Imagine waking up in a little cottage in the woods. The large gallery window in the en suite spacious bedroom offers a panoramic view of rolling hills shrouded in mist. You step out and breathe in the sweet pine-scented forest air and your ears pick up the distant sound of meditative chanting from a Buddhist monastery. Bhalu, the rescued Tibetan Mastiff, cocks a ear as you hustle about the open kitchen, humming your favourite tune and making yourself a cup of second flush.
You are at Kaleege House.
Kaleege House is a farmstay in Takdah, a mountain village near Darjeeling, at an altitude of around 5,000 ft. It is named after the kaleege pheasant found in the Himalayan foothills, distinguished by its glossy bluish-black or brown plumage and distinct bright red-to-scarlet wattles around the eyes.
The farmstay is run by a couple, Mridula and Prabhdev Singh, who left their busy lives in Delhi and moved to the mountains during the pandemic to set up their beautiful cottage home in Takdah. Around 10 months ago, they opened up a tastefully done-up two-bedroom cottage with common dining and sitout areas for guests. It is one of Takdah’s little-known gems. There are few homestays in the surrounding hill region that offer the combination of comfort, finesse, company, homemade meals and closeness to nature, as Kaleege House.
Mridula, who is a Loreto Convent girl from Darjeeling, loves to potter in the kitchen when she’s not curled up with Amitav Ghosh’s latest or taking long walks with Bhalu. More than potter, really, because the homemade meals that come out of the Kaleege kitchen, with the help of her ‘Woman Friday’ Sagun Tamang, are steeped in tradition.
Seasonal, farm-fresh and local ingredients are cooked into meals for guests, curated according to preferences. For lunch, you can tuck into a Nepali meal complete with gorkhey achar (cucumber, radish and boiled potatoes in churpi), matar ko achar with sesame seeds, dung dung ko saag ko chutney, mutton cooked on wood fire and a warm bowl of kalo dal. Craving comfort food? How about a crispy roast chicken with skinned potatoes (and if you’re lucky, it’s served with homemade bread baked by Mridula herself) followed by a cannoli with vanilla custard.
Married to Prabhdev, who is a Punjabi (and a former journalist like herself), has made her adept at north Indian food too, so the forever-welcome rajma or kadhi chawal appears with as much ease as a slow-cooked BBQ chicken tikka.
The meals are often accompanied with homemade chutneys, sauces, dips or jams. Kaleege House has recently started bottling in-house dalle in small batches.
During the stay, you can head out for forest and nature walks down needle-covered paths or visit the nearby Rangli-Rangliot tea, Teesta valley or Gielle tea gardens that turn shades of green the year round. The property borders Senchal Wildlife Sanctuary so a glimpse of a barking deer is likely. Or you can simply do nothing and just soak in the sun slicing through the tall pine, chaap and kaulo trees that surround the cottage, and walk barefoot on dewy grass.
There is Wifi too, for those who wish to log in from the wilderness. But would you want to?
- How to get there: Kaleege House, in Takdah Cantt. is located midway between the towns of Darjeeling and Kalimpong. From New Jalpaiguri/Siliguri, you can reserve a vehicle to Takdah Cantonment. From Darjeeling, you can do the same or hop on a shared car or bus (ask for a front seat on the left side for the jungle view) from the Chowk Bazar Motor Stand.
- Cost per night: Rs 10,000 for double occupancy, inclusive of breakfast and dinner. The meals are curated according to guest preferences.
- What you should know: If there are elderly folks with you, note that a steep flight of stairs leads up to the house from the main road.
- Contact: Check out their website, call + 91 83450 08283 / + 91 85097 41680 or email email@example.com.