A perfect blend of East and West
Yohan Graham is a British teacher and works in Kathmandu within the International school sector. He’s passionate about food, good service
In these times of austerity spending Christmas week in Pokhara filled me with dark thoughts of cold nights and dreary mealtimes by the glistening Fewa Lake. However, my Christmas treat to myself was dinner at The Harbour Restaurant. This light, airy and chic dining space sits below its modern imposing big brother The Glacier Hotel. Attached is The Fountain Cafe serving funked up breakfast dishes to hungry visitors. The entire complex seems to be attracting a crowd even amidst fuel crisis!
The first thing that strikes you is the warm welcome you get by an attentive and charming front of house team. Background music is chilled and ambient and the tables are decked with Pokhara slate quarried locally. The same slate is used to create their own jet-black serving dishes. These plates offset some vibrant and colourful food served up lakeside. We were impressed with the no-frills but classic cocktail list and sat down to a series of four memorable courses.
Our appetiser of a large anti-pasto platter was preceded by a warmed bronze plate of mixed nuts exploding with flavour and texture garnished with home grown wild thyme. Home baked bread and olive oil have become common in the continental sector but they were difficult to find fault. The anti-pasto was loaded with such a large assortment of fish, meat and cheese that my German guest quipped, “This is the most amount of meat I have eaten in Nepal!”
Highlights for me were the ham, salami and cheese. My friend loved her cold blood-red spiced octopus and her companion thought the gherkins and olives were delicious. The cold, locally farmed trout was not to my taste and I thought it was a little bland. However, the dense forest of colour, flavour and texture coming from the rest of the feast soon whipped my palate back into shape.
For our next dish we moved from cold fish to a warm sublime whole steamed Butterfly Trout. This dish was nice to look at, oozed freshness and was ‘on point’ vis-à-vis cooking time. The fish was accompanied by a creamy fresh potato salad and more green salad — there was so much salad flying around I couldn’t manage all of it. My companions, who are salad-junkies, munched through with increased fervour and raved about the freshness: each to his own...
Following this we were served three Slider Cajun Burgers. I liked the construction — cute home-made mini burger buns, good quality meat, zingy onion, tomato and all that jazz. However, they lacked a punchy relish that deserves the name ‘Cajun’. Home-cut chips were devilishly good and we finished them off without delay. My friends and I asked for more seasoning to enliven this dish and the staff were duly obliging. Aathiti devo bhava is a concept which is clearly central to their service culture.
Our final course was a vibrant plate of Samay Baji, the classic Newari dish. The plate was pretty to look at. Central to it was the light puffy chiura (beaten rice) surrounded by a small army of flavours. The mutton Choila was so tender you could pull the meat apart with a fork. Harbour’s Badam Sadeko (spicy peanut salsa) was off-the-scale and I am amazed what one can do with a humble peanut! The only thing I questioned myself was, “Where’s the Aila?”, but I dared not ask. Potato side, pickles and seasonal vegetables were light, fresh and didn’t leave us feeling so stuffed we couldn’t move.
I enjoyed the fact that the Harbour Restaurant mixes East with West, local produce with imported goodness and does it with style. The prices are very reasonable and compare favourably with many other local eateries. I hope to visit Pokhara soon and when I do The Harbour restaurant will certainly be on my itinerary!
THE HARBOUR RESTAURANT
Food Quality: 8.5
Value for money: 9