Last year during monsoon, we were in Katrain, which is famous for apple orchards. The small town on the National Highway 21 is a 45-minute drive from Manali. It was not a tourist season. Only a few travelers like us could be spotted. Hotel occupancy was low and restaurants were empty. Even roadside eateries were empty.
Shubhum Guest House in Katrain has an indoor restaurant and an outdoor garden restaurant with an 8-seat cabin for a private dinner or small party. Rectangular indoor restaurant was somewhat dark and wooden furniture was just lying here and there as if the dining room was not in use. White walls had some black blotches. So, we preferred to sit out.
Alfresco dining area had a well-maintained garden. Vibrant blooms of holy hock, lily, marigold and rose were refreshing. There were apple and other trees with wide canopies. The ground was covered with concrete and green grass hemmed with pebbles. Since it was rainy season, part of the garden eatery was covered with plastic sheets. Laminated iron and wooden tables were a mismatch for faded beige and red color plastic chairs. Some tables had protection of plastic sheets while others were under tree canopies, where mynas were chirping. It was scaring, because there was a chance of their droppings to fall into food. Mosquitoes played a spoilsport, but surprisingly flies were not an issue.
Main dishes yellow dal, gobhi ki sabji and mixed veg raita were well cooked, but cook was too generous with spices. Tawa rotis were perfectly done. We also ordered fresh sweet lemon water with salt and pepper. But, it was water with little sugar and lots of coarsely ground black pepper. Lemon juice, the main ingredient of the drink, did not stimulate my taste buds, because the juice was not there. Specks of the pepper bobbed in the water before they settled at the bottom of the glass. Right word for the drink should have been “black pepper water” or “water with black pepper”. Waiter, a young boy in late teens / early twenties, was courteous and accommodating. Although waiter replaced sticky water jug with spotless jug on our request, first impression is always important. The restaurant should work on cleanliness. Everything should be spotless, so customers need not complain.
Our overall experience was so-so, but its white kitchen wall invited our attention for a good reason. The wall read “her baiman aadami ko ake imandar adaami chahiye”, which means every dishonest man needs an honest man.