I was back in Shimla after about 10 years and like most hill stations in India, it has changed. For the worse. Commercialization has made the once beautiful town ugly over the years, with buildings everywhere and so little greenery left. Mall Road, the epicentre of action in Shimla, has now the latest brands jostling for the attention of tourists who have come to escape it all!
Thankfully, we stayed in Chail for most part of our office offsite. And when we came down to Shimla, we had just about an hour in our hands. And so, while my colleagues went off to see the Jaku temple (and the new Hanuman statue paid for by Big B, Amitabh Bachchan himself), I decided to take a stroll around the Church / Mall Road and grab a cup of coffee. Someone told us that CCD (Café Coffee Day) had an outlet down the road and we went to look for it. As luck would have it, we could not find it even after a 10 mins walk. Good. For we soon spotted an older, dilapidated but an ‘original’ version of the same – Indian Coffee House. Couldn’t resist trying it out – more for the ‘experience’ rather than quality.
The first thing that hits you is the décor and waiters who haven’t changed much since independence … it’s not a cheap place, like one’s you would find in other cities but it retains the old world charm in more ways than one. This we soon discovered. No Menu Cards, you have to do with old wooden boards on the wall. The waiters were dressed in the colonial white dress & caps – with little interest in serving you anything. We wanted Cappuccino and they recommended the age old ‘special’ expresso coffee. We wanted to try out something to eat as well and opted for Mutton Cutlets. The food & coffee was quite bad to be honest though the cutlets were fairly large.
Now for the experience of ‘old world charm’ … the décor of the place as you will see is typical of these coffee houses across the country though this place had a couple of interesting pre-independence posters. What sets this place apart is the crowd. I am not exaggerating but at 41 years, I was the youngest person in the coffee shop – BY FAR. This seemed to be the hangout of the retired and old locals with the younger generation moving on to newer format outlets. Chatting over cups of tea, enjoying Dosas and Vadas – it reminded me of the umpteen ‘coffee houses’ in Kolkata where ‘Adda’ is a way of life.
Wouldn’t go back for sure but worth a visit if you are in Shimla and looking for an original experience. Don’t want them to change the décor etc., but improvement in food will be a nice change. Cheers!!