Not just its cool climes, food is an equally good reason to visit Nainital

Now that we know what summer can be like, I might as well trouble you some more by recounting the wonderful time I had in Nainital when the temperature was rising in Delhi like oil prices. I had, after much research which included sending a recce party to the spot, zeroed in on Emiily Lodge (yes, with two i's) which is a cottage high up in the Kumaon town. So early one morning, we took a train to Kathgodam, and then zipped up to Emiily Lodge in taxis.

We had earlier sent a message across to say that we'd have lunch at the Lodge. The couple who run the cottage – and who are as interesting as their names (Rewah and Yoogi) – were waiting for us when we reached there at lunch time. Rewah, who is an excellent cook, had prepared one of the most delicious meals I've ever had. Clearly, apart from its beautiful location – the cottage looks out into an expanse of lush green trees – food is a very good reason to visit this place again.

A spread was laid out for us for lunch that day. The menu included dum ki biryani, mangori ki sabzi, aloo infused with the flavours of crushed methi seeds, garlic raita and various kinds of chutneys and pickles. I love mangori, and this was cooked the way I like it – soft, with mushy potatoes, in a delectable tomato gravy. But I was most impressed with the biryani, which had been cooked without oil. The meat was soft, the rice was aromatic – and the overall taste was fabulous.

One evening, Rewah cooked a continental meal for us which was again memorable. There was a delicious soup to begin with – cooked with mushroom and sweet corn and flavoured with basil leaves and bits of bacon. Then came the salad – prepared with whole wheat pasta, smoked sausages, red and yellow peppers and lettuce, and tossed in a pine nut sauce. The entrée consisted of chicken, roasted with rosemary and sautéed with bacon and ham. There were potatoes flavoured with dill and green pepper, and mixed in a gouda cheese sauce. There was a baked dish of eggplant with cheese, and then finally a light pasta. We ended the meal with a toast to the chef and nutty brownies in a plum sauce flambéed with sherry.

Nainital, I realise, is quite a place for food. Apart from Emiily Lodge's great meals (one evening we even ate a sumptuous korma), we had an excellent lunch at a small dhaba called Pandey Bhojanalya in the heart of the town. This was bliss in the form of hot chapattis off the tawa, a delicious arhar dal with butter, karhi-chawal, zeera aloo and tomato aloo. No doubt we were hungry after a long walk, but the fresh food cooked by (I presume) Pandeyji and his able wife was simply terrific.

While six of us ate there, the rest of the group had a lovely meal at Sakley's – a place known for its confectionary and Chinese cuisine. Or so they said. I think they were secretly jealous of our healthy, wholesome (and incredibly cheap) lunch at Pandey's.

Nainital, which I first visited when I was eight (and when I went away for a boat ride with 50 paise in my pocket without telling my frantic mother), was a lovely break from Delhi. And the food gave the trip an added zing!