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.

video

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
URL : http://www.aintnothinbut.co.uk

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
URL : http://www.kingfisherworld.com/corporate/UB_Export.aspx