From Turkish Menemen Eggs for breakfast to Vietnamese Salads and Peshwari Burgers for dinner, the restaurant “Of Silk and Salt” takes you on a journey along the Hippie trail to the food secrets of the silk road. I had the pleasure of staying with its owners Anne and Jerome during my time in Kathmandu and to talk to them about their restaurant.
This is something I wrote about their beautiful place for the Kathmandu Post, and that I happily reprint here:
The Peshawar Burger is a taste explosion. There is garlic and onion of course, but also cardamom and a hint of cinnamon and a whole lot of other spices more different to decipher. Jerome Imstepf laughs at the guests puzzled face and reveals: “We learned how to cook this burger in Pakistan.” His wife Anne Chassaing pipes in from behind the kitchen counter, where she is busy preparing plates, cutting vegetables and keeping the space clean and organised: “There are fourteen different spices in it. Isn’t that amazing?” The Peshawar Burger is just one of the many delicious and exquisite dishes on the menu of Jerome and Anne’s restaurant in the heart of Patan. “Of Silk and Salt” they call their bistro and the name is the theme. The menu reads like a road map of the Silk Road starting off with Turkish Eggs for Breakfast, continuing with Afghan Mantoo mutton ravioli and a Burmese tea leave salad for dinner and finishing off with a Saffron Gin Tonic or a Himalayan Tulsi Rhum for a night cap.
The French-Swiss couple has collected the recipes during their many years of travelling. Working for the International Committee of the Red Cross and further travels during their free time has brought them to many remote locations along the former Silk Road, from Istanbul in Turkey, Baghdad in Iraq and Peshawar, Pakistan all the way to Bangkok, Thailand.
After some two decades on the road Anne and Jerome have now decided to settle down in Patan. They have renovated a house just around the corner from Swotha Square where they now live and rent out two rooms to tourists and visitors. And they have opened a restaurant and an adjacent shop in the ground floor of Hotel Timila. “I have worked in Kathmandu in 2006, and loved Patan back then”, says Anne. With their business the couple tries to engage in the community as much as possible and they have engaged a lively bunch of young staff. “Seeing these motivated young people gives me high hopes for Nepal’s future”, Anne says and adds: “Our chef Pratibha Rai for example has worked in Abu Dhabi for five years, but now came back to work here, because she is optimistic that there is room for development here.”
For now Anne and Jerome spend most of their days in the restaurant, helping their staff out when a large party arrives, chatting to the guests, making sure everything works. “But my wish is, that they can increasingly take over more responsibility and have more autonomy”, Anne says. And Jerome adds “So we can finally have a weekend off again, or go hiking in the mountains for a few days.” So far things look bright. Whenever you enter “Of Silk and Salt” you find the staff in good spirits, and being attentive and polite with their guests.
The restaurant is one half of “Of Silk and Salt”. The other is the adjacent shop of the same name. Here Anne presents her collection clothing and accessories. And here it becomes clear, that the silk road in the Seventies essentially became the Hippie Trail. Young travellers, mostly Europeans travelled via Istanbul and Kabul to Kathmandu, where they hung out on what is today known as Freak Street. The hippie spirit is everpresent in Anne’s shop: there are flowery blouses and long dresses, there are cute little pouches and delicately ornamented cushions, and there are black and white T-Shirts with prints referring to the the Hippie Trail in stylish and humerous ways.
Everything is produced locally, though Anne sometimes uses fabrics from China, Bhutan or India. “Nepal is often pictured as this secluded country in the mountains”, Jerome says. “But this is not quite correct. Nepal has always been connected to the rest of the world. Newari architects and craftsmen have travelled along the Silk Road with their skills. Himalayan Salt has been exported to China and Europe for hundreds of years. We want to tell these stories through our decoration, our shop products and of course our main passion: our food.”
Check out their website for more information: ofsilkandsalt.com