Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Watering Hole Top 10 - Mumbai Edition

Ah, writing a post after really long. Frankly I haven't been Beer-ing around too much off late. Since Whiskey/Rum season just got over and Beer season is on in full swing here is a comprehensive list of my favorite 10 watering holes in the city.

10. Soul Fry
I hadn't been to Soul Fry until very recently. Soul Fry has a nice chilled out Portuguese vibe to it. It's tucked in the bustling Pali Market Lane. They do a mean Calcutta style Mutton and have Kingfisher on tap. It's relatively cheap too. Two Thumbs up.

9. Gada da Vida
Well Gada doesn't really classify as a watering hole, primarily because it's expensive as fuck. If it were a hole then it would be a swanky hole with a sea view and bean bags. Definitely an awesome ambiance for a sunset beer and they serve Stella on tap (not necessarily a nice thing, but who am I to judge). I think a glass of Stella would set you back by about 600 bucks.

8. Alfredo's
Ah the good ol' Alfie's. Since the demise of Sea View this is by default the next best neighborhood pub. I started my drinking life in the low-ceiling upper section of Alfredo's. This also happens to be my Dad's version of 'Central Perk', so before I started drinking with him I used to survey inside through the glass door to see if he was around. And if he caught me in the act there (never happened) then I guess I would just drink up more in order to be numb to the music.

7. Mondegar
I agree Mondegar is overdone, overpriced, overcrowded and overhyped. But there's something about it that's endearing. Like an old friend who eventually became rich and famous. Mondy's would be a much awaited 'trip' in college, it also got me broke as hell. But so long as there tap is spurting out decent KF, I'll go back.

6. Toto's
Yes it's true they have one CD and nobody sits in that Maruti Van you think is a the DJ console. Yes it is so crowded that you can't see your feet. Yes they take forever to get your order. Yes it's the size of an average European bathroom. What are you gonna do? You live in a thirsty populous bustling city. Toto's is probably the only PUB we've got in the most strict sense of the word. Deal with it.

5. Bonobo
In a city starved for open space Bonobo is a star. Their enclosed bar area is pretty tiny and I frankly don't remember setting foot in there, but their real USP is the open outside area. Because it's open it can never get too loud and for the same reason you can accompany your drinks with a smoke. They do awesome conti food and the bar is well stocked with domestic and international alcohol. All it is missing is a tap. Slowly making it's mark as a live venue, Bonobo takes No. 5.

4. Cafe Universal
Now I'm not sure how many of you'll know about Universal. But tucked away at Bhagat Singh Road near Ballard Pier this Parsi Pub is not just an upgrade from Mondy's it's also got much fresher beer and hard liquor too! They make some of the juiciest and most humongous burgers in town. They have this one Really Big Burger for 400 bucks which can feed 4 of me. Their pitchers come in various sizes; they have a normal pitcher , they have a football globe and a tower. Must visit.

3. Mocha Mojo
Mocha Mojo was again a very recent discovery thank's to a buddy. The decor of the place is not it's strong point, their mugs and tap are. The good men at MM serve 0.5 lt and 1 lt mugs of Hoegaarden and Stella for surprisingly fair rates. About a 400 for the 0.5 and 600 for the liter mug that too on tap! ! ! The place is quiet enough for a decent conversation and loud enough to feel like a watering hole. What's more, they make amazing Maggi Burmese style. EPIC Win!

2. Woodside Inn
This is hands down a perfect pub. Awesome pub grub, brilliant tap, a wide range of spirits and beer, wooden interiors, dimly lit and demarcated areas for sitting and standing. It's just perfect! Only a little expensive. But it's worth it.

Now for NUMBER ONE, NUMERO UNO, Ladies and Gentlemen, presenting to you.....

1. Arjun Kanungo's Terrace
Cheap. Magnificent. Cuisine can be whatever you want so long as they deliver. All this on the 7th floor at Band Stand with a sea view so awesome, you might just jizz your pants. PS3 is available for people with such an inclination and Devin. The manager cum owner is this big giant of a man who makes music and gets high. Strangers are welcome with open arms so long as they bear a bottle of Black Label. Advice #1: Do not sit on the bean bag, it has unexplained stains on it. Advice #2 : Stop making out with your girlfriend when his Mom enters the house. Advice #3: Don't ask Kanungo questions when he is high, he is known to throw uncooked meat at people. Advice #4: There might be times when he doesn't know anybody present, at such times be polite and introduce him.

