Opened by a bunch of young Kashmiri entrepreneurs, Srinagar's quirky cafes have quickly become haute-spots for students, writers, poets, artists and travellers.
Nestled on the beautiful banks of Dal Lake in Srinagar lies Winterfell Cafe, India’s first Game of Thrones-themed cafe. The brightly-painted interiors have a medieval-era brick and wood theme, the artwork is all GOT-related and there is even a mock ‘Iron Throne’.
The Winterfell Cafe is the brainchild of die-hard GoT fans, Kamran Nisar and Ummar Nisar. The Nisar cousins belong to the new generation of Kashmiris who are returning to the Valley as entrepreneurs after having studied or worked outside.
Over the last two years, many of these young entrepreneurs (who are in their twenties to thirties) have catalyzed the first stirrings of a cafe culture in Srinagar, a city without multiplexes or nightlife. The quirky cafes opened by this bunch have quickly become haute-spots for Srinagar’s students, writers, poets, artists and travellers. Along with serving some really delicious food, these cafes also organise reading sessions, art workshops, cultural events and more.
Here’s a list of Srinagar’s new cafes that are providing a welcome break from the monotony of life in the Valley. If you are heading to Kashmir anytime soon, remember to keep this list handy!
A spectacular homage to the fictional world created by George R. R. Martin, the Winterfell Cafe on Srinagar’s Boulevard Road is clearly the work of GoT nerds. From fluttering house banners, wooden swords, themed art work, a tree-shaped library and a mock Iron Throne, the well-lit cafe definitely nails it with its decor.
Winterfell Cafe also boasts of an interesting menu that includes a mean Salisbry steak, Alfredo Penne, Pineapple Wrapped Chicken and Chicken Mushroom Pot Pie. In an interview to Gwayun, the owners said, “We wanted to give Srinagar a place where people from all walks of life could find a congregation point over great food and mind-numbing coffee with the objective of Kashmir’s legendary hospitality not being lost in a bistro-atmosphere.”
2. Books N Bricks
A cafe with a smart interior, suave ambience and lots of books to read, Books N Bricks was started by two childhood friends, Danish Zargar and Arsalan Sajad. This first-of-its-kind cafe in Srinagar is inspired by the aesthetics of American diners and has a quirky interior done in varnished bricks, wallpapers that are pages from a Reader’s Digest and shelves stacked with a modest collection of books.
Other than the warm ambiance, Books N Bricks has another draw in its scrumptious fish fillets and burgers. “Earlier people would pick a friend’s house to meet in groups, but now they have an option to choose a neutral space where no one has to play host,” said Sajad to Scroll.
Located on the picturesque banks of river Jhelum, Goodfellas is a cosy hobby hub of artists, writers and poets. Managed by artist Mujtaba Rizvi and friend Ali Abbas, this cafe has an eclectic menu, quick service, a decor with Kashmiri elements and walls adorned with the works of school kids from remote areas of Kashmir. And it also has something that is rare here – a reliable WiFi connection.
A frequent host to art shows, gaming events, story sessions, and poetry slams, Goodfellas also serves a variety of food that includes home-baked pastries and nun chai (a pink-coloured salt tea popular among locals). “In the first six months of 2016, Goodfellas hosted 22 events, said Rizvi to Quartz.
Started by former corporate executive Roohi Nazki, Chai Jaai is an exquisitely decorated tea-room that also doubles up as a book cafe and a space for conversations about culture, art, literature and more. Perched on the bank of a gurgling river in Srinagar, the cafe is a confluence of an English concept (the tearooms of Cotswolds) and local flavours.
The elaborate menu of Chai Jaai includes 25 international varieties of tea, 8 local varieties of tea and local Kashmiri treats like girda and shirmal. :Many girls have thanked me. They say that Chai Jaai is a place they can finally breathe in. Nobody is ogling at us, they say. We can just be,” Nazki told SheThePeople.
5. 14th Avenue Cafe
A pretty European-style coffee-cube on the banks of river Jhelum, 14th Avenue Cafe is the perfect place to enjoy some stunning scenery while savouring some of the yummiest baked treats in Srinagar. A tiny flight of stairs leads you to a cosy room that serves an interesting variety of Indian, Italian, Lebanese and Mediterranean delicacies.
However, the items on the cafe’s menu that have people coming back for more are their freshly-baked pastries and thin-crust pizzas.
6. Cafe Chemistry
Started by Rubhan Shah, Zahan Khan and Beenish Wani (all 26-year-old architects returned from Mumbai) as tribute to their chemistry teacher, Cafe Chemistry is an uptown place with a funky modern decor that would appeal to coffee-loving bookworms of all ages.
Designed like a chemistry laboratory, Cafe Chemistry serves some yummy pastries, delicious sandwiches and a good cup of coffee, of course. “All that people here have seen is turmoil. We might not be rendering a great service but we want people to come and relax here,” Khan said to Times of India.