For a while now there have been these rumors originating from Bombay, whispered in hushed tones of the imminent death of the South Bombay party scene. Of how everything was moving to the burbs, how business was slow south of Bandra, the sea link was a bad omen, etc. etc…The perks of working with a liquor company are that you get to travel and bar hop quite a bit, all in the name of consumer research! I landed up in Bombay on a Saturday deciding to figure out the truth myself. After all, South Bombay for decades defined nightlife across the country.
The evening started off actually in Bandra, at a relatively new bar called Red Ant, opposite Bonobo…or Escobar can’t really remember. Situated in a mall, you enter through a restaurant called Global Cuisine or something similar, essentially a gaggle of families attacking possibly the largest buffet ever offered! Not an auspicious beginning. I was getting extremely suspicious of H and his motives in bringing us there. Were we there for just dinner? Was he truly getting old? Why was he growing a beard? Were the whispers true? (Background; out of my entire batch of 70 odd Dosco’s, there are only 4 of us left in India who are single, H, V, B & me. H was the ultimate bachelor, fridge filled with only beer and food that looked like it could defend itself if touched, the most well stocked home bar around, late night food delivery boys on speed dial, driver kept water and tissues in the car for the boys who mistook 35 for 18 and tried going through a bottle of whiskey a night, bartenders at local bars knew him by first name…however recent anecdotal evidence suggested that his star was waning, he no longer went out during the week, he was going out for just dinner, he was getting…gasp, Old!!)
Luckily Red Ant was anything but quiet. Walked through a door with a termite?, or red ant icon on it to a buzzing bar with giant LCD screens, red lighting(Duh!) and a nice large bar where you could grab drinks without having to jostle with sweaty kids! Good choice H! Met up with GJ, SM & and old friend VS, downed a bunch of beers, and then decided to move on to check out Jaleebe Cartel playing at Blue Frog. By this time a couple more guys had joined us so was becoming quite a large group. All in all Red Ant wasn’t bad. Prices were in line with most bars, 250 for a KF Ultra pint, good music and friendly bar staff. The only serious disconnect was with them screening Tiësto on the big screens playing at a festival while the music bordered on urban cross-over. I’m not sure how it would be on a weekday, but was a pleasant enough weekend stop.
Blue Frog is legendary. Enough said. Unless you live under a rock, or in South India (just kidding guys!) it’s the best place to listen to live music gigs supported by great acoustics, great bar, good food and a funky space age lay-out. Set up in an abandoned mill, what’s with Bombay and abandoned mills though?, it’s got great music programming, eclectic, not just rock or DJ’s, but some really funky bands across jazz, electronic, retro, the works… In hindsight, we should have reached there before midnight, it was packed to the rafters, and when I say rafters I’m being literal! Barely there for ten minutes and SM & GJ decided the night was too hectic and departed. Pity, cause GJ a couple of years ago would have got the party going! A couple of V’s friends joined us, all the way from Madras. Notice I wrote Madras…apparently if you lived there for years the word Chennai is taboo to use. I mentioned the word Chennai once in conversation to one of them and was greeted with a stony look and a flexing of alarmingly large biceps; apparently it’s a three strike deal. Third time you mention it they bring on the pain!
It was tough to have conversation with the music and the crowds, so we ventured to the outside smoking area. Big mistake. I bumped into one of the owners who I knew from way back, SM. A good Sindhi boy, who has singlehandedly been responsible for some of my drunker moments in Bombay, including a very unpleasant tryst with Absinthe. No more green fairy for me. So instead SM decided to do vodka shots…quite an average Polish blend called Belvedere on top of that. When I asked where was the good French stuff there was a bit of an awkward moment where the merits of alcohol companies and their marketing strategies were mentioned and then forgotten. So no more Grey Goose here, oh well. The flip side of this was that I was drinking beer, and tried Miller High Life. Shameless plug, it’s one of the brands owned by my lord and master whom i have now sold my soul too. Pleasantly surprised. It was light and went down easily. Better than the other international products out there for sure. I was here for the official launch on Monday, which would hopefully be a blast.
At around 130 we decided to head from the Frog, it was getting tough to get in and out and the bar outside didn’t serve all brands. Walking out we walked in to the bar across, which was Zenzi in its past avatar, but was under new management and went by the name Zinc. Spent five futile minutes arguing with a handlebar moustached bouncer called Sunil?, who refused to let us in citing the famous no stags rule. Finally managed to spot V who thankfully was a woman and got us in. The place was quite crowded, had a bunch of PYT’s and the mandatory East European blondes. Question; where were they before 2008? Where were they when I was in college? Very suspicious. All we saw were Fabindia kurta clad feminist proponents. Damn!
There was not much difference in the space when it was Zenzi Mills, upstairs was converted in to a semi-VIP lounge with a lot of champagne being served to someboys who all looked like Harshad Mehta clones, hmm Gujju alert. We spent a good hour or so there and again knocked back some beers, while H stuck to vodka. Prices weren’t bad and again there was space to order without knocking someone to the ground. Met DJ who owned the place, used to promote Poison & Bling earlier so Zinc definitely has a future.
It was now 3, I think. And no one was leaving. What happened to South Bombay club scene is dying? Like all other urban rumors, this one was also just a rumor. It’s alive and doing well. Also H’s movement to the dark side of the force was also untrue. Thank God! I don’t remember much else besides waking up the next morning and thinking that Oh God, I have to do this on Monday night as well. Am I getting old?