Best cafes in Leh

The food is often not the reason people travel to Ladakh, but it’s very often the reason people fall in love with Leh’s main market. The excellent food, friendly staff and beautiful views from many of the best cafes in Leh surprises most travellers. And in fact, the food is sometimes one of the unexpected highlights of a Ladakh trip.

I’ve always enjoyed heading back to Leh for the good food. From sitting at a rooftop terrace enjoying the view of Leh Palace to relaxing in a cafe with my laptop catching up on work, there’s cafes and restaurants for every taste.

Here’s my round up of the 10 best cafes in Leh, whether you want to try local Tibetan food or are looking for vegan or gluten free options.

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What Kind of Food Can you Find in Ladakh?

Leh offers a wide selection of cuisines; almost every kind of food you could think of. There are restaurants with big menus, offering Mexican, Thai, Indian, Italian, Israeli and more. Plus, of course, you can also find typical Indian food, as well as the local favourite, Tibetan food.

I’m assuming you know most of the Italian, Israeli and Thai offerings, with everything from falafel to pizza available in Leh. But, if you want to try some of the regional delicacies, then here are some of the dishes you’ll want to try in Leh.

Ladakhi Food

Ladakhi food is often confused with Tibetan food, but it has a few distinctly different dishes. Ladakhi food focuses a lot on heavy stews with a local type of pasta or bread. But, Tibetan influences are still heavily found, especially with momos and noodle soups.

Local Ladakhi dishes to try include:

  • Skyu: A soupy stew with root vegetables and leafy greens and flattened wheat dough. Skyu is also often served with some meat. especially in winter to keep people warm.
  • Chutagi: A local wheat pasta in a rich stew-like sauce with some vegetables.
  • Chhang: A local beer brewed from fermented barley.
  • Khambir: A local wheat bread with a hard toasted crust, served with stew.
  • Apricots: Apricots are grown extensively around Ladakh, so you’ll find apricot jam, stewed apricot and apricot juice offered.

Tibetan Food

Tibetan food has gained popularity across North India now. The combination of noodle soups, dumplings and yak meat can now be ordered at almost any restaurant in Leh. In fact, I would say Tibetan food is a must try in Ladakh.

Some of the best Tibetan dishes to try include:

  • Thukpa: A wheat noodle soup with vegetables, but you can also get chicken or meat varieties.
  • Momos: Certainly the most popular dish to try in Ladakh, these dumplings can be either steamed or fried and come in veg or non-veg options.
  • Tingmo: This twisted steamed bread is soft and fluffy. Made from wheat flour it’s often served alongside a stew or soup.
  • Yak cheese: A hard, tasty cheese, yak cheese can be either purchased by weight from cafes in Leh or you might see it added to dishes like yak cheese momos.
  • Butter tea: Served at monasteries, festivals and special occasions, this is a famous drink in Tibetan culture. Prepared with butter, milk, salt and tea, it’s an acquired taste.

Kashmiri Food

Kashmiri food is much more meat-heavy compared to other cuisines in North India. They serve a lot of slow cooked meat and stews, with bread and rice. Considering there are many Kashmiris in Ladakh, you’ll find a few good Kashmiri restaurants.

Somme of the best Kashmiri dishes to try include:

  • Kashmiri pulao: A rice dish that includes dried fruit, nuts, and spices like saffron and cinnamon.
  • Dum aloo: Fried potatoes that are then cooked in a rich gravy, sometimes it’s yoghurt based, other times it’s tomato based.
  • Rogan josh: Slow cooked lamb with onions, garlic, cardamom and other spices.
  • Kahwa: Kashmiri tea is a really unique drink that you’ll find at many cafes in Leh. A milky tea brewed with saffron spices, almonds, and walnut.
Leh bazaar
Leh bazaar

Best Cafes in Leh: Where to Eat

There’s an endless supply of cafes and restaurants to try in Leh. Most are clustered around the main market and Fort Road, with every cuisine on offer from Tibetan to Israeli. Here are the best cafes in Leh to sit back and relax and, enjoy the food and view.

Tibetan Kitchen

Hands down one of the best cafes in Leh, the Tibetan Kitchen is arguably one of the most famous places to eat in Ladakh. It has carved out a name for itself, serving authentic Tibetan food for everyone to try the region’s delicacies.

But don’t worry they also serve other food like tandoori, Indian and other Chinese favourites. It’s only open for lunch from 1pm onwards and then for dinner from 6pm onwards. It can fill up quickly in high season, with outdoor and indoor seating available, so get in early.

Dish to try: Thukpa or veg momos

Asian Corner

Located near Jama Masjid (main mosque) in the market over two levels, this is one of my staple restaurants always offering good food. Their menu is quite large, with a variety of cuisines from all over the world. I’ve had their falafel plate many times, and it’s definitely one of the best in Leh.

Open from morning to late, they have tables on the second floor and some ground seating on the third floor, with views over the whole market area. You can try everything from Tibetan food to Western favourites.

