Think eating out in Kashmir, and you think of cosy restaurants with carpeted flooring, wood panelling and a sumptuous wazwan spread. A fantasy-themed cafe – one dedicated to the iconic Game of Thrones, no less – is a clear break-away from this norm. This is what makes the Winterfell Cafe on Boulevard Road by the Dal Lake an exciting new attraction on Srinagar’s map. Set up by two friends, Kamran Nisar and Ummar, Winterfell Cafe Srinagar is not just a tribute to the most legendary TV series of our times but also a glimpse into the refreshing new outlook of Kashmir’s youth or at least a section of it.
I had first learnt about this GoT-inspired cafe while researching an article on fantasy-themed restaurants in India, and it had been on my radar since. So when a trip to Kashmir materialised, a meal at Winterfell Cafe Srinagar went right at the top of my bucket list. A morning of driving on the Boulevard Road, a failed attempt to visit the Tulip Garden and a shikara ride later, I headed to this charming little cafe for lunch.
The Ambience at Winterfell Cafe Srinagar
The cafe is situated just off the Boulevard Road on the first floor of a building comprising a cluster of restaurants. As you walk into the alley leading up to the cafe, you are greeted by an array of House banners – Stark, Lannister, Baratheon, Targaryen – hung between windowpanes.
The cafe sits next to a high-end boutique and the entire pathway, from the staircase right up to the entrance, is done up with different Game of Thrones elements. House sigils and words, portraits of all key characters, famous quotes – ‘you know nothing, Jon Snow’, ‘that’s what I do, I drink and I know things’, ‘any man who says I’m the king is no true king’, and of course, ‘winter is coming’ – and salutations adorn the walls.
The first thing that grabs the eye as you walk into the Winterfell Cafe Srinagar is the Iron Throne. A life-size replica of the coveted throne sits right in the heart of the cafe, and of course, is one of the biggest drawcards of the place. People line up for their two-second tryst with the throne and the mandatory photo shoot for social media. The staff is happy to oblige.
They also have an assortment of those thick black-grey fur coats, a trademark of Winterfell. The interiors are tastefully done up – with a mix of posters, collectibles such as a replica of THE valyrian steel dagger, Daenarys’ dragon neckpiece, Melisandre’s necklace, the dragon dagger and more, and wall murals – to create a cosy, welcoming environment infused with generous doses of nostalgia, taking you back to some of the most iconic moments from the show .
My personal favourite: Jon Snow’s life-size painting with Stark and Targaryen sigils in the background done up by one of the owner’s cousins – Xayd Bhat, Saiful Mir and Numair Qadri.
The place has a quintessential cafe-esque menu with some house specials, pastas, burgers, pizzas, wraps and skewers. To my disappointment, the lamb chops with barbeque sauce listed in their ‘House Stark Specials’ was not available, so I settled for Arrabaita pasta and Chicken Burger with Bourbon cookie shake and an Iced Latte.
The preparation was perfectly spot on and the portion size generous, considering the extremely affordable pricing of just about everything on the menu. There isn’t anything out of the ordinary about the food at Winterfell Cafe Srinagar, but then again, I didn’t go there looking for the best pasta or burger I’d ever eat. I don’t think anyone does. The place is all about the experience and on that count Winterfell Cafe bowls you over and then some.
The easy, laid-back vibe of the place instantly puts you at ease. The staff is extremely courteous and friendly. A portion of the cafe had been reserved for some private party and it was heartening to see the staff painstakingly put up balloons, candles and rose petals to jazz up the corner and turn the celebration into a memory worth holding on to. I also had the chance to talk to Kamran about this unique initiative, and this polite young man couldn’t be more grateful for the response the cafe has earned, from locals and tourists alike, in its short journey.
Kamran also told me that they are also organising special screenings for every episode of the final season. If you happen to be travelling to Kashmir in the coming weeks, make time to catch the latest episode of Game of Thrones at Winterfell Cafe Srinagar.