Tag Archives: Bars

Drinking Out – The Good Wife, Mumbai

There’s a pair of women’s legs hanging on the wall at one end of the bar, and the speculation around our table is if the legs are crossed or open, as it’s not immediately obvious. Given that the bar is called The Good Wife, the decision could swing either way, depending on which side of your cheek your tongue is in.

It’s not women’s legs we’ve come to see though at The Good Wife, though, but to sample their cocktails which are getting quite buzzy at the moment in Mumbai, as is the whole outlet, situated as it is in BKC. With a cocktail menu designed by Dimi Lezinska (former global brand ambassador for Grey Goose Vodka and host of TV show, The Cocktail Kings), we were expecting good things. The late arrival of a colleague however led to us starting off our evening with a pint of Dunkel from the Gateway Brewing Company, and I messaged Navin Mittal, the co-founder of Gateway to let him know we were giving him some custom!

Awaiting the arrival of the Dunkel, gave us time to look around. We were sitting in the bar area, which comprised a a series of long tables in front of the bar, as also some lounge seating at one end. The restaurant area has clusters of tables, with booths on one side for those wanting a little more privacy.

Sweta’s arrival prompts us to take a closer look at the Cocktail menu, and our first order is off, 50 Shades of Green, the Wolf of BKC and Mrs Robinson are our first orders, all priced at between INR 450 and INR 600, so the pricing isn’t extortionate, but probably a 100 bucks more than what I’d ideally like to see in a cocktail bar. Most of the cocktails are quirkily named, and unfortunately seem to have a surfeit of ingredients. The Mrs Robinson for example has citrus vodka, orange liqueur, citrus, lavender syrup, orange flower water, orange bitters, egg white and a lavender spray.

It’s not easy for all these ingredients to jostle around in a cocktail, with each holding it’s own, but we still decided to take the plunge.A portion of Pork sliders and Chicken Tostadas rounded up our order.


The cocktails were swift to reach us, The Wolf of BKC and Mrs Robinson (a lady who’s always been close to my heart, and possibly a source of inspiration for the name The Good Wife!) are in old fashioned glasses and 50 shades in a Pilsner glass. The drinks presentation is nice, but not exceptional I’d say. Each drink also comes accompanied by it’s own spray, so our 3 glasses have 3 misters by the side, and these are duly deployed on our drinks by the waiter. I think I’d prefer it if the mister was used as a special touch on one / possibly two cocktails in the menu, but to have it in every drink, seemed like overkill. DD and I both however enjoyed our cocktails, the Wolf and Mrs R, while Sweta was disappointed with 50 shades.., saying that she wasn’t able to distinguish individual flavours in the drink. The snacks were however very good.
Y Tu Mamá También (and your mother too)
Y Tu Mamá También (and your mother too)

As we polished of our first round of cocktails, a surprise was on it’s way to us. A tray bearing 3 glasses of the Gateway Hefeweizen, courtesy Rahul from the Gateway Brewing Company. Let it never be said that we turned down a free drink, and we gratefully chugged the pint down. The next cocktails were also ordered, Y Tu Mama Tambien for Sweta and 3 Shades North (I think!) for DD. As also, another assortment of appetisers, some tuna and some prawns. The place was filling up gradually, about par for a Wednesday evening I guess. The music was buzzy, and the vibe was good. Unfortunately for the outlet however, we seemed to be the only bunch drinking cocktails, and Kingfisher draught appeared to be the most common drink on the table. For an outlet which appears to have invested heavily in it’s cocktails, that’s sad, and I’d expect that the management took some more proactive steps to build cocktail culture, rather than just leaving it to the guests!

