Back in 2014, I had to leave Calcutta to make Ahmedabad my temporary home. The initial mon kemon (a sense of longing that is hard to describe) mutated into an ennui that had me cursing my luck as I missed familiarity: the scent of home and the winding alleys, the street food of Calcutta. Around half a month into the stay, I discovered, in the alleys of old Ahmedabad, a little eatery named La Bella. In the land of no fish, no chicken, and no beer, La Bella promised beef and pork, fiery red Goan curries that you pour over a plate of steaming rice. I discovered a sense of belonging, a touch of familiarity in a land that was not mine. This was the first time I had found a home away from home. Far from the cacophony of North Calcutta, in this dim-lit eatery run by Mrs Mary Lobo.
A year later when I walked into Revolver, a Beatles-themed restaurant and hotel in the heart of Darjeeling, it was the same feeling all over again. Though their website only mentions that Revolver “is an affordable, small, and cosy hotel with five clean and comfortable rooms,” in essence, it is a lot more. The establishment emanates an identity of being a labour of love. With painstaking attention to details that ensure hospitality and personality, this was a place that made me happy the moment I stepped across the threshold just like the night my famished meat-loving self stepped into La Bella. The bright reception area also doubles up as the in-house restaurant. Here you’ll also find a cosy adda place where you can sit with your friends and strum up numbers from the Yellow Submarine on the Washburn acoustic guitar that guests are welcome to play. Or, find yourself here on a quiet evening, going through their little library while sipping on a cup of warm Darjeeling Tea (or, coffee from a French press, if coffee is your poison of choice).
The rooms are on the first floor. Access to them is via a short flight of stairs. Right before you step into the common area upstairs, there is a demarcated smoking zone, a refuge for the cigarette wielder. The living area is a no-smoking zone. It’s a place designed to call out the inhabitants of the different rooms, get them together and encourage bonhomie. But out here, on the deck overlooking the lush green hills surrounding Darjeeling, Revolver is an island of isolation that transports you from the congested roads of Darjeeling to the romance the Queen of the Hills is epitomized for.
Revolver is decked with quirky Beatles memorabilia. From posters to artwork to guitar picks that Ringo Starr used on stage shows, this is a treasure trove put together by a loving collector. The five rooms are named after the four bandmates and their manager: John, Paul, Ringo, George, and Brian. The rooms do not offer extravagance or five-star services but my stays here have always been cosy, homely, and intimate. I have stayed in George and Paul on two separate occasions. The rooms are simple and clean; the bathrooms spotless. Last time in the emergency kit, beside the customary band-aid, I also found a diaper and a sanitary napkin. I have stayed in quite a few places but this is thoughtfulness I have not witnessed before. Graffiti and artworks adorn the walls. Most of them are lines from songs by the Beatles but one asks us to seize the day, Carpe Diem.
Revolver reminds you to travel slow and stop to look into the world. The first morning I had woken up to sounds of birds chirping and beautiful prayer songs. I peeked out of the window to see schoolchildren singing prayers in a courtyard behind our hotel. (We are noticing a pattern of unknowingly booking accommodation near schools!) I got dressed and set out for a long walk into the peaceful morning that ended with a lazy breakfast at Keventers. Darjeeling has numerous hikes but do exercise utmost care during the rains as the trails turn muddy and slippery and sometimes there are chances of landslides. And if hikes are not your thing and you are here to relax, play the Beatles discography in the in-room music system and watch the clouds paint the conifer-laden canvas in the distant.
For lunch and dinner, dig into the simple home cooked meals in the in-house restaurant. All day, I roamed around town, tasting the various delicacies Darjeeling has to offer but come evening I always returned to the Naga cuisine served in Revolver. Their pork dishes, one with fermented bamboo shoots and another with aanishi, dried and smoked yam leaves, have unique flavours that are unlike anything I have encountered before. Meaty and flavorful, the assortment of succulent pork pieces in my dish was the perfect balance of fat to meat ratio. The characteristic flavours of the yam leaves and the fermented bamboo shoots complemented the tender meat well. They also serve a pork curry with fermented soybeans that I had to skip this time. Another revelation was their simple handmade rotis. Beautiful, fluffy, and round like the full moon, they are the best rotis I have had outside my home. The food is hearty, value for money, and just like the place, it takes good care of you. They also have options for vegetarians and vegans.
This reminiscence is not as much a review of Revolver as it is a warm recollection of why I love this little place. This place has always been kind to me. The last time I was there, it rained almost continuously for three days. In the breaks, the hilltown was cloudy and foggy with minimum visibility. But we were lucky on the morning of the check-out: Kanchendzonga shone bright and magnificent in the morning sun. We were unable to get a glimpse of the great mountain, the crowning glory of Darjeeling, the entire trip but on that morning, framed by the window of our room in Revolver, there she was, glowing red and gold in all her glory. I believe falling in love happens over such tiny moments of contentment, and this place feels home enough for weary travellers seeking a bit of serenity.
It will be a great disservice if I do not mention the people who run this extraordinary place. Sailesh, who was always there to help us with all of our queries and whims and demands. He always replied with the kindest smile. His hospitality and warmth won us over. And no matter how many times a day I asked for a cup of tea, or directions, or a spare umbrella, it always came with his infectious energy. One morning, he offered me a poster of Byomkesh that they had specially commissioned for the hotel, saying that he was aware of the Bengali adulation for Byomkesh and Feluda.
Vikash Pradhan, the owner of Revolver, is a man of not many words, but a man with music in his heart and love for Darjeeling ringing in his soul. Thank you, Vikas, for nurturing this beautiful place and giving travellers like us a chance at finding the spirit of home in a foreign land.
How To Reach Revolver: From the Mall (around 850 metres away), take the road that keeps Glenary’s on the right. Walk straight past Keventers, then Kunga via Gandhi Road. The easy to miss alleyway is wedged between an educational institute and Union Chapel and is a little difficult to spot. But keep your faith upon Google Maps, it does a nifty job. Or, if prefer being lost, it is worth roaming the alleys and eating momos in your search for Revolver.
What to do in Revolver: Besides sleeping, eating, enjoying and finding utmost peace, you can also partake in momo making sessions here. You can also talk to the people in-charge for arranging sightseeing services or if you need to book a car. They also offer an offbeat camping experience in the Takdah Tea Estate, 50 min from Darjeeling.
What to Buy in Revolver: Locally sourced tea and coffee is available at Revolver and buying from here will contribute to locals, a welcome effort towards sustainable tourism. They also sell Beatles-themed souvenirs. Their library also has a few books for sale which celebrate the culture, history, people, and stories from Darjeeling and the North East. Must reads, if you are a bookworm in search of finding out more about these pristine places. Hit me up for a list!