Over and Out.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Death of Our Little Neighbourhood Pub - Sea View

I think I was about 8 when I first stepped into Sea View. My dad would go there often for beer and fish. The place by itself was not much to write home about. Plastic Neil Kamal Chairs with creaky wooden tables with London Pilsner table sheets on them. What was in fact the most awesome part about this place was, actually as the name suggests, the sea view.

In college Sea View was kind of on the expensive side so was reserved only for special dates with the lady love. A big bottle of KF (650ml) would cost about Rs 200/- add to that a plate of sausages and chips a sum total of Rs 400/- is a pinch worthy amount for cash strapped college goers. Well but it was a great place to escape to while half your class was at 'Mocha'S' on the other side of the road.

It was one of the few places in Mumbai where you could have a sunset beer without having to sell your wife and kids as slaves to evil 'lounge' owners (Aurus, Vie..) when it came to paying the bill. Juhu Beach may not be the most virgin of beaches but well its such an integral part of my existence I just don't judge it. So sitting on a table facing the sunset with relatively affordable beer while taking in the breeze was as good as it could get on Juhu Tara Road...

...Untill the HDIL Group bought out a whole chunk of land right in front of my house to build a 5 star apparently for the Hilton Group. Sea View obviously got a fuckload of money for clearing the land. And they did. This place was sacred in a very private way as only very close mates got introduced to it through me. The staff was usually friendly; they were a bunch of savage salesmen though. But as long as they were tolerant of our smoking habits we didn't mind calling for the occasional prawn tikka.! Fuck I even had my first business meeting there.

Ahh well, the departure of this place is a sign of things to come, another eyesore of a 5 star and traffic hell in Juhu that will cost you on an average 5 days to cross each time you wanna cross this strip of land.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Beer and Blues - You Need Two Awesomes to Make One 'Aint Nothin But...The Blues' Pub

Ah London, how I miss you! London is a fascinating destination for any music lover. I discovered and re-discovered classic rock, heavy metal, alternate rock, psychedellic, english folk, blues, jazz, tribal and so many other forms of music in the by-lanes of this beautiful city. But by far the most amazing music venue in London was this dingy little pub on Kingly Street in Soho called Aint Nothin' But....The Blues.

Aint Nothinin'.. is actually a corridor of a pub, dingy is an understatement for the feel of this place. It's all wood with blues memorabilia on all the walls and ceilings. The pub tends to get super crowded by 830 pm on weekends and on the evening of a major gig. The capacity of the pub is about 75 people max, so you gotta make your presence felt early on. The pub usually has an artist performing almost every evening starting at 10 and closing at around 1230am.

Blues as a music form is very personal to the artist performing it. The lyrics originate in mundane hardships, work related woes, cheating wives etc, which means almost everybody who isn't born in to royalty can associate with it. Because of the nature of the music I try establishing a one to one relationship with the artist, so I try getting front seats to a blues gig. And the front seats here means you can actually count the nose hair of the artist.

Once, I was with my buddy Jeremy Fernandes, who shared my passion for the blues and introduced me to the pub, and we bought our Guinness' and weaved ourselves to the front seats. We found ourselves sitting across two Asian chicks, one of whom was pretty pretty. Before the gig started we tried our best to kinda attract their attention/make conversation etc, but I think we were too much into our Guinness' plus I don't think they spoke English. They also had stern faces and whispered often into each other ears while making big rude eyes at us...

So the gig started: harmonica, acoustic guitar, slappy slap double bass and a vocalist who was absolutely awesome. I forget the name of the band but we were all measly little rats to these pied pipers. Anywho, the tempo and the energy of the place began to get pretty wild, the vocalist climbed on the table while performing which drove the crowd nuts and the Asian chicks finally smiled at us and began dancing. That's the power of this place, it can loosen the hardest of faces and melt the strongest of barriers.

The acoustics of this place, owing to its woodiness, are amazing. The speakers might be a little old, but the sound is crisp as could be. And its so cozy indoors, with the dim yellow lights and neon signs, that the London chill right outside doesn't seem to bother you too much.

Another awesome thing about this place is that, because the queue to get in is pretty crazy sometimes, these guys have put a projector and speaker outside for the queued up people. It's pretty badass that the wall they use to project the goings-on belongs to The Hamley's Toy Store.

