“Two roads diverged in a wood and I-

 I took the one less travelled 

And that made all the difference

The words of Robert Frost loomed large in our minds as Nandini, Tarani and I literally stood at a spot where we couldn’t decide which route to take. The ‘tried and tested’ one?  Or the other (Read: Google maps) that indicated a hardly ventured but short route to iHeart cafe? The twin sisters and I have shared some profound moments together and our friendship goes back a long time. Besides other things, food and adventure glue us together. At that moment, the food of iHeart cafe and the short, ‘pagdandi’ route was beckoning us. We took the path less taken.

Such a terrible decision that was! We crossed a rickety bridge, climbed high walls, jumped from them, walked through boulders and bushes and the happily bouncing arrow of Google egged us on. We continued like the rest of the technology-driven world would. Till we came to a dead end. Huge rocks blocked our way. By this time, we were deep in a drain with slime and flies all around and at a point of no return. Helplessly, we cried aloud and were thankfully rescued with an amused village watching the show “Three Women in a Ditch.” One of the most embarrassing moments of my life. Did we turn back or move on? Our grit and determination, hunger pangs and new directions from the locals propelled us to finally reach our destination – The iHeart Cafe.

The wrought iron which opens to the cafe and the garden area.

The signboard that beckons you to come inside – have fun with friends and family or enjoy some quiet “Me Time” with a book from their shelves.

Coffee is love!

 

“Do you have a story worth sharing?” We all have one, don’t we? Why not sit inside and share it over a cup of coffee!

The cafe is perched in Mehra Estate, on the side of Bhimtal-Ramgarh Road, about 4 km from the Bhimtal Lake. Sheltered by a red roof, the brick cafe seems alive and inviting. Messages and menus scribbled on chalkboards, wicker and wood furniture, all add a hipster feel to the place; a bit of swank in an otherwise simple neighbourhood. The cafe extends itself to outdoors for those who prefer the verdant surroundings.

The American couple, Tim Sebastian and his wife Liz started iHeart Cafe in Feb 2016. With the first iHeart cafe set up in Greece, Tim conceptualised this cafe in Bhimtal and designed the menu offering pizzas, burgers, lasagna, sandwiches, burritos and waffles besides a huge assortment of in-house baked, delectable cakes, muffins and varieties of tea and coffee.

The loaded breakfast burrito

The firehouse pizza

Absolutely famished after our adventure, we ordered Belgian waffles, a loaded breakfast burrito and a Firehouse Pizza. Warm golden brown, crispy and with perfect indentations, the waffles were served with honey and a scoop of vanilla ice-cream. Enveloped in fresh tortillas, the burrito was overloaded with scrambled eggs, shredded cheese, fried potatoes, tomatoes and capsicum. Though served as a breakfast menu, I would feast on it any time of the day. The Firehouse Pizza, with jalapeños and red chilli flakes resting on an Alfredo base, added the kick to the pizza. To wash down the food, we ordered a cappuccino, strawberry shake and an iced mocha. The food was flavoursome and robust with fresh ingredients. The prices are on the high side for a mountain cafe, but as Tim explained, there are costs in transportation and serving food with quality ingredients in the mountains. I agree! There are no compromises made to the food served in the cafe.

Freshly made waffles make a perfect breakfast!

Besides having table setting for families, they have cosy corners for love birds too.

Signs everywhere!

“Everybody does everything,” Tim tells us. There are no specified roles given to anybody. There are four cooks in the kitchen and they can pick up any role from cooking, baking or even washing the dishes as the situation arises. ”Everyone is family” he adds. Perhaps this is the reason why there is a feeling of homecoming and camaraderie in this cafe. Love, respect and support form the basis of the cafe. Being from Montana himself, Tim has a connection with Carroll College, Helena, where foreign students are invited to experience Indian culture with village homestay. They learn about volunteerism and it’s these students that help serve in the cafe.

Tim Sebastian

Liz Sebastian

Do restaurants, hotels and cafes have a responsibility towards the environment? Tim feels strongly about this and there is attention paid to separating trash, recycling and composting. They have 60 chickens that work on the food scraps and make excellent compost which is then used as organic matter and nutrients for the soil. 

Messages, written or inscribed, all over the cafe lend an informal and homely feel.

Actively involved with the NGO, Himalayan Hope, Tim and Liz help in raising and educating 21 orphans. We invited them all to a tea party at the house where we met the large family. It was an evening of fun and some reflection – It’s not always about profits and self-interest. We have a social responsibility too.

If ever your car meanders in the hills of Bhimtal, stop and enjoy this mountain cafe. As you pay for your meal, don’t forget to give the couple a smile for all the good work they do in the hills. They dared to take the path less taken. The iHeart Cafe is a special cafe and Tim and Liz remind us that a small step goes a long way in serving and changing the world. 

Have you come across a cafe like this in the recent times where they are contributing to the community? Do let us know so that we can feature them here. Concepts like these need to be encouraged. Come! let’s join hands in promoting them.

Address: Mehragaon, Mehra Estate, Bhimtal, Uttarakhand.

Mobile: +91 8762436640 

Price: INR 900 for two {approx.}

Timings: 9 am – 8 pm

Follow them on Facebook here.

 This post was first featured in www.pikturenama.com as a guest blog post. 

  

  

Dipali_Bhasin

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