Dregs – 3 Bars touched by history

O’Coqueiro, Povorim, Goa

Statue of Charles Sobhraj  at O'Coqueiro
Statue of Charles Sobhraj at O’Coqueiro

It might seem strange now, but in the 1980’s, 1986 to be precise, O’Coqueiro, a bar / restaurant in Goa, was supposedly one of the few places which boasted a telephone connection reliable enough to make and receive international calls. O’Coqueiro, which in Portugese means The Coconut Tree, is of course also justifiably famous for it’s food and drink. But it was neither it’s telecommunications USP or the quality of it’s chicken cafreal which propelled it to fame in 1986. Inspector Madhukar Zende, boasting of an extraordinary degree of intuition was bargaining on it’s ISD (international subscriber dialling) links to find wanted criminal Charles Sobhraj there. And so it transpired on April 6th, Charles Sobhraj’s 42nd birthday that Charles and his friend David Hall were dining, when Inspector Zende dramatically arrested him, and bundled David and him into a car to be transported to Mumbai.

The Viegas family, owners of O’Coqueiro was prompt to capitalise on this turn of good fortune for them (although no doubt a bit of a downer for Charles), as this sculpture in their restaurant bears witness.

Bangalore Club, Bangalore

The whole of Bangalore is at the moment in a state of suspended animation and shock, due to the withdrawal of the bar license of the Bangalore Club, supposedly due to an affront caused to a member of the state bureaucracy. Back in 1899, a hundred and fifteen years ago, the consequences of an unpaid bar bill and possibly remonstrations by the bar secretary were not that severe. The bar bill however belonged to Sir Winston Churchill, who in 1896 had arrived in Bangalore as a young soldier, and stayed there for 3 years before leaving to fight on the North West frontier.

Bangalore Club ledger showing Winston Churchill's bar bill
Bangalore Club ledger showing Winston Churchill’s bar bill

In 2009, Col Murthy, the then Club Secretary says in the last three years that he has been the club secretary, many Britons have approached him to settle the bill. “We tell them that history is history, it can’t be rewritten,” he says.

 

 

Qutub Colonnade, New Delhi

No_One_Killed_Jessica_Movie
No one killed Jessica – the movie made on this incident

Back in the late 1990’s, Socialite and designer Bina Ramani, restored an old colonial mansion in the Mehrauli area, near to the Qutub Minar. She called this development as the Qutub Colonnade, which quickly was occupied by upmarket shops, and also a cafe she set up called the Tamarind Court Cafe. You can say that Bina, was one of the first to “discover” the Qutub area, which 15 years ago, was a far cry from what it is today. Hauz Khas Village, where Bina also ran a night club called “No Exit”, was another area, she thought had great potential.
It was at the Qutub Colonnade on the night of 29th Apri, 1999,  when Manu Sharma shot Jessica Lal, (a model who was doing a stint as a celebrity bartender) at point blank range, resulting in her death. The Qutub Colonnade you could say was functioning as a “speakeasy”, and serving alcohol without a license. That incident apart from having tragic consequences for Jessica, and the rest of her family, also led to a crackdown in Delhi’s nightlife, and any hopes that women might be given permission to bartend were put to a quiet rest.

Vikram Achanta

Drinking out in Hyderabad

I’m in Hyderabad for the second time this year and this time I decided to venture out and visit a few of the famous bars here.

Wednesdays – The best day to go out in the middle of the week and binge on a few drinks with friends, and I did just that. Met up with my friend and a few of her work colleagues at Air Café Lounge on Road No. 36, Jubilee Hills. The seating at the entrance was quite nice and seemed very relaxed – open air with a lot of tables, this section was full but I couldn’t find my friend. I proceeded to the inside only to be greeted by a bartender Sai, whom I knew from a training I had conducted at Over the Moon, he just shifted jobs here recently. The bar back had 3 large TV screens playing the same channel; it was bright and right in my face, I couldn’t tell what was on the display. There was quite a big dance floor right beside the bar with a DJ.

