The dreamy town of Shimla, well known as the ‘Queen of Hills’, is my hometown. The quaint but bustling town offers a perfect mixture of panoramic views of the snow clad Himalayas, tiny paths along the pine forests, Elizabethan-styled roof-tops and a delectable food culture that establishes fairytale like settings. A favourite summer weekend outing from Delhi, Shimla is on the must-do list of both Indian and international travelers.
Adding to its appeal are a range of warm and quirky cafes and hang out spots featuring scrumptious food throughout the day. Here’s a list of the local favourites – both for their food and ambience.
Previously known as Fiesta Food Court, Café Simla Times is named after a famous newspaper that was circulated in Shimla when the town was still called Simla. This is a hang out spot with an artistic vibe to it. It offers lot of creativity and innovation both in terms of its food as well as the décor. The menu is outstanding and the creativity of the place unique.
The walls and roof have sketches of famous spots of Shimla giving a sense that the café has been designed by an artist who also happened to be a chef. There is a model of a vintage car on the outside that adds to the ambience. The café offers both indoor and outdoor seating – so you can choose to sit inside and enjoy the painted walls, or sit outside and enjoy the view. Either way it’s a win-win.
While at Café Simla Times, the first thing to try are the Tomato Olive Toasties which consist of bruschetta (Italian bread dipped in olive oil) topped with smoked tomato olives, basil and feta cheese. Café Simla Times bakes its own bread so every bread preparation is crisp and fresh.The next recommendation is the lip smacking pizza! Their wood-fired pizzas come with thin, crispy bases, flavourful toppings and generous amounts of mozzarella cheese. The smoked chicken & olive pizza is loved by all.
The fruit shakes on the menu are exceptionally fresh and bursting with flavour. The Strawberry shake is a local favourite – juicy strawberries and creamy milk make a good combination. Their Lemon Ice Tea is good too. They also serve cocktails.
Among desserts, the Tiramisu with perfectly blended chocolate, cream and mascarpone, comes highly recommended.
Note- Sometimes, during evenings and on special occasions there’s a live band that performs so check around in case you’re a music lover. A board right outside the café announces special performances and programs.
Best For: Tomato Olive Toasties, Smoked Chicken and Olive Pizza, Tiramisu
Also Try: Honey Chilly Potatoes, Cottage Cheese & Veg Burger, Strawberry Shake, Veg Kathi Roll, Club Sandwich, Lemon Ice Tea
A zingy place with a menu full of food from across the world. An elevator from Cart Road takes visitors straight up to the café, saving many a calories that would need to be burnt climbing up. Fresh, delightful food is what draws crowds. Do note that they are better known for their non-vegetarian fare.
The salads served here are a fine balance of fresh vegetables, fruits and a flavorful seasoning. A personal favourite is the classic Caesar Salad with Grilled Chicken, served with fresh lettuce, parmesan cheese, oregano croutons (rebaked bread) and Caesar dressing.
Seafood fans should definitely try the grilled fish. Served with spicy finger chips and semi roasted vegetables, the fish has a slight tangy flavor to it. The distinct barbeque flavor of the fish with a squeeze of lemon juice makes it perfect for the palate. If you want to go for simple fish snacks then the fish burger and fish tacos are savoury.
Cafe Sol also serves the most authentic prawns in Shimla. Fried prawns with hot garlic sauce are a must have. They are served with herb butter, a mix of butter, salted pepper and specific herbs – basil, parsley, oregano.
A must-try is the Turkish Pita Platter. Pita pockets, roasted vegetables and other Turkish snacks are served along with an assortment of dips such as hummus and tzatziki.
If you’re in the mood for something to drink, go straight for the Vienna Espresso which has the pleasant and distinctive smell of grounded coffee beans. Have it topped with vanilla ice cream. There is a small cake corner at the Cafe where visitors can try some of the cakes and pastries that Café Sol has to offer. The Chocolate and Hazelnut pastry is a local favourite. They also undertake custom orders so in case you have a celebration, this is where you could order a cake. All in all, visit Café Sol for its classy décor and superlative food.
Note: They accept credit / debit card payments.
Best For: Caesar Salad with Grilled Chicken, Grilled Fish, Vienna Espresso
Also Try: Chicken Burger, Paneer tikka, Cheesecake
Wake and Bake Café
A warm, cozy cafe with a picturesque view and an affable owner, Wake and Bake Cafe offers multiple cuisines including European, Mexican, Chinese and Tibetan. A variety of dishes from the Middle East are also served – hummus, falafel, and pita. The Schnitzel Laffa, a dish consisting of mouth watering rolls of pita filled with food, is a local favourite. Tourists – both Indian and International – favour this tiny cafe.
Salad lovers can try the Chicken fruit salad which is a rich mix of seasonal fruit chops, chicken chunks and olives. Herb chicken & mushroom served with some white sauce is also something to try; the shallots and mushrooms bring out the best in this dish. Grilled potatoes, black olives and carrots complete the assortment.
