dish out of yak meat and wine on that terrain.  Another reason could be that the region is home to his mountain loving adopted son Rick Dorje Sherpa. He’s also co-written few books on Nepal and its intricacies all of which reflect his love for his adopted country.

His love for food stems from  the time he spent with Behram Contactor  aka Busybee , noted Indian journalist and food writer who would take him  to  the little eateries producing delicious  fare  behind the Taj  Hotel  in Mumbai and Parsi  ladies making Dhanshak(a  confluence  of  veggies and  lentils)and  other  traditional   dishes. He has had an extensive career in hospitality starting from when he came long term to Nepal with Desmond Doig and started in sales in  the then Everest Sheraton. There he conceived many restaurants such as the Indian themed Far Pavilions, a bar called Bugles and Tigers, a barbecue   restaurant called Ropes and so on. He also helped design the Malla hotel, baby of Rama Malla.  He has worked on the conception of Wimpys in Durbar Marg. He also worked on the design of the Hyatt Hotel at the behest of Angur Baba Joshi, well known educationist and social worker. Through it all Desmond Doig, the journalist and Renaissance man had been a friend, mentor and guide. They also worked on Hotel Shangarila  at the request of a friend where Caroline  of the now famous Chez Caroline  also trained many a young  hand.

dubby bhagat food critic nepal

He has seen Shyam Kakshyapati hang   glasses on the bar when Nanglos  had just started his journey and  remembers the time when Hashish shops were legal and Hashish cookies were in vogue in the Basantapur   area here Yin Yang and Third Eye had Tibetan  carpets and Hukkah before  its   rebirth   in   Thamel.

He also speaks of Boris a Russian gentleman who started The Chimney at Yak and Yeti with delicacies   such as Chicken Ala Keiv and he still considers it the best fine dining restaurant in town. Deichiling and Chez Caroline also list in his favorites

He says that a larger cuisine often takes over its smaller counterpart  and this  is why  Indian cuisine  is taken as Nepali  food many a times .He recommends  Wunjala Moskva run by Gayatri Kansakar  as  one of  the finest fusion  restaurants  with a mix of Nepali and Russian food. The   now defunct Thamel House according   to him maintained the ethnicity of traditional Nepali food the best. He also has an interesting recollection of   Rana Khichdi made of rick and black lentils and rice along with ghee made by one of the army men’s wives a different take on the Jaulo.

Dubby  has an  adventurous  streak  as far as life and food are concerned so give him anything from Hermann’s baked goods   to traditional Rajasthani  Lal  Maas  , Tasneem’s  Bohri  Muslim Cuisine  to a   simple  pizza and he will not refuse. It is   his ever positive spirit which tells him that unless a restaurant shuts down it is a   success which is maybe why he   hasn’t ever written a negative  review in all  his time as food  critic   for The Himalayan Times. He is an inspiration for  sure.

Samridhi Goyal

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