Rating : 8.5/10
Address : 20 Kingly Street, Soho, London W1B 5PZ

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Desi Light - Discovering the UB Export in Gokarna

I would like to first take this opportunity to pat myself on the back for having planned a trip to Gokarna in the first week of January in stead of the usual last week of December business thus furthur postponing my January blues. And my oh my what a beautiful place Gokarna is! Fuck Goa, for life!

Not only is Gokarna a perfect substitute to Goa in terms of food/cheap booze/beaches etc, it's way cheaper and the people are not crazed by copious amount of the drug called Money. If the approach road to a place is any indicator of a place you are arriving at, well then, you won't have too much of an indication of Paradise Beach. For one, there is no approach road! There is an approach waterway, or a 45 minute trek. We chose the boat for a very rational and logical reason : It's wayyyy more badass arriving at a party in a boat! Pradise Beach is probably 1/10th the size of your Baga/Anjuna/Calangute shithole. The water is clean and the sand is soft. There are shacks on the beach which can be rented out for a measly Rs 250 a night for 3 people. That works out to, wait let me get a calculator........ approximately... fuckal compared to what you pay in Goa.

Ok enough Goa bashing. Being in Gokarna felt like what the New Wave of Hippies must have felt when they first arrived in Goa. Everything was still relatively untouched by capitalism, the people smiled often and laughed loudly. I did not get out of my lungi for 4 days, only wearing a t-shirt at night. The level of chilled-outness was up there with the stars.

Oh did I mention how starry the night sky was? So for a scene like this, where you begin getting high the minute you open your eyes because an unmanned clay-pipe finds its way to your mouth, you need alcohol that will sustain you in stead of get you run out sometime around 2.30 pm. "Oh Gods of Beer, please give me strength to tolerate the bottled tripe of the Evil Dr. Mallaya." was my constant prayer.

That's when I stumbled upon The UB Export. It's very interesting because this beer is obviously made by the UB conglomerate and is available only in Karnataka. And is quite a hit there. I wouldn't touch this beer with a 10 yard pole if I were out drinking with buddies on a night out in Bombay. But as I mentioned earlier you need a light beer to sustain you if you intend on drinking throughout the day without doing much activity. For that reason, the Export is a win!

Needless to say it's very light with a fruity nose and a non-existent head, which furthur translates into low carbonation. So far so-good for the 'all-day romp'. But what's more, this beer has absolutely no after-taste. No jokes. You could gulp the damn thing down, the whole 330 ml pint and not have a hint of an after-taste. For purists this is a cardinal sin, because either the hop content is not up to the mark or the hop quality is poor as fuck. Also, the gelatin content in the bottle is very low, which I welcome with open arms and a luscious pink throat and tonsils. You can gulp bottle after bottle without the horrible itchiness caused by the KF pints

What this means is that the UB Export is a beer sherbat! I know how dirty that sounds but it sums up the damn thing neatly. Go for the UB Export if drinking is your secondary source of getting high. However it's no biggie on the taste. There's a thin line between liking and hating this beer, and this thin line is a moon-kissed clear water crecent beach on the north-western shore of Karnataka.

Rating : 5.75/10

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

"Beer Contains Vitamin Pee.." - NYE Party Idea Number Fail

Since my blog is about beers, pubs and awesomeness, I have decided to make my maiden entry about the awesomeness bit of it. So I'm going to gift you guys an idea for a party, as I suppose a whole bunch of you would be sniffing around right about now for a cool house party to crash this NYE. This is a very American frat-house kind of a scene, and let me forewarn you this can get disastrously messy. So try doing it in your best friends house and not yours.

Alright, so getting down to business, this party concept is the most fun when all the invitees are beer drinkers, so step 1 round up all the beer drinking lads and lassies you know. Step 2 once there are about 25-30 people confirmed send out a mass message that they have been cordially invited to a NYE party where they can have free beer all night long subject to a very simple rule. At this point people are going mental - free beer, NYE, villa, strippers... you know how us men usually over-estimate these things. So the simple rule that you cannot flout to get the free beer all night is .... you can't use the restroom... for anything.

So place a couple of bouncers on the door of the loo, each time a bloke has to go empty his feelings in to a pot he has to shell out 500 bucks. And once he has been to the toilet then he has to buy his own drink (at MRP if you like him at Whatever-the-fuck if you don't).

