You may wonder: Why a girls’ guide to drinking out? How is drinking out different for women? Here’s why: A woman’s point of view is sometimes different from a man’s. For instance, for a woman, feeling safe and comfortable is top priority at a bar. A man may not even think of these things. (A man is also unlikely to check out the male eye candy potential at a bar. A woman, on the other hand, would.)
That said, it was fun to see what our reporters in Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata came up with when we asked them to list two high-end, two mid-range and two budget watering holes each that are particular favourites with the women in these cities. These are far from definitive lists, and they are based on informal surveys. But here are the bars that women love. Pour yourself a long, cold drink, and read on. Cheers!
Shalom: Shalom at Greater Kailash 1 is the grand old man of Delhi lounge culture. The Mediterranean lounge has been around for over five years and every time I’ve gone there, the experience has been worth talking about. If you have some greens in your pocket and want to enjoy a night out with your girl friends, then head to Shalom. The music never hinders a conversation (such an important factor in determining a girls’ night out) and the crowd is relaxed.
A special mention here for the food and drinks. The prices are steep but given the quality of food and the vast choice of alcohol, you don’t mind spending that extra buck. It’s a great place for a first date too.
Safety factor: At Shalom, women can party all night long without worrying
Male eye candy potential: This place boasts some of the best looking men in Delhi
Best cocktail: Sangria
Best straight drink: Jim Beam on the rocks
Best dish: Shawarma and Mezze Platter
Hard Rock Café: It’s the musical refuge of the headbangers but, even though not all women like loud music, it has a lot to offer. Where else would you find bartenders and waiters as hot as the ones in HRC? The DJ himself is quite a rock star. He walks with an air comparable to Steve Tyler. And Sex and the City fans would know this – you get the best Cosmopolitans here.
Another notable feature is the 30-foot bar. Ladies, grab the high stools around the bar to get the best view and meet interesting people. Since the bar faces the stage, it is also the best spot to be during live gigs. HRC in Saket is not the place for a romantic date. It’s a place for an evening out with friends, remembering those good ol’ college days and just having a good time.
Safety factor: Hard Rock Café can get crowded, but it’s safe for women to party
Male eye candy potential: Musicians, bartenders, DJ, music lovers, punks and the like
Best cocktail: Cosmopolitan
Best straight drink: Baileys on the rocks
Best dish: Jumbo Combo
Smoke House Grill: Sophisticated and stylish, the Smoke House Grill at Great Kailash 2 is one of the hottest stops when it comes to a night out with the girls. Ladies, this is the place to flaunt your lethal 5-inchers while sipping on a smoked apple-tini. The bar on the ground floor is where all the cool junta hangs out and if you’re in the mood to dance the night away, head to the first floor.
What really impresses me about Smoke House Grill is their wholehearted dedication to ensuring that their alcohol is top-notch. Whether it’s their fabulous wine collection or smoked cocktails, the drinks are always something to talk about. Even the waiters know their alcohol inside out. Since the place is all about living it up in style, don’t be surprised if the pish-posh celebrity club of Delhi pays a visit.
Safety factor: Stag entry is limited at Smoke House Grill so that makes it safe
Male eye candy potential: On weekends, this is the place to be
Best cocktail: Apple-tini
Best straight drink: Cognac on the rocks
Best dish: Tequila infused chicken
The Living Room Café: Urban bohemian is how I would describe this place at Hauz Khas Village. Where else would you find a carrom board, Old Monk bottle vase, books and beer together? Spread over three floors, TLR has an identity separate from any pub in the city. This is the perfect place to spot Delhi’s counter-culture brigade. With a painter in one corner and a musician in the other, the air is ripe with eclectic vibes.
TLR is the ideal place for a single woman or a group of women to enjoy their drinks. People are friendly. Don’t be alarmed if someone strikes up a conversation with you. This place is tailor-made for a romantic evening. TLR has small alcoves, just big enough for two people.
I love their Bloody Indian and the good ol’ Cuba Libre – good cocktails and a good collection of spirits as well. My favourite part of TLR is the toilet. It is a masterpiece in itself!
Safety factor: People are friendly at The Living Room Café. It is one of the safest places for women to enjoy a drink
Male eye candy potential: Artsy types and intellectuals
Best cocktail: Cuba Libre
Best straight drink: Beer
Best dish: Lasagne
It’s worth it
Café Morrison: Café Morrison at South Extension 2 is the common man’s Hard Rock Café, at least aesthetically. It’s quite an experience to drink in the company of Pink Floyd, Black Sabbath, The Doors and close friends.
Whether it’s alternative live gigs or DJ nights dedicated to rock ’n’ roll, Café Morrison is about counter-culture, or at least an attempt at it. On any given day, you will find an eyebrow-pierced punk chugging beer with friends. You will also find kurta-clad groups of women with rum-colas in hand.
Definitely not a place for a first date, Café Morrison is an ideal place to meet potential dates. A word of caution here: If you’re looking for a corporate honcho, go elsewhere. Café Morrison is where people fall in love listening to Metallica.
My favourite part is the dance floor. It is good entertainment to watch an odd couple trying to do a jig to Break On Through!
