A week in Kashmir: the cafe
Whisper it quietly, but there are the first stirrings of a cafe culture in the Kashmiri capital. The renowned Coffea Arabica - which boasted of being Srinagar's first cappuccino bar - was swept away in the devastating floods of September 2014. The building remains forlorn and abandoned - the word is it will become a bank (just what Srinagar needs!) But the good news is that Books and Bricks in Gogji Bagh - which I visited last evening - is not just a worthy replacement ... it's distinctly better.
It's a funky sort of place - small, but well designed - a smart interior with lots of books to browse and read - and it does a really good cappuccino. And the waffles and ice cream wasn't bad either. No it's not the place for Kashmiri cuisine (and I am happy to report that Ahdoo's, quite a bit smarter and busier than I remember it from years back, remains the venue for traditional 'wazwan' dishes) but there's nothing wrong with burgers!
Books and Bricks was opened a year or so ago by two England-returned Kashmiris. It's had a tough time. In the turbulence and protests in the second-half of last year, the cafe was obliged to close for four months. But it now seems to be doing well - yesterday evening most tables were taken. And much like Coffea Arabica, it's the sort of place where women feel comfortable having a coffee and a chat.
Just next door to Goodfellas is a really interesting new venture - an up-market tea house. Chai Jaii has again a wonderful location, overlooking the river. It does both traditional English and Kashmiri teas - and, with notice, full high teas. The decor is sumptuous and it's a very relaxing place to spend an hour - though it is a touch (alright, more than a touch) expensive.
This weekend, Chai Jaii has organised a small spring festival on the park just outside - with food stalls from the old city, arts and crafts and live music. I popped by yesterday - attendance was modest, and largely (as far as I could tell) the Srinagar elite, but there was a nice feel to the event. It's something new. It doesn't change life for ordinary Kashmiris - it can't paper over the profound sense of anger here. But Srinagar is the better for all these new businesses and initiatives.
Wonderful update on the burgeoning Kashmiri café culture, Andrew. Thank you! It's really tempting me to visit. And I love the photos.
Thankyou Andrew Whitehead!
Few years back people used to carry a series of charging cords and related accessories for each of their electronic gadgets
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