How The Kumaon Calls Out To Cuisine From The Hills
Image Credit: Facebook/@thekumaonhotel

AS we bid farewell to the amber sun receding into the Himalayas while sipping piping hot tea and munching on a basketful of cucumber sandwiches and vanilla cakes, we had no clue about what was in store for us the following evening. Twenty-four hours later, as the dark rain clouds smiled on us, we were invited for a sumptuous five-course meal inside a colonial-style library lit by dozens of candles.

That's the range of experiences you can avail of at The Kumaon, a property situated in Kasar Devi, a ridge above Almora, Uttarakhand. The area falls under the Van Allen Belt, which, like Machu-Picchu in Peru and Stonehenge in the UK, is replete with geomagnetic rings that lend a sense of calm and creativity to the restless mind that frequents the space.

The Kumaon is thus also designed as an expanse that leans into that air. With its breathtaking view of the Great Himalayan range and ample breathing room in every containment, a meditative energy permeates the entire property. A 15-minute walk from the nearest parking lot also allows it to retain its purity, far removed from noise and air pollution. Copper is a prominent motif across the property – from the jug and glasses that water is served in, to even the tube that covers the electrical wiring.

It's no surprise that the magnetic fields and the conducive environment help make the food seem tastier. Sourced from nearby villages and forests, the food at The Kumaon ranges from the local pahadi delicacies to an array of continental dishes. It starts right when you enter the property after a long walk and are served a sherbet made of rhododendron flowers. It's fragrant, refreshing, and a milder version of the Rooh Afza we've all grown up on. Even the cantilevered restaurant at the edge of the property gives one the impression that we have one foot flirting with nature while the other is firmly placed in everything man-made.

This curious blend of nature's inspiration and man's innovation is best explored through the experiences The Kumaon offers during the stay. We went on a long walk through the neighbouring Gadoli village, passing garish homes and friendly strays, to reach the same edge of the cliff visible from the restaurant. A cosy mat, a folding table, a thermos filled with copious amounts of tea, a basketful of munchies — and voila! A sunset picnic on the hills was ready. It felt like we inhaled profound ideas — of nature being cyclical, the universe being unbelievably vast, and our dual roles as spectators and changemakers — with every sip of the very modest masala tea.

Light showers took over the landscape a day after this affair in the valley's lap. We contemplated room service, given the 10-minute trek to the restaurant, but finally dared to brave the ordeal. We were rewarded for that as the staff ushered us into the library, candles beaming like incandescent stars. The room, which served as a co-working space or a quiet reading nook during the day, looked like a haven of all the good things life has to offer, replete with candles, books and food. The five-course meal consisted of a tomato-and-basil toastie, a potato soup, a leafy salad with sprouts, a veg/chicken stroganoff, and a dessert. My favourite pick from the desserts was the rice apple kheer, a fine blend of red rice, homegrown apples, and coconut.

As I finished my dessert, I saw a candle placed right next to the window. Bouncing back after every gust of air, the flame held its own, protected by the glass that housed it. My experience at The Kumaon was pretty much the same — it had the right comforts and challenges for me to taste the hills in just the right way. And acknowledge that we thrive in this terrain, not despite but because of what comes with it.