Adriana and our Hookah

I went on to the other side of the outdoor section, which wasn’t open air and spotted my friend there. I needed a drink! Ordered myself an Adriana cocktail (Light rum, rosemary, apple), which was suggested by Sai. I didn’t like it too much, tasted like an over sweet Daiquiri, and had rosemary sprinkled on the top. Sai replaced it immediately and I didn’t like the second one either, so I exchanged my cocktail with my friend’s beer – sorted! My friend and her colleagues were there for the Hookah – with a flavor called Paan Rasna & Mint. I’m from Bangalore and you won’t find even one place that serves Hookah!

For my second drink, I decided to play it safe and ordered myself a Captain & Cola, since there wasn’t any of my favourite monk. There was a terrace section that seemed interesting so my friend and I took a look around. A large screen that was playing a football game, there were very few tables occupied. I would have liked to sit here but we were told that the top section was full (no it wasn’t!), but that’s fine. Apparently Air gets crazy during the weekend and is a must visit.

It was a work night and everyone had an early morning so we called it a night, but I didn’t! I headed straight to my favorite place in Hyderabad – Over the Moon, which was a five-minute walk away. I pretty much know everyone here, since I’ve conducted training for their staff, and worked on a new cocktail menu for them, which is due to launch in January, can’t wait to see the response to the new menu! Said my hellos to everyone and stuck to my Captain and Cola. OTM is all about a great ambiance, good music, great service and a great outdoor drinking experience.

Throwback Thursdays, they say, a day to explore the city! A short walk from my hotel is Coco’s Bar & Kitchen, and it’s drizzling, wasn’t too bad though. It’s got this Goan shack kind of feeling, located on the second floor and is partly open air. This place hosts solo or duo artists on a daily basis! I don’t think I’ve seen or heard of any place that plays live music every day. The place was full, so I headed straight to the bar and ordered the usual. As soon as I receive my order, Arpit, with his guitar and harmonica, plays “Have you ever seen the rain”, seemed fitting. And he continues to play other classics like –

Arpit at Coco's
Arpit at Coco’s

Tequila Sunrise, Yellow, Wonderwall and Fools Rush in, among other hits. I also ordered a Thai Fried Chicken which was really good and quite spicy.

As soon as I was about to order my second drink, I get a call from another friend asking to me hit Heart Cup Café, which is THE place to be on a Thursday – Karaoke night. I call myself a cab and head straight there. From a distance I could hear the crowd cheering, and singing along to “Rolling in the deep”, the place was packed! One famous tune after the other, the crowd would sing along, and oh well, so did I. It was fun. We ordered ourselves a Budweiser bucket of 6 beers. There were songs like Nickelback’s Rockstar, Shakira’s Wherever Whenever, and System of a Down’s Chopsuey. But the best of them all was when a few regulars of heart cup took over the stage for the last song by Eminem’s “Love the way you lie” featuring Rihanna, who sang the rap parts like pros!

As soon as the karaoke ended we went right next door to F Café, the party was on! Sipping on beers and grooving to the music on the dance floor, the DJ was on a higher level where everybody could see him, the crowd went pretty wild!

And that was Hyderabad – such a great time.

Hemant Mundkur

Drinking Out – F1 Fan Club at Pebble Street

“Is this a pub or a tyre delearship ?” This was a casual comment made by a random visitor to Pebble Street on seeing a mock tyre wall at the entrance one Sunday evening – probably more than a decade back. Obviously, the one making this comment was not someone who knew much about how Schumacher made his millions or cared either. This particular Sunday evening, this gentleman was in a minority. Seated inside, were a bunch of some of the most vociferous and die-hard fans of F1, following their favourite sport on large format projection screens, rooting for their favourite teams and drivers. The pub was buzzing with   a deafening roar of those mean F1 engines – pure music for the F1 aficionado.

Described above is a regular Sunday evening at Pebble Street, every time a live F1 race is on.