Now us Indians are cheap, so you gotta be on the lookout for people relieving themselves in glasses, flower pots, your friends' ears, your grandma's denture case... if you live in bombay, then you probably don't have to worry about people peeing in your lawn, cuz well, you dont have one. By the end of the night you would have recovered all the money for the booze and then some. With the extra money, hire a cleaner for the people who last till the end and eventually had pee coming out of their ears as the lay motionless on your mum's Pursian rug. Well this can be a fun NY if you include funnels and pipes and beer pong and kegs and shit.

Ah well, Happy New Years.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

When In Doubt, Porterhouse...

The Porterhouse in London is like a Lion's Den and you drinkers are timid sheep. You see footprints going in to the Porterhouse but never coming out of it. If there are any marks of exit at all then they are usually drag marks as your mate sweeps you across the floor in to a waiting Black Cab. The Porterhouse is designed to get you knackered.

Cozily tucked in to one of the lanes at Covent Garden, this Irish brew pub is the melting pot of tourists, locals and weird people of all legal drinking ages. The interiors of this pub are made of soft wood, and the basic design of this place is made such that you lose your head trying to figure the way back to your stool after a fag outside. At last count this pub had 4 levels (or not) all sprawling and dark. The darkness of this place is actually a good thing, it kinda makes you feel warm and when you're making stupid faces and/or drooling over your glass and/or orgasming as you're taking a leak where you're standing because the queue to the loo is too long; nobody can see you.

The pub boasts of a stock of about 300 beers from around the world, they have a 'Little Black Book' of Beer which lists out all the beers available at the pub along with their ABV and the major ingredients and what country they belong to. Under India they have Cobra, which is actually British, but is heavily promoted as a beer that goes well with Indian food. It's partially true because of the taste and crispiness but partially because most lagers go well with Indian food (just like Luckies claim 'It's Toasted!', so is every other ciggarette). There's also an urban legend that The Porterhouse will give you a free pint if they don't have the beer of your choice. But they've always had the beer of my choice so couldn't ever test the claim.

What's sad, though, is that all the foreign beers here are in the placid penis bottles (small bottles or pints as they are called in India) so if you're drinking a South African Castle, you'll get that taste of glycerin and the harshness on the throat that goes with it. But you don't go to the Porterhouse to drink bottled beers, oh no sir, you go there for their tap, and the tap is gooood.

These guys have about 9 of their signature beers on tap, I'll list out the ones I have tried first and then the rest :

Brainblasta (7%) - Copper-colored hoppy ale, very strongly fermented and primary reason for having wild sex with the floor.

Chiller (4.2%) - My MOST favourite Lager in the world. No kidding. American-styled awesomeness.

Oyster (4.8%) - Competitor to the Guinness stout, very nice indeed, almost identical.

Porterhouse Red (4.4%) - Irish styled traditional Red Ale. Acquired Taste. I didn't like it too much.

Temple Brau (4.3%) - More hoppy than the Chiller Lager. German and Dutch styled pilsner. I prefer the Chiller to this one for sure.

The other beers on tap produced by the Porterhouse Brewing Co are Plain (Light Stout), Hersbrucker (Pilsner), TSB (Pale Ale) and Wrasslers (Heavy Stout).

The Porterhouse is a treat to all your senses; visual, olfactory and the innate sense to get supremely wasted. There are empty beer bottles displayed on all windows so each time you get the urge to interact with the outside world all you see is the emptiness of the beer bottle and you suddenly find yourself at the bar spluttering incomprehensible words to the bartender, in the end all you can do is point at a beer and smile.

The good lads at the Porterhouse also make a mean fare, so if you ever go, don't forget to indulge in their finger food. The original Porterhouse branch is called the Temple Bar, located in Dublin (the place with the best Guinness, better than the brewery!), the food there was by far the best, because my Beef Stew was accompanied by Guinness Bread :D I'll probably write a post on that as soon as I can remember that day....or night. (Fuck Dublin!)

More than the beers, its the amazing times I've had at the Porterhouse, London that makes it such a dear place to me; be it St. Patricks Day, end of exams or simply whenever we've been in doubt about choosing a place for drinks. The fact that Covent Garden is my most favorite place in London just adds to the experience.

