Stories From The Camp: Café Cloud
It’s the people who make a place special. And Café Cloud is no different. Managed by Sanjeev Kumar Dutt and his team, this café is one of the best eating joints in Ladakh. Here’s Rupert Winchester giving you an insight into this camp-owned-cafe and its people, who ensure that everyone who comes here goes back with a happy tummy and a smiling face.
Tucked into the lee of the Chamba Camp, Thiksey’s imposing grey brick wall is a little green oasis of a restaurant, open even to those who haven’t booked into the camp itself. Café Cloud is open to all weary and hungry travellers on the Manali-Leh highway.
The café is run by the jovial Sanjeev Kumar Dutt, whose pride in working for TUTC is evident. “This is one of the finest companies in the business. I worked in hotels for eleven years in Delhi and Jaipur, and this is one of the best places I’ve ever seen.”
Dutt says that TUTC wanted to provide a service to people who weren’t staying at the camp, but needed nourishment along the road. “Cloud Café was developed to cater to people who are coming from Pangong Lake, basically there is nothing between Leh and Pangong, so this project was conceptualised to cater to people who can afford it and want to have good food.”
He goes on to explain the thought process behind Cloud Café, “Good western, Italian and Indian food, that’s how we designed the menu. Pastas, pizzas, burgers, sandwiches, fast moving, quick-service type restaurant food, and an Indian buffet, so people can eat and then move on with their journey.”
With travellers in mind, Dutt has changed the opening hours of the café. “Last year we were open from eight o’clock in the morning until eight in the evening. But breakfast was very slow, because most hotels offer breakfast as part of their packages, so lunch is our busiest time. Yesterday we did almost two hundred covers,” he says proudly.
And the most popular item on the menu? “Probably our hottest-selling item is the thin-crust pizza, because no one else can produce this sort of cuisine in the Leh area.” Dutt considers for a moment. “And the burgers,” he adds cheerfully.
Dutt oversees a staff of 15 at Cloud Café, who all enjoy serving the mainly locally sourced and organic food to the guests. “Customers can occasionally be difficult, but mostly the food is so tasty that people just love it here, so they’re very friendly and easy to deal with.”
The composition of the guests changes across the season, according to Dutt. “The majority of our guests at the moment are Indian, because it’s school holidays in north India, but from July onwards we get a lot more foreigners, many of them on their motorbikes, touring around Ladakh.” Dutt laughs. “And even on their bicycles.”
How does Dutt find working away from home for months at a time? “My family is in Delhi, and I have a daughter who is seven years old and studying in Class Two. Of course I miss them, every day and every hour, I miss them.”
But he goes on, “I love this place. It’s because of the ambience, mainly. And because the people who come here love it, so that’s why I love it too. I really like interacting with people, so here I get different kinds of people to interact with.” He sits back in his chair and looks around the café. ‘I better get back to it,’ he says. “I’ve got people to serve.” And with that, he’s off, back to doing what he loves best.
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