Rewind back to the year 2002. Watching sports at pubs was still not popular. Projection screens costed a bomb and pulling in a packed house for a game was unheard of. Commentary was a strict no-no and considered blasphemous for a restaurant. Even if live sport was being shown, the experience was probably watered down by Eric Clapton singing “Yes, you look wonderful tonight”. Except that she would have looked even more wonderful had there been live commentary to enjoy the sport in all its glory. At least that’s what I thought. I wasn’t too sure if others thought the same way too. I was soon to find out.

Not wanting to give up on this thought, we decided to try and brand Pebble Street as the hub for F1 lovers. Our vision was simple. Create the best F1 watching experience in the city. We were not interested in frivolity around the sport. Our pitch was to the die-hard F1 fan. This entailed providing the best audio-visual experience and ambience (replete with tyre walls, flags etc) to avid F1 fans – we were still not sure whether that many existed in Delhi. As much as it was an honest attempt at providing Delhi-ites with a new experience, to be utterly truthful, it was also borne out, in some measure, by the fact that my wife hated the sound of F1 engines every Sunday evening at home. So I shipped myself out, clad in my scarlet Ferrari T-shirt, plonked myself on a bar-stool at Pebble Street, ready to guzzle those beers as fast as Schumacher negotiated those tricky chicanes.

Come Race Sunday, the projectors were powered up, the music was turned down, and the speakers belted out the roar of those 800 BHP engines. For a change, Eric Clapton lost out. From then on, a new genre of music took over Pebble Street every Sunday the race was on.

The creation of the F1 Fan Club was aimed at achieving two objectives :

  1. To provide F1 lovers with a hub for enjoying the sport in its purest form
  2. To provide Pebble Street with an opportunity to fill in crowds during the lean times. Normally races started at 5:30 pm and ended well before dinner time. It was a classic case of monetizing unsold inventory.

Challenges were aplenty in doing it the right way. The first few races saw only a handful of F1 lovers. While they enjoyed every bit of the experience, there were the regular diners who started to opt out owing to the loud ambience. The conflict was pretty evident – go back the traditional way and play Eric Clapton (thereby lose out on creating anything new) or create a new community who love life at 18000 rpm. We chose the latter.

There was no Facebook to create events, and Twitter was still just an idea. Thus, marketing such a niche sport was not as easy. We focused on word-of-mouth publicity and a targeted e-mail and sms campaign for visibility. In doing so, our guiding principle was to create an experience that F1 lovers would come back to. Once the experience was addressed, finding true fans was just a matter of time. From humble beginnings in 2002, our fan base grew to over 500 active members by 2003. Most races started drawing in a packed house. Schumacher being at his best, further fuelled the surge. F1 in Delhi was well on its way. Pebble Street soon became synonymous with F1 in the city.

Strategic promotional tie-ups with brands such as Red Bull, Fosters, Kingfisher, Shell and Malaysian Tourism, Auto Magazines and the like helped develop this nascent idea into a win-win for both – Pebble Street and the consumer.

Our success at marketing a niche idea made our competition jump on the band-wagon. Thankfully, most of them focused on creating frivolity around the sport by hosting Celeb screenings and soon died out. So while our competition was cosying up to Page 3, we played host to Narain Karthikeyan (India’s 1st F1 Driver), Karun Chandhok (India’s 2nd F1 Driver) and Armaan Ebrahim (a budding racer). To top it all, it was a proud moment when the Sahara India F1 Drivers – Adrian Sutil and Paul di Resta paid us a visit in 2013.

In the process, we managed to convert very many gentlemen and ladies who mistook the Pebble Street entry for a tyre shop some years back, into F1 lovers who prefer F1 commentary over Eric Clapton on some Sundays. As for me, I continue to perch myself on that bar stool every Race Day Sunday, guzzle my beer and sometimes get into heated discussions with fellow F1 fans over why Ferrari is better than Mclaren.

Ashish Ahuja

An alumnus of St. Columba’s School and Shri Ram College of Commerce

Divides time between watching sport, guzzling the finest brews. running the occasional Half Marathon and overseeing operations at Pebble Street, Moksha and Cream of the Crop.