Tull-ee-ho! : A combination of the old hunting cry Tally Ho! and the colloquial Hindi drinking word "tullee". Also Indian for cheers.
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Bar Reviews > Kolkata > Olypub
Reviewed By Shamik Nag

21, Park Street, Kolkata
Timings: 11:00 am - 11:00 pm
Your Rating :
Average User Rating 3.86
Out of 1358 Votes

January last, on a visit through Calcutta, I made my obligatory pilgrimage to Olypub, and noted with relief that it had remained mostly unchanged and stood resolutely uncompromised by the terrible beauties thrown up by our current soulless age. Still located on Park Street, a stone's throw away from Trinca's, the famous night club of yore, the ambience and the familiar dilapidation of the building remain the same, a distinction not many institutions can boast of in these murderously exhilarating times of consumer preferences with their insistence on tasteless packaging and grotesque upgradations to theme pubs and discotheqes.The place opens at 11:00 am and the narrow side annexe to the older main establishment, Olympia Bar, leads to steep, rickety steps which display no embarrassment at the cheap and frayed coir matting adorning them, before opening out into the low-ceilinged mezzanine floor which constitutes the bar proper and which is further subdivided into two sections, connected by a stair of 4/5 steps.

It is tube-lit even during the day and the brightness is designed to allow all customers, wherever they may be seated, to study or to read books of even the smallest print. The sofas are old but comfortably set low and are in some cases in need of urgent repair as the stuffing threatens to burst at the seams. However, once you are seated and have ordered your favourite drink, time begins to slow down, at times it stands still, freezing the tableau of afternoon drinkers into a still watercolour reminiscent of a Toulouse Lautrec, and since there is no music here to disturb you except for the low murmur of earnest drinking and the hum of an errant airconditioner or a stray rotating fan, you lean back and prepare to soak in the myriad sensations and pleasures of spending your time in Olypub.

Except when the place is full to the gills, you will always find a waiter clairvoyantly standing over you ready with the next peg as you finish draining your glass to the lees. On one occasion, poet Sunil Gangopadhyay has been heard declaiming on how, at Olypub, his glass has never remained empty for more than thirty seconds at a stretch. The waiters are kind people who while measuring out a peg let the cup overflow generously which results in you getting an extra 5 ml of booze with your prescribed 60ml peg. The rates are affordable to the common man, with a bottle of beer still priced at around 50 rupees. Pegs of rum and vodka are available at a ludicrous 34 rupees per peg. The snacks range from ordinary to excellent but one notable exception is the beefsteak which sensible cow-eaters, Hindu or otherwise, swear by. It more than approximates a full scale meal and is a compelling excuse to stop by and down a few pegs while the cook inside roasts the beef to ones' desired specifications.

However, in the final analysis, what strikes one most about Olypub, is the sheer diversity of its clientele and its refreshing lack of pretensions. On a good day one can see come and go through the day, though not necessarily in succession, : couples in love or out of it conducting their matters, in between generous swigs of beer, Marwari traders boasting about their latest sting operations to lesser Bengali counterparts, lone poets and writers engrossed in staring fixedly at some predetermined point on the wallpaper and sporadically downing stiff whiskies or rums before furiously scribbling their latest poem on the nearest available napkin or notebook, earnest groups of local collegians engaged in serious discussion on linguistics, Derrida, Nietzsche, Marx and misogyny, earnest groups of wannabe management graduates, stuck up and snotty nosed, lecturing on economics and ethics ( uneasy bedfellows them), three women and a peripheral man whose only role is to provide the women with an entry into Olypub ( since the bar forbids entry to solitary unescorted women in the interests of the morals of its existing clients), groups of quizzers, winners and losers, after some gruelling exhibition of dilettantism at the Dalhousie Institute nearby, the Chowringhee yuppies self-consciously loosening their ties as they enter, droplets of sweat on foreheads and pink chins, a testimony to their sincerity and devotion to Mammon, the occasional 70's revolutionary, now potbellied and balding, seeking solace in alcohol which comforts, which helps one forget as well as remember, bibliophiles who subsist on rum and water, hunched over their priceless acquisitions from the second-hand book shops of Free School Street, and many, many more --- in short, a sample of humanity, which though unexceptional, provides enough material for contemplation to the lone observant drinker seated at the usual corner, the connoisseur of, if not drink, at least, the drinking experience.

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Barkha Gangwar on 5/21/2007

Olypub is a heaven for all the regular drinkers wiuth its old world charm and not to forget the chicken cutlets!! Yumm... A must visit!
Guest on 2/21/2006

hey amos, fuck you man...mayb you were just too stoned out to apprecite the beauty of OLY...fuck you to hell and beyond,...give me oly neday
Guest on 10/1/2005

hi, what christopher did miss out was the true oly charm,which no other place in kolkata provides.For godssake,oly is somewhat like our 'coffe house',there is but a rich tradition at the place,if u dont know u dont write,two words for u..shut up.Here's a drink to our own 'oly'.
Guest on 8/17/2002

Readers, I've been there (to Oly) and done that very recently, and the place is nothing like what this Nag has made it out to be. I have a ponytail, and when I entered, some asshole whistled at me. This is such an uncommon experience in Cal that I was surprised. The clients are mostly the spoilt brats of rich papas, the only intellectuals frequenting Oly are those who count the takings at the end of the day. The waiters are not friendly, unless you are obviously one of those spoilt brats. Women flatly refuse to go there, with men or without. The lighting is not enough to read by and the beefsteak (Chateaubriand) is nothing to write home about. Perhaps the only distinction is that Oly is the only place in Cal which serves it. As for overflowing the peg measure, Nag must not get around much. Every bar does that as a basic courtesy. Speaking of courtesy, I recommend Chhota Bristol any day as a congenial and cheap place to drink in. The waiters really are friendly and rather than being ever ready to fill up your glass, they refuse to serve you if you've had too much. The other patrons are regular, office-going types, and either converse with you or leave you alone, whichever you prefer. A place does not have to be frequented by poets and ad guys (and Oly is not) to be regarded as a great watering hole.

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