A barman prepares a cocktail in a trendy bar of Shanghai.
Thankfully, the Mumbai airport has a few watering holes that come to the rescue. In an unorthodox bar crawl of sorts, we sampled what was on offer. So the next time you’re stuck waiting and need to blow off some steam, you’ll know where to head.
Since GVK group took over the reins of the Mumbai airport in 2006, we’ve seen a marked attempt to create a property worthy of the millions of well-travelled passengers it receives every year. Apart from the food courts and spas, nine bars now stand across the two airports, domestic and international, offering respite to beleaguered voyagers. Well-designed and safe for female travellers to unwind, the bars still have a long way to go before they make it onto any ‘World’s Best Airport Bars’ list, but at least they’re headed in the right direction.
But before you seat yourself on that bar stool make a mental note — airlines can deny boarding to intoxicated passengers.
In case the names weren’t enough of a giveaway, the bar menus at the domestic airport are clearly partial to the UB and USL portfolio. Limited by association, the alcohol list might not be especially impressive, but what is commendable is that whether it is single malt, gin, vodka or even Cognac you’re looking for, you’ll find an option or two.
Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport
The bars at the International Airport just underwent a major face-lift. Of the three earlier drinking spots — IIFA bar, Bombay Blue Bar and Noir Bar, the last one is the only one that still stands. The Martini Bar has replaced Bombay Blue, and IIFA has been revamped into Spice Bazaar.
The Martini Bar
Location: Near Gate 11
Ambience: Spacious, youthful and quiet. High barstool seating.
Crowd: Usually the lone traveller looking to catch up on some work while he sips on his drink.
Best eats: Finger food like nachos, fries and mini pizzas.
Best drinks: 15 different Martinis are on offer here. Try the Mr Bond special or the Chocolate Martini. There’s also the usual set of beers and single malts on the menu.
Price range: Martinis begin at Rs. 300 for a Dirty Martini. Margaritas are between Rs. 500–600.
Best for: Relaxing and spending an hour before boarding.
Tip: The Martini Bar has been in operation for only a few weeks now, replacing the earlier Bombay Blue Bar, so they are still working out the kinks when it comes to the food. Some items on the menu were not available at the time of review.
Location: Next to boarding gate 10
Ambience: Open bar seating on one side of the island bar and plastic, four-seater tables on the other. The Noir Bar is very public, bang in the centre of the food court.
Crowd: Mostly male travellers or a couple of colleagues discussing work over a single malt. The tables are occupied by groups of travellers or families who grab a bite from one of the food vendors opposite and a beer from Noir as accompaniment.
Best eats: Anything that the food court allows. Noir bar doesn’t have any food on its menu.
Best drinks: Corona or Amstel beer.
Price range: Kingfisher Ultra available at Rs. 330
Ideal for: Grabbing a really quick drink to go with your McDonald’s burger.
Just a few weeks old, the Spice Bazaar is a 120 seater multi-cuisine restaurant and the largest eatery on the airport premises. Operated by Travel Food Services, Spice Bazaar incorporates many traditional Indian elements into its décor. Food is served in copper utensils, handis and tawas, in an attempt to keep the whole experience authentic. Spice Bazaar serves up a breakfast and dinner buffet at Rs. 349 per person and an a la carte menu throughout the day. On the menu is Gooler Ke Lacy Kebab — dried fig compote filled lamb meatballs coated with lacy egg white, served with ginger and coriander chutney, Gosht Kofte Ka Salan — Awadhi mince meatballs, Koota Masala Balochi Boti — lamb chunks slow cooked with hand pounded whole spices and red onions, Mehekti Murgh Biryani, Vegetable Chettinadu. Mumbai Domestic Airport
Location: Outside the 1B and 1C domestic arrival terminals
Ambience: Coffee shop-like table seating and 5 bar stools.
Crowd: Being accessible to everyone, the bar has gained quite a loyal fan base among the corporate crowd working in the area.
Best eats: Caesar’s salad, a nice cheesy helping of nachos or spicy chicken wings.
Best drinks: A chilled beer.
Price range: Rs. 200 for a mug of Kingfisher beer.
Ideal for: Grabbing a beer and some chakna if you’ve reached the airport a little too early or are waiting to receive a traveller.
Tip: There’s usually a pretty neat discounted combo offer, so be sure to check.
Location: Outside the 1B and 1C domestic arrival terminals
Ambience: Quiet, spacious and restaurant-like
Crowd: Draws in families and larger groups.
Best eats: The Foodie’s special is the crispy idli chilli currypatta — an improvement on the idli fry. For a heavier meal go for Malwani fried fish, bombil fry and kheema pav.
Best drinks: Anything straight up or the Midori Illusion cocktail.
Price range: Old Monk (30ml) Rs. 150, Jim Beam Rs. 300, Glenfiddich Single Malt Rs. 450
Ideal for: A proper meal with the family or a friend before a flight.
Tip: Pick Foodie’s Bar more for the extensive food menu than drinks.
Signature Bar and Ultra Bar
Location: Signature - Terminal 1B, Ultra – Terminal 1C
Ambience: ‘Swift bar’ concept
Crowd: Usually the lone traveller whiling away some time before the boarding call.
Best eats: Potato fries, chilli potato cylinders, chicken satay and sandwiches.
Best drinks: A chilled draught beer, or single malt.
Price range: Ultra available Rs. 330 for a pint, Dalmore Single Malt Rs. 850.
Ideal for: Downing a quick one within sight of your boarding gate — the perfect perch to keep the missed-flight-paranoia at bay.
Tip: An unimpressive cocktail list is what you’ll find at both these bars, so skip the cocktails, unless you really can’t do without.
Location: Terminal 1C
Ambience: With sports motifs on its walls, RC bar is bright and chic, decked out in the Royal Challenge cricket team colours of red and gold.
Crowd: Business travellers looking for some peace and quiet, and couples resting before a long journey.
Best eats: RC has a good breakfast menu from 4 am to 10 am, for all those ridiculously early flights.
Best drinks: Pick something straight-up. Malt, vodka or a beer — there’s no going wrong here.
Price range: Kingfisher Ultra Rs. 330
Ideal for: Catching up on the news of the day or a match.
Good Times Bar
Location: Terminal 1B
Ambience: The snazziest bar of the lot, it is stylishly designed with comfy seating.
Crowd: Best place for the lone female traveller to enjoy her tipple as she mulls over an interesting book, away from prying eyes.
Best eats: The food menu here is a mix-and-match of the usual suspects — pasta, biryani, sandwiches, and quesadillas as well as a breakfast and lunch buffet priced at a decent Rs. 249 and Rs. 349 respectively.
Best drinks: Compared to the other bars at the domestic airport, Good Times has the best cocktails, so try one!
Price range: Kingfisher Ultra Rs. 330, Pinky vodka Rs. 650, cocktails begin at Rs. 550
Ideal for: Getting away from the clutter of suitcases and bustling passengers, Good Times invites passengers to escape into an area which bears no resemblance
to an airport.
Tip: Sultan Shaik who’s been the bartender here for a year, previously served behind the bar on an international cruise ship. If you’re craving a classic cocktail that isn’t on the menu, he’s the guy to check with.