Sunday, June 24, 2007

Views From an Alcohol Addled Ante Chamber.

“Draft beer, not people." ~Bumper Sticker

It is rarely that I post anything of any practical consequence. Here is an attempt at one.

Shrek is usually my least preferred drinking partner. This in spite his absolutely avant-garde taste in music, views on inconsequential things etc. However, his habit of posing uncomfortable questions is very irritating. Last time we were drinking, at some 4 AM, both of us must’ve been a bottle down, each, he asked- Alcoholic hoye gelam naaki aamra? (Have we turned alcoholic?). Between us, though, we nurse a plan to open a bar some day where entry will be based on a Multiple Choice Questionnaire (Where did Sid Vicious of Sex Pistols shoot Nancy Spungen? Girls allowed inside if they say New York, but guys have to say Chelsea Hotel.)

Anyway, the reason I bring up that discussion again, is because, I mentioned to D at Tavern the other the day that I must do a post on the top 10 18 drinking places in Bombay and she instantly offered the services of her Lenovo for it (thank you, thank you- my MacBook is indisposed, for reasons best left unsaid).

When it comes to drinking, I shed modesty, and admit, that owing to some extremely quality company (D, TinMan, Chops, Rosh, BossMan, IK, and Shrek), over the years I have developed a certain sense of discretion. And six years of doing it in Bombay, let me say that I am an absolute authority on this aspect of the city. In this respect the buck stops here.

The List only includes places, which are in currently existence. For that reason, Library Bar and Suzie Wong are not on the list. Nostalgia is dangerous when mixed with alcohol. Also discotheques and eateries, which serve alcohol, are out. The ranking also does not include places which I frequent for certain other reasons. So Kandeel where I go because there is no cell phone network coverage does not appear on the list.

(In descending order)

Toto’s Garage: Toto’s is everyone’s elementary school of drinking out. When you first land in Bombay, it forms a part of the handout given by Elders on how you should find your bearings in this city. The music is familiar, booze cheap, the staff friendly, décor, interesting and possibilities unlimited. It is a very good place to meet up, and then head out elsewhere. Turn offs: Plays the same music everyday, in the same sequence; tends to get too crowded even on weekdays, and very bad ventilation.
Café Leopold: The United Nations of drinking out. At any given time there must be people from 10 nationalities drinking. Get one of the pavement side seats to watch the world go by as you work on your beer. Turn Offs: Exceptionally bad service.

Café Mondegar: Baptism by beer. The Juke Box is a killer, and ensures that as long as you have those coins to push down the slots, you get your money’s worth as far as the music is concerned. A like-minded crowd ensures that you don’t end up listening to 50Cent, even if you run out of coins. Mario’s artwork ensures that this place remains a South Bombay legend for many years to come. Turn Offs: The heat and the AC room inside is not quite it.

Irish Pub: The music is a big plus, and the fact that it has fallen out of favour with the jet set. This is the story of a place which lost the plot somewhere along the way and acquired a shady reputation. Turn Offs: The occasional snorter, and bad blood afterwards.

Geoffrey’s: An excellent after work hang out, possibly the only bar in town which has flashbacks of a time gone by- the classic English pub. Great service, reasonably priced, and very close to the financial district. Turn Offs: Too many people you know from work.

Hawaiian Shack: How many times have you been asked by friends who have never been to Bombay, what the Shack is like? Bombay’s most famous suburban hang out. Plays good music, but only on weekdays, especially Tuesdays. And then again on weekdays the women are close to irresistible. They get all dressed up and land up at 11PM on a Wednesday night, and you wonder what they do for a living. Turn Offs: Avoidable on weekends, very, very crowded. The drinks take forever to come, and it can turn into a sausage fest.

Wink: Yes, we all know that the Library Bar was better, but then once you’ve put that behind you this isn’t very bad. Sometimes I drink to have a conversation. The music is muted, or better incoherent, so one can have a conversation without ripping off those vocal chords. And the seating makes it cozy for a date, if one is so inclined. And the Trattoria next door is a great place for a bite afterwards. Turn Offs: The limited menu.

Janta: What would Bandra alcoholics do without Janta? Probably live longer. But once you have come to terms with those issues Janta is indispensable. Where else can you get a choice of Chinese food and alcohol at 3 AM in the night? Home delivered too. This is that place where we went towards the end of every month, when every penny counted, and when you just couldn’t bear to drink out of a bottle at home. Turn Offs: Very loud crowd and of course, no music.