Bacon is served here too so if your taste buds tingle with the smell of bacon, you have to give this place a visit! It will be served in the form of a platter with half fried eggs, some sprouted beans and some bread. The chocolate and Oreo shakes are piquant. All in all, the multiple cuisines served here are totally worth it.
Apple cinnamon waffles with maple syrup can make a good light snack or even breakfast for early wakers. The waffles can be taken with piping hot coffee or tea. At Wake & Bake, the Peach & Apricot tea is an option open to try. The nutella crepe is another delicious choice.
The service is prompt and the owner personally purchases fresh vegetables every morning. One can also purchase little tiny pots and handicrafts that are kept on display on the front shelves of the café. Wake & Bake offers its customers free wifi which is widely appreciated.
Note- Wake & Bake is not very spacious, but the ambiance is very elegant. The owner is a very helpful individual and will address all of your food related issues personally.
Best for: Hummus, Falafel, and Pita ; Herb Chicken and Mushroom.
Also try: Spaghetti, Nutella Banana Shake, Chicken Sandwich.
The Hide Out Cafe is located in the center of the city. Although the cafe is newly opened, it has its locals eating out of its hands. This is due to the refreshing items on the menu, and the free wifi helps too!
The Sweet Corn soup is creamy and perfect for a cold, rainy evening. Chunks of garlic add an extra oomph factor to the soup. The soup can be consumed along with some lip smacking Fried rice and Manchurian. The fried chicken or the fried paneer dumplings in thick and creamy gravy make a good side dish for lunch. The aromatic essence of these dishes combined with the flavors of the spices leaves customers asking for more.
Chicken Rolls, Egg wraps, Pastas, and Garlic Bread are also sought after.Chocolate and plain donuts are appetizing too.
Chicken rolls dipped in freshly prepared mayonnaise or pudina chutney is an all time delight. The chicken stuffing inside the rolls is mixed with the masala and the quantity is ample. Raw onion rings with a squeeze of lemon add to the overall decor of the plate.
The Vegetable pasta is also one among the many famous dishes. A hint of Indian spices added to the Italian dish makes it all the more popular. Fresh broccoli, tomatoes, cilantro, and shallots go very well with the pasta and red sauce.
For the early birds, The Hide Out Cafe offers an early breakfast- so that one can begin his day with a wide smile and a happy tummy. Their breakfast platter makes for a heartfelt meal. The platter consists of an omelet, grilled toasts, a dip, a cutlet and roasted tomatoes. If you’re vegetarian, the omlette is substituted with another vegeterian dish.
Note- The café opens early so utilize your mornings to have breakfast here, right in the heart of the town.
Best For- Fried Rice and Manchurian, Vegetable Pasta, Chicken Rolls.
Also Try- Hakka Noodles, Vegetable Sandwich, Vegetable Rolls.
Being the oldest café in Shimla, the Indian Coffee House hasn’t changed in the last four decades. The cafe’s ambiance takes people back in time and gives them a taste of the timeworn Indian beverages and food. Although there has been an increase in the number of modern coffee shops around, the Indian Coffee House still stands strong.
And so, one cannot expect a mocha or a latte when here. But enjoying the South Indian filter coffee after a long day’s work is a satisfaction in itself! This cafe brings out happiness in its simplicity and that’s what makes it so unique and so desired.
The south Indian snacks at the India Coffee House is phenomenal. The crunchy Masala Dosa and Idli-vada-sambhar are some of the most sought after dish. A unique dish of this cafe is it’s Mutton Dosa with a mix of minced mutton and onion masala stuffing.
Most people visit the Indian Coffee House just to take off the heat from work, or just to hang out after strolling around the Mall. A spicy vegetable cutlet or mutton cutlet can be enjoyed with a hot cup of coffee or chai. The crispy French toast, omelet, and the finger chips are also among the many favorites.
Note- Indian Coffee House is closed on Sundays.
Best for- Mutton Dosa, Masala Dosa, Filter Coffee.
Also try- Vegetable cutlets, Idli Sambhar, Sambhar Vada.
One of the oldest cafe’s in Shimla, Embassy is known for its ice creams. These creamy delicacies are sold at nominal prices. Strawberry, Vanilla, Butterscotch, Chocolate, Pineapple, Mango, Pista Kulfi – there’s a wide range of flavours to choose from.
The classic softy is still available here. So is the Nutty Chocolate Cone ( Chocó chip cone). This is a cafe where you can just pick a corner seat near the window, and enjoy this delectable dollop of icy wonder with a splendid backdrop of the city. The fusion pastry (chocolate and almond) and the Black Forest pastries are a must try.
The owner will personally attend to you. The interiors of the cafe have stories with profound life messages on them. They have been written by the owner himself. The inner walls of the cafe have graffiti on them too. One can write in feedback on the walls of the cafe, maybe even draw a cartoon!
Note- Avoid ice creams during evenings if you’re from the plains. Have them during the day so that you don’t catch the flu, owing to the chill in the weather of Shimla.
Best for- Strawberry Ice cream, Butterscotch Ice cream, Chocolate Chip Cone.
Also try- Strawberry softy, banana softy, chocolate donut.