Dish to try: Falafel plate

Brazil Cafe

One of the most chill cafes in Leh to just sit back, enjoy the view and relax, this is my go-to for an afternoon tea. They occupy three levels on the corner of the market, opposite the Jama Masjid, with outstanding views.

On the second floor, you can find the menu and order, and then go up to the third floor or rooftop to sit while your order is prepared and brought up to you. It’s also a good place to take your laptop and work, with powerpoints at almost every table.

They do make some basic food for lunch, but it’s their drinks and cakes that take the cake (sorry, I had to). They have a range of speciality cakes on offer, with carrot, coconut (vegan) and chocolate cakes being the most sought after.

Dish to try: Ginger, lemon, honey tea or speciality cakes

Karim’s

A branch of one of the most famous restaurants in Delhi, Karim’s serves Mughlai food along with some traditional Kashmiri food. Located on the third floor in the main market street, it has a nice view over the street below with seating placed around the windows.

It’s one of the few meat-heavy restaurants in Leh, with some but limited veg options. But it’s a popular place to go for a nice meal on a special occasion or just to try the speciality food from Kashmir and the Middle East.

Dish to try: Mutton kebab or biryani

Neha Snacks
Neha Snacks

Neha Snacks

One of the most famous cafes in Leh, Neha Snacks has been a mainstay on the main market since 1989. They serve traditional North Indian and South Indian cuisine, with some of the highest quality I’ve ever had.

They occupy only a small space, with some upstairs seating, which is often full, so go early or late to get a seat.

They’re well-known for their incredible thalis, which act as a sort of tasting platter for a range of dishes. The South Indian Thali offers a little bit of the best of South Indian cuisine, or try the unique Chef’s Chaat Tasting Thali, for a tasting plate of small snacks.

Dish to try: Dosa or any of the thalis

Wanderer’s Terrace

This place is very popular with foreign tourists and it’s not hard to see why. If you’re craving pizza or something that’s not Indian or Tibetan, then Wanderer’s Terrace is a great option. On the top floor in the main market, the outdoor seating looks straight across to Leh Palace, giving it one of the best views of any cafe in Leh.

Their pizza is really good, but they also serve a bunch of other dishes, including Tibetan, Israeli, Thai and Chinese. There’s not a whole lot of space, so it’s often full at dinner time, especially when they have live music on. The staff are super friendly too!

Dish to try: Any of their pizzas

Bodhi Terrace

Probably my favourite cafe in Leh, simply because they offer something really unique. A completely vegan and plant based restaurant, with gluten free options, I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve been to Bodhi Terrace.

The pad thai is a standout, plus the gluten free falafel wrap or gluten free momos are good choices. They also make some delicious vegan and gluten free cakes, with the chocolate one being to die for (even a regular cake eater said it was the best cake in Leh!).

It’s definitely popular for brunch or lunch, with indoor and outdoor seating filling fast. It has one of the best views of any cafe in Leh, straight across to the mountains, including Stok Kangri. The cafe also works as a sort-of co-working space too, with plenty of people on their laptops on the benches.

Dish to try: Pad thai or falafel wrap

Lamayuru Restaurant

An old classic, Lamayuru Restaurant has been a mainstay on the tourist restaurant circuit for years. It has a wide menu with almost every cuisine and no matter what you order, it’s all really good. The staff are also super friendly and can explain exactly what everything is to you, in case you’re new to Leh and unsure of certain dishes.

It’s a good place to try local Tibetan and Ladakhi food, including thukpa, tingmo, and momos. They also serve yak cheese by the kg, and it’s added to some meals including yak cheese pizza.

Dish to try: Shakshuka or momos

Bon Appetit and French Bakery

Not to be confused with the other more popular Bon Appetite Restaurant, this one is smaller and just off the side of Fort Road. Another reliable staple for me, this place serves a range of food and it’s all pretty good.

Most popular at breakfast time, with some set breakfast meals and plenty of smoothies and juices on offer. Otherwise, they also serve some great South Indian food, including masala dosa and idli.

It’s a pretty chill place, with laidback but friendly staff. They have a small bakery section too, selling bread and baked goods.

Dish to try: Dosa or thukpa

Chopsticks

A really great place for groups or friends, Chopsticks is just upstairs off Fort Road, above Bon Appetite Cafe mentioned above. This noodle bar serves some fantastic Asian food, particularly Thai and local Tibetan and Ladakhi food.

The pad thai is most famous and usually what I order, but the momos are pretty good, plus the Ladakhi skyu stew is interesting to try here.

They have a large outdoor seating area, and plenty of room inside, so it’s rarely full or overly busy.

Dish to try: Pad thai or potato yak cheese momos

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2 Comments

  1. Hi Elisha, I went to Leh last August and I’m desperate to return. Your blog was a great resource when I was there and very useful when I was planning my trip too.
    I loved walking around the township exploring the alleyways and sampling various cafes – the Bodhi Terrace was a standout with great food & unforgettable views.
    Thanks for your blog
    Richard

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