Rating : 8/10
Address : 21-22 Maiden Lane, Covent Garden, London WC2 E7NA

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Yabba Dabba Doooolally - The Microbrewery Experience at Pune

The Kingdom of Hindustan was being ruled by the evil Lord Mallaya and his allies the Danish Carlsberg, the American Bud and the most evil of them all... the urinary Australian. These were dark times and the people were subject to unspeakable torment. Peasants and Artisans and Traders worked day in and day out to come back home to the monstrosities of stale, ugly beer. Their prayers went mostly unheard. Any attempt to start a revolution was cruelly quashed by the evil lords like in the case of the Lodnon Pilsner. There was no light in sight.

A group of dog-tired slaves met up one day conspicuously in the dead of night to discuss the rumours they had heard that a revolution had started in the far away land of Pune. Rumour had it that they brewed fresh beer, served it in pints using real raw materials and fresh water. It sounded too good to be true. To find out they had to take a perilious journey to the heart of Pune, but the peril was worth dying for.

So it was decided then, at the break of dawn they would set out on their mission to make contact with the Pune revolutionaries. They embarked on their horses and galloped away. Destination Corinthian Boutique Hotel.

The property is a palace in its own right, set atop a tiny hill enabling a beautiful view of the city. The pub where the microbrewery is located - Smokies - has an atrocious looking blow-up bear at its entrance, giving a very Texan feel to the place (not one of the strongest points). The pub is divided into an inside and an outside area. Pune air is usually chilled so sitting outside would've been a good idea if you went there in a small group. We were 8 however, so we decided to sit inside.

Right behind the main door of the Pub is the production area of the microbrewery where massive aluminium machines stand intimidatingly behind glass walls. The Pub does tours on only two days in the week at specific times, so check in advance before you head out.

Getting down to business we hit the bar as soon as we were alloted a table. A customary tasting of beers on offer followed. The first beer I tried was the Dunkelweizen (Bavaria), a German dark wheat beer (Dunkel = dark weizen = wheat). Very impressive, nice undertones, very complex and it was fresh :). I liked what I saw but I wanted more so next in line was the Cider. Now, I like Cider sometimes, usually when I'm outdoors on a summer day sitting on grass, otherwise its just not my drink. The Cider at Doolally was average, I particularly did not like the aftertaste but the Cider drinker in my group gobbled 5 pints so I guess it wasnt that bad afterall.

Ze Menu

Then I had my favourite beer of the night, the Wheat Beer. I fell in love at the sight of the slightly opaque golden texture of the beer. The nose was mild, not too much of a head the fizz was consistent and the aftertaste was what did it for me. It left a lingering bitter note on the palette without causing the itchiness as in the Cider. Absolutely awesome, especially with good Pub Grub (more on that later). This was followed by the Kolsch (Cologne), the most noticeable thing about the Kolsch is it's prominent bitterness lent by the hops. It's a very personal choice between the Kolsch and the Wheat, and I was leaning more towards the Wheat. Lastly we tried their Lager. Ho-hum is all I can say about that.

At the table, I called for a pint of every beer except the Cider and the Lager. And then ended the night with a last pint of Wheat. The food at Smokies was outstanding, we started off with Chicken Wings and an Oriental Platter of Starters with House Fries. The most epic dish was the Mutton Raan, which complimented my Wheat beer like Cinderella's frickin Slippers. There's just something about combining good beer with Indian Food.

Boring Interiors

Now for the negatives, as I mentioned earlier, the decor of the place is definitely a downer. It looks like any other branch of TGIF/Ruby Tuesday/HRC going for the whole American pub schbang. I find it highly unoriginal and downright contemptuous to decorate your walls with dead rock star memorabilia and posters. The waiters, though friendly, could be better trained. The music was stolen from the worst HRC DJ and put on loop on a 30 minute frequency and when we politely requested the manager to reduce the atrociously loud volume he retorted in a heavy south indian accent "This (volume) dont go down saar (sir) this only go up." Ahh Cheers Dude.

But all this did not take away from the fact that these guys know their stuff and they are doing a fabulous job of providing us with fresh, gelatin-free, tasty beer. Long Live Revolution Down With The Other Shit.

Ratings :-
Wheat Beer : 7.5/10
Kolsch : 6.5/10
Dunkelweizen : 7/10
Food : 7/10
Decor & Ambeince : 3/10
All in all : A very prominent brick in the beer wall
Link :
Address : The Corinthians Boutique Hotel,Nyati County, NIBM Annexe, South Pune, Maharashtra, India.