All hill stations in India have few distinct features irrespective of where they are. You will find near similar landscapes, small alleys leading to picturesque views, bakeries & eateries along with viewing points like sunrise, sunset, and suicide points 😉 Talking about food and my Panchgani connection, I recently spoke about Hilltop Ice cream in my podcast episode with The Musafir Stories. Going through my photo library, I stumbled upon a few photos from the past and hence decided to pen my nostalgic memories of Hilltop Ice cream in Panchgani.
The quaint town of Panchgani
Another characteristic feature of hill stations is education. You’ll find some well-known boarding schools located in some of the finest hill stations in India. Be it Mussorie, Ooty, or Panchgani, schools are meant to be there. Panchgani is one such town that boasts of not 1 but 20 plus residential schools. I had only heard about it until 2006 when I actually stepped into one at New Era High School.
It’s because of the schools, the markets in Panchgani blossomed. From restaurants and eateries to fashion and gifting stores. They knew that whenever the students were out shopping, they would want to have exclusive and rare. And trust me every such schooling town has a few shops that is known for selling a lot of exclusive things are foreign chocolates, video game consoles, tech gadgets etc. Unvallas is one such store in Panchgani that we used to swarm whenever we got a chance.
Talking about the food in Panchgani, there were a handful of eateries during my time. Today however the picture is quite different. There’s a Cafe Coffee Day, Monginis, and other restaurant chains. However, one of the popular dessert destinations in Panchgani still stands tall is Hilltop Ice cream.
Hilltop Ice Cream in Panchgani – iconic dessert parlor
Located right behind the famous Shivaji status in Panchgani is the Hilltop Ice Cream, an address well known to everyone in town. The store has been in existence for over 4 decades now. It was one of the first dedicated ice cream parlors in Panchgani when it started out in the 1970s. It didn’t have a proper storefront then, however, it has kept changing with the times and still remains a go-to ice cream parlor in Panchgani. It’s not a typical or fancy dessert bar, but their ice creams are worth every penny.
You won’t find a single student from Panchgani who hasn’t relished ice creams at Hilltop Ice cream. Just like their storefront changed over time, they got a lot of flavors added to the menu too. However, the most famous ice cream that you must try at Hilltop Ice cream Panchgani is the Gulkand Ice cream. It not only has a distinct rose flavor to it but you will find rose petals too. The last I went to Panchgani was in 2017 and I’d say they have still maintained the quality. Personally, I cannot have just one serving of Gulkand ice cream and always order for 2 😉
Nostalgic Moments with Hilltop Ice Cream
Having studied in a boarding school for 5 years, there are a few things you also look forward to. It may be as simple as the games period where you played football or as fancy as going to a disco which was all yours. (I used to dress in all whites whenever I went to the ‘disc’ so that the neon lighting made me stand out 😉 And no I didn’t break any rules, being part of the school cricket team, whenever we won a major tournament, we would be treated at fancy hotels with discs back then) It’s easy for me to get drifted away when I talk/write about Panchgani.
Coming back to Hilltop Ice cream. One of the good things that happened at New Era Panchgani back then was all festivals were celebrated. And festivals meant something special for lunch. And that special thing would be the Gulkand Ice cream counter in the dining hall. We used to run down to the dining hall in full excitement to quickly finish our meal and get into the queue for the Gulkand ice cream. While we only used to get one scoop each, I always hung around to see if someone who didn’t want it would give it to me 😛 (Yes I did that!)
Don’t miss Hilltop Ice Cream in Panchgani
Even today whenever I’ll go to Panchgani, I’ll have the Gulkand Ice cream at Hilltop Ice cream. I have a lot of memories attached to the place. In fact, the last time I went there with friends, we were reminiscing the old days while others in the cafe looked upon us. Whether you have been a student/resident of Panchgani or not, you cannot miss visiting Hilltop Ice Cream. Try all their flavors I say, but don’t miss the Gulkand one. Maharaj recommended.