Mumbai, as everyone knows, is thick and thronging with watering holes and everyone has their own tastes and choices. And so I’m going to qualify this list by saying that these are the ten places that I keep returning to, each one for different reasons — the consistently-good grub, the engaging decor, a likeable music track, an exciting (or inexpensive) drinks list, or even just good old nostalgia.
1. Woodside Inn
On a weekend night, Woodside Inn is hot and heaving with patrons, sipping on their Long Islands and mojitos and beer (Woodside Inn offers a handful of beers from Indian breweries such as Gateway Brewing Co and Independence Brewing Co). This is an old favourite haunt — the four cheese pizza and the burgers are always good, the potato skins are always crisp, and the air is always thick with alternative 90s rock.
Where: Colaba, Lower Parel, Oshiwara
2. Doolally Taproom
There are so many things to be said about beer, and one of the best places to say them is at the Doolally Taproom. Thankfully, their selection of brew is short and succinct – I am no fan of long-winded menus. I am partial to the one in Bandra, although it now has outlets everywhere in Mumbai. In the Bandra one, you’ll find a concatenation of Bandra’s brightest, downing the excellent (and popular) Hefeweizen and Belgian Witbier and playing the board games that are scattered around the place. My drink of choice is usually the stout, but some nights call for the delicious apple cider (the mango one, I find too sweet for my taste). And I always, always wash it all down with the house fries and their delicious attendant dips.
Where: Kemps Corner, Bandra Reclamation, Andheri
3. British Brewing Company
There’s a comforting familiarity about the British Brewing Company, no matter which outlet you may choose to visit – a sort of warm, woodsy cosiness pervades the atmosphere. The BBC offers plenty of elegant infusions such as the Whiskey Sour and the Fresh Fruit Martini, along with a large liquor menu and vodka golas (ridiculously refreshing!). But what you really want to do is sink your weary limbs into a chair, order your favourite chilled beer and a plate of fish and chips to go alongside. That’s your evening sorted.
Where: Lower Parel, Thane, Goregaon
4. The Barking Deer
A microbrewery that has been raising the city’s spirits from 2015, The Barking Deer offers four brews on tap – an IPA, a pale Belgian Wit, a malty Bombay Blonde and a Honey Bee Braggot (a braggot is usually made of honey and barley malt). The Barking Deer has the added lure of hosting various events; the most recent (that I can think of) was held in October and was an interesting workshop on the basics of beer and brewing.
Where: Lower Parel
5. The White Owl
Go to The White Owl for large, frosty mugs filled with mahogany-coloured porter, chestnut-shaded Hefeweizen, ales, ciders and the citrusy Belgian Wit (all on tap and all served in jam jars). Come here after a gruelling day at work and order your beer of choice and the jalapeno cheese poppers – to my mind, those two make the perfect marriage. The menu has some interesting choices (pie assiete, anyone?) but the decor is even more intriguing, with its industrial brewing tanks, its innovative twinkly lighting and cool wall installations.
Where: Lower Parel
6. Mr Baozi
At the new Pan Asian gastro-pub, Mr Baozi, the Asian-inspired decor (pretty wrought iron partitions and colourful knick-knacks) is charming, and the tables are almost full. The menu is voluminous and offers everything from sushi to baos (of course) to Nasi Goreng. In short, it’s the perfect place to bring your group of friends on a Saturday night. Sip the Som Tam cocktail. Order the sushi platter. Smile. Your evening is now a success.
Where: Lower Parel, Juhu
7. Toto’s Garage
Ah, Toto’s, the inimitable. A quintessential neighbourhood pub, it is packed with Bandra denizens still holding on to the spirit of the 70s and 80s. Toto’s playlist is a selection of indefatigable retro hits. The beer is cheap and plentiful, the music is loud and the food is as milquetoast as drinking food should be. It’s a throwback to college days, when the only worries that fogged our minds were late assignments and skipped classes.
8. The Ghetto Pub
Fondly called Ghetto’s by its denizens, The Ghetto is tucked away behind a row of innocuous grocery and chemist stores. It’s properly dingy and bathed in awkward black light, that highlights even the tiniest spot of white on your person. The mural-stained walls are covered with graffiti, the drinks come with a basket of limp popcorn, and Pink Floyd and The Police play regularly at closing hour. It might not sound terribly enticing, but what Ghetto’s has in spades, is atmosphere (and a pool table).
9. One Street Over
Headed by Kelvin Cheung, of Ellipsis fame, One Street Over is a gastropub with a wide array of eatables, both vegetarian and meaty. The pork belly bun is faultless, and so are the Dan Dan noodles and the pork miso ramen. In short, the food is splendid. Order a Spiced Moscow Mule alongside, gradually succumb to the vodka and ginger beer and let the evening linger delightfully on.
10. Monkey Bar
What makes Monkey Bar tick? Is it the trendy furniture (quirky illustrations and vintage posters)? Is it the excellent food menu, with glorious fusion dishes like Pandi curry and pita and Kerala red rice salad? Is it the cosy interior, bouncing with loud music as evening draws near? Is it the cool crowd, always swilling around? Is it the dependable drinks menu? Whatever it is, Monkey Bar has it – the place keeps drawing me back, every single time.