Updated March 2019
The ethical eateries series is back and this time I’m in Nepal’s capital city of Kathmandu.
From cafes that support local and rural community projects to momo-making lessons supporting survivors of human trafficking, Kathmandu has revealed a community-minded network of individuals and businesses looking to improve the livelihoods of people across the nation. There also seems to be a growing trend towards environmental sustainability, with forward-thinking initiatives such as no-plastic straw policies and recyclable coffee cups prevalent amongst the city’s ethical eateries.
Below is a list of where you can dine for a cause, or in an ethical manner, here in the lively city of Kathmandu.
Sarangi is a vegetarian and vegan restaurant located in Thamel. The restaurant serves as a social enterprise assisting and empowering the Gandharba people of Nepal, who rank lowest amongst the castes.
The Ganharba people are an ancient caste of musicians that have historically earned their living from music, playing the Saranagi and other traditional Nepalese instruments. In recent decades the Ganharba people have been struggling to adapt to modern social changes with globalisation and modern technology seeing them lose their traditional place in society. In order to survive they spend months away from their villages to work in the streets of Kathmandu, playing music and selling their instruments, often earning only a few dollars a day. The Ganharba Restaurant project, aided by Sarangi profits, will provide training and employment opportunities for the Gandharba people in the hospitality industry, giving them more opportunity for employment and a better livelihood.
Aside from assisting the Gandharba people, the Sarangi restaurant is also committed to sustainability, being 100% vegetarian & vegan. They also have a no straw policy (helping to rid our planet of plastic), and an aquaponics set-up on their garden rooftop. Future projects include promoting Stevia instead of sugar and setting up fair trade chef clothing production in Kathmandu.
Mahabir Dai’s Restaurant, also knows as Nepal Connection, is located in the heart of Thamel and is a restaurant and co-working space where people can come and enjoy a meal while also using the free WI-FI and computers on offer. Founder, Mahabir Pun, is well known in Nepal for his extensive work in rural villages in fields of health, education and awareness programmes. What makes this social enterprise so special is that all the profits from the restaurant support these education and health programs in rural Nepal.
The restaurant also serves as a platform to meet like-minded individuals and currently serves as the promotion centre and contact point for the organisation’s community managed eco-trekking programs. Find out about community-based tourism and community development initiatives around Nepal by speaking with one of the staff members.
The Cafe With No Name is a hidden gem in the heart of Thamel. The cafe actively supports NGO Our Sansar, helping to alleviate poverty and empower communities. Their project in Nepal focuses particularly on relieving the plight of street children through educational and skills training programs.
Tucked away in a small alley, the cafe serves a range of meals and snacks, local and imported wines, and on Wednesdays and Fridays they offer live music to guests. It’s the perfect cafe to relax in and get away from the noise of Thamel.
Forest & Plate brings you the best locally sourced fresh herbs and organic food right into Thamel, the heart of Kathmandu. They have arguably the best salad menu in town, with ingredients like roasted beets, goats cheese, kale and quinoa topped on their generous servings of healthy, organic goodness. Situated on a sunny rooftop in Mandala street, the venue is leafy and cozy, with good Wi-Fi and a large choice of teas, coffees, cocktails, and freshly squeezed juices.
The HUB is an interactive space in the heart of Thamel that houses the concept of conscious living. It does that by bringing together the two privately owned social businesses – kar.ma COFFEE and socialtours in one open space.
Offering some of the best organic coffee in town, as well as a range of healthy food and drink options, the HUB is a great place to network with like-minded individuals while sipping on some feel-good coffee that supports small coffee growers and local artisan groups in the Kathmandu valley.
Higher Ground is a social enterprise with a vision to provide income generation skills, job opportunities, rehabilitation & counselling for disadvantaged and marginalised women and youth in Nepal.
Higher Ground has a bakery, cafe and a crafts centre on its premises where they provide on-the-job bakery training and employment opportunity to their students. The cafe serves a variety of baked goods and specialty coffee drinks, as well as breakfast, lunch and dinner. The women at the enterprise make quality hand-crafted jewellery, clothing, bags, and accessories that you can purchase to help their cause
SASANE was established in 2008 by former female victims of human trafficking on the principle that survivors can create social change.
The survivors now run a lunch program and momo (dumpling) making course at their centre with guests from tour groups. All the proceeds go towards supporting SASANE’s education and paralegal programs, as well as providing a platform for the women to practice their English, a skill that will largely contribute to further employment opportunities in the future.
While SASANE is not a restaurant, you can still join the lunch programs every day except Saturday. The program takes about 1.5-2 hours and costs Rs1000. The start times are flexible but usually start around 11am.
You can contact the organisation on their Facebook page to join one of the lunchtime courses, and support their future projects in aiding survivors of human trafficking.
The Village Café is a social enterprise funded by the SAARC development fund, operating in conjunction with Sabah Nepal. The cafe provides employment opportunities for women who have been socially and economically disadvantaged in the past, and have developed skills through participation in Sabah’s skills training courses.
There are three cafes in total, one in Pulchowk, one in Nexus and one in Kokhana, all serving various traditional cuisines cooked by the women themselves, using the ingredients that they have grown in their own fields.
Support this cause by dining in any of the three restaurants or shopping Sabah’s range of fair trade handicrafts made by the women in their programs.
Kar.Ma Coffee is a cute little cafe in Lalitpur that supports local trade by sourcing their coffee from selected farmers and small cooperatives in Nepal. They tell the stories of their farmers and producers, making sure the processes are transparent and there is a fair connection between the buyers and producers. They are currently working with, and supporting, about 30 small producers in Nepal (mainly women).
The cafe has sustainability at their forefront and recycle their coffee/ coffee-byproducts, making new products out of it. Their interior is made of recycled or up-cycled wood and materials, and they use as much local produce as possible for their food items, serving them in locally made cups/ mugs/ plates etc.
Of Silk & Salt is located in Kathmandu’s Patan district. The restaurant uses almost exclusively local and seasonal products ( with the exception of olive oil and wine only). They maintain a commitment to sustainability with a water refill station and ban on plastic straws, and the small local team have been trained by the restaurant in the areas of hospitality & service. The business also owns a nearby shop which sells fair trade products designed by Swiss owner, Anne, but sewn by the women of local NGO Seven Women, a social enterprise empowering differently-abled women.
ROKPA Restaurant & Bakery is located in Boudha, just a couple of minutes walk from the Boudhanath Stupa, a famous landmark in Nepal. The restaurant is a social business that supports the nearby ROKPA Children’s Home, which provides food, shelter and education for about 60 underprivileged children and has been doing so for the past 20 years.
The restaurant has a lovely garden setting and serves Nepali, Indian and European cuisines, plus a wide range of cakes to be enjoyed with local organic coffee and tea.
You can recommend other ethical eateries in Kathmandu in the comments section below. You can also check out my Ethical Eateries series for lists in other cities around the world.