With the gradual revival of nightlife and a significant surge in tourist footfall, Srinagar is on its way to earn the ‘City of Cafes’ tag, courtesy the emerging coffee shops with bespoke infrastructure and dreamy ambience.
The cafe culture is also gathering momentum in neighbouring towns. “We are taking various steps to promote tourism in Kashmir, especially Srinagar. It will be declared as the city of cafes as many new coffee shops have been opened here in the recent times,” said Sarmad Hafeez, secretary, J&K tourism.
These modern cafes, some of which have also embedded artefacts into their designs, are a blend of local culture and urban lifestyle, and are attracting good clientele, especially during late hours.
Till a few years ago, Srinagar and other rural towns had no nightlife and people used to confine themselves to their homes before dusk. Now, many cafes and restaurants remain open till 10pm.
Last year, Kashmir had witnessed record tourist footfall with the figure crossing 26.5 lakh. This year, officials associated with tourism trade are hopeful of breaking this record as there are slew of initiatives lined up to draw more tourists towards Kashmir.
Qaim Amin Suhail, who has set up two outlets in city’s Jawaharnagar area, said, “My Garage Café is first-of-its-kind eatery in Kashmir, which has been designed with spare car parts. With relaxed setting, ambient music and budget-friendly prices, this is a perfect spot for youngsters to hang out. We are also the only ones serving Mexican food items such as tacos and burritos in J&K.”
He said his family has been in this business for years. “Earlier, there used to be very few customers at our restaurants during evening, but the trend is changing fast now,” Suhail said, adding that opening of new cafes will boost the city’s prospects.
At many of the new places, families and groups, especially comprising youths, could be seen engaging in conversations over cups of coffee or green tea.
Some new outlets also allow their customers to relish traditional Kashmiri cuisines.As per Riffat, who writes for several food outlets, these places have become converging points for the younger generation and families.
Yawar Banday, owner of District Cafe in Shopian town, said he always had a passion of setting up a coffee shop in south Kashmir, his birth place. “I wanted to start it years ago, but I believed the market wasn’t ready back then. Thanks to social media platforms that awareness has spread to every nook and corner. Our customers were mostly younger people, but lately families and other respectable citizens of the town have also started to spend there quality time at the cafe,” he added.
Mudasir Naqashbandi, proprietor of Bake My Cake which he had built two years ago in north Kashmir’s Baramulla town, is now planing to open another branch in Srinagar. “I started this venture two years ago and it has started to give returns now. I have recently expanded the place to accommodate more guests,” he said, claiming that his cafe has recently won an award.
“Receiving the International Business Award was an encouraging moment for our startup. Our cafe offers a quiet and warm ambience where young people can enjoy moments of peace with coffee topped up with other delicacies,” Naqashbandi said.