Indigo: Ah let me tell you, I might say that I do not consider this important, but a few (read 5 at least), those leggy beauties around the bar, do make the experience headier. When I was younger I found Indigo a little stiff, but now my needs are more basic. A great choice of booze, (Blue Label, anyone?), good music, and stays open till quite late. Also some seriously good food on the menu. Turn Offs: Watch the Bill. And getting a place to sit is next to impossible.

Dome: The best views in town, awesome breeze, this rooftop watering hole atop the Intercontinental, is one of the best place for a quick couple after work. Overlooks the Queens’s necklace and assured to score you the best points with your date. Unless, as in my case she is a veggie, and only gets to eat the most expensive Teriyaki potatoes in the world. Turn Offs: The Menu.

Opium Den: Arguably the classiest watering hole in all of Bombay. The richest and the most successful- I mean the biggest swinging dicks in the markets drink there. The famous Oberoi view, those large windows, the super-comfortable sofas to sink in, the most softest music, for the most important conversations. A league of its own. Turn Offs; None.

Sports Bar (Express and the Original): Friendly place, booze is cheap, and it allows an occasional dunk, and a round of pool. The pleasure of watching a game of cricket all day over beers. Turn-offs: The music is too loud to have any conversation at all.

Boat Club: This non-descript Bandra bar turned a hot spot once Toto’s shut for a while. Of course, we used the go there from much before, from the time Shrek was thrown out of Toto’s. The best music on Sunday, a familiar feel and a Thursday Hip-Hop night, which had, even me hooked. IK, Shrek, D and me once drank here four days a week. Rumour has it that we funded the renovation of the place. This is also the only place where we have witnessed a “No Holds Barred Bombay Lesbians” gathering. Unforgettable. I always have high respect for a place where the DJ knows his stuff. So Umagumma instead of Coming Back to Life, and Never Rains in Southern California, played when least expected are always welcome. Turn Offs: Fudged bills, and polarized crowd.
Golden Chariot: This is a concept place. Open air; with live old Hindi film music, harmonium, tabla combo. Just love the Hemant Kumar songs they sing there. The only respectable place in town to offer this experience. Ample parking, cheap booze, plenty of dining options. Not to be missed. Turn Offs: Just the occasional aircraft taking off for disturbance.

Not Just Jazz By The Bay: The only place, till recently, which offers karaoke and live bands of choice. Sadly the quality of bands in Bombay leaves much to be desired. I wonder where Sixth Sense and Deep Freez, two of Bombay’s best bands, have disappeared. I am a regular here, so the stage side tables without reservation are par for the course. As Chops would say- “quality Man, quality”. Turn Offs: Please refer to previous post.

Hard Rock Café: Bombay’s best and latest acquisition. The best DJ on the house (Baba O’Riley, anyone? And how about One, Shook me all Night Long?), senses the mood and plays accordingly. We can safely say that here, we own the floor. The high ceilings give an awesome sense of space, a thing that is very, very rare in Bombay. I absolutely love the Alice Cooper guitar on display. Plus, they also serve the best cheeseburger in town, with the most juicy veal steak within. The choice of alcohol is unlimited. Did I hear Grey Goose? Turn Offs: The irritating, uncouth south Bombay college crowd, which only wants to hear “Summer of ‘69.”

Tavern: Ah! Bombay’s best when it comes to drinking out. Small cozy place. The best collection of music, with the videos projected onto a large screen, Stuff I have not seen in ages. Alcohol of choice. No one doing the twist on Hotel California. I mean where else would you get to see an AC/DC video (though I must admit they all look the same), GNR, Coldplay, Greenday, U2, the works. Never gets crowded for some reason. Stays open till very late… in fact it’s the last place to shut in town. Turn offs: Parking.

A Certain Place in Bandra Called Home: There is absolutely no experience which comes close to drinking at home, sprawled on your bed watching the rain outside the window. The choice of alcohol, music and everything else. Food on phone, and so is alcohol. Never opens, never shuts- the perpetual hedonist alcove. Minus all the getting back worries. Not having to rely on the proverbial beer scooter. I invite my readers, for an unparalleled experience, to indulge in a choice of over 5,000 songs, and the best spread of alcohol this part of town and the most comfy settings. If you’re still with me, thank you for your patience.

Stay busy, get plenty of exercise, and don't drink too much. Then again, don't drink too little. ~Herman "Jackrabbit" Smith-Johannsen

1 comment:

dazedandconfused said...

The last time I was in Bombay, went to this place called Purple Haze with a friend...I think in Bandra. I liked the place, hardly anybody around as well.