Safety factor: The crowd keeps to itself at Café Morrison, so no one will bother you
Male eye candy potential: Eyebrow-pierced punks or musicians
Best cocktail: Café Morrison Iced Tea
Best straight drink: Dark rum with cola
Best dish: Nachos Tex-Mex
Route 04: The food is just about okay. The décor is slightly pretentious. The bartenders can be rude at times. So why does Route 04 at Khan Market make it to this list? Because, when it comes to beer and a group of girls, Route 04 is as good as it gets.
What give Route 04 character is its Freudian crisis. The place has two floors, each diametrically opposite to the other. The first floor is sober, quiet and boring. The second floor is where all hell breaks lose. Air filled with smoke, loud jibber jabber, music blaring and revellers chugging beer.
What does a gang of girls, out for a drink, look for in a place? Good looking guys? Check. Good music? Check. Clean toilet? Check. A place to laugh and shriek without getting glared at? Double check.
Would I meet a guy on a first date here? No. Would I spend an evening with my girlfriends here? Definitely!
Safety factor: At Route 04, men might look but they won’t touch. The crowd is young
Male eye candy potential: Quality is subjective but quantity is ample. If college boys are your thing, here they are in ample
Best straight drink: Beer
Best dish: Finger food and grilled sandwiches
Aurus: You could pass by Aurus on Juhu Tara Road and not even notice it, if it were not for the Audis and BMWs clogging the stretch of road outside it. A discreet entrance takes you to a beautiful seaside bar and fine dining restaurant within. The Aurus deck, as it is called, hosts some great parties. From great DJs to the best crowd, their sundown parties on Sunday evenings are a must visit. And, yes, this place does not play Bollywood remixes.
But parties apart, the ambience that Aurus creates for its guests is unparalleled. Opulent and classy, the canopied tables and landscaping do justice to its divine location. The lights get dimmer through the evening as the DJ’s music gets loud and trippy and lasts till late into the night. Mumbai’s animals of the night enter the club dressed in style and place themselves casually on the couches strewn around. You will not spot any teeny-boppers, the place is just too expensive for them.
Move into the dining area and you will find corporate bigwigs out on a team dinner or a birthday party hosted by a rich resident of Juhu. But the deck is where the action is. Young, hip people flit around, flirt and laugh at just about the right decibel level. And by midnight, the air has a different feel and everyone is tripping together and separately.
Safety factor: Aurus is too classy to be unsafe
Male eye candy potential: There’s absolutely loads of potential
Best cocktail: Martini
Best straight drink: A good wine list
Best dish: New York-style baked cheesecake
Wink: The erstwhile Library Bar, Wink at the Taj President in Cuffe Parade, is where the south Mumbai elite head every Saturday evening. While several swear that nothing can compare to Maria Pajaroja, the popular Filipino singer at Library Bar, a new set of younger and hipper people frequent the bar stools at Wink.
Wink is surrounded by some of the best restaurants in the city. Walk into Wink for a quick drink while waiting for a table at Thai Pavilion or polish off the coconut-rich cuisine at Konkan Café with a drink at Wink. Or just pop into Trattoria for a pizza between Cosmopolitans.
Wink is where to wear your high heels and LBD. You can never wear enough diamonds or make-up, but all the social butterflies are here just to have a good time. Kind of expensive, you can stick to one beer all night and no one will notice. And if you want to go all out, call for one of their expensive wines, book a secluded table in one of its many corners and order food made by some of the finest chefs in the country.
Safety factor: Just beware of high heels that might cause you to yelp in pain
Male eye candy potential: At the Wink bar and also across the restaurants
Best cocktail: Martini
Best straight drink: Winktini shot
Best dish: Marshmallows and chocolate fondue
Wtf! Versova: Opened a few months after its Khar branch, Wtf! Versova is packed every single day of the week. The best of Andheri, Lokhandwala and Juhu, where all of TV world and some of Bollywood resides, descends upon this conveniently located bar.
Very spacious, with an outdoor and indoor bar, Wtf! Versova has become the local bar that this part of the suburbs never had before. Fairy lights, high chairs, garden furniture and a cool breeze from the sea makes it the perfect place for a drink. And a perfect place to network. Almost every table around you talks films, Ekta Kapoor and commercials. At every table you spot a familiar face from some TV show. It is the best place to take friends from out of town who want a glimpse of the entertainment capital.
The food is delicious, the drinks are reasonable and the bartenders are showmen. They also have a karaoke night on Tuesdays, but a word of caution: drunken people don’t sing too well and the women always demand I will survive. Wear a pair of tracks or walk in wearing a bandage dress. Whatever you wear, you will fit in at Wtf!
Safety factor: No matter how drunk people get at Wtf! Versova, everyone is well-behaved
Male eye candy potential: All of TV land at your disposal
Best cocktail: Gimlet
Best straight drink: Whisky on the rocks
Best dish: Fish fingers
Quench: “If you have your visiting card on you, you will get the first round of beer free,” said the waiter as he handed us the menu. Our first womanly instinct: Is he trying to get our numbers? But we soon realised the scheme was across the eight tables that fill this adorable wine and beer place in Bandra Reclamation.
Quirky and quaint, Quench is a typical after-work bar where you can chill. A nice sound system usually plays hits from the ’80s and ’90s and the owners, a bunch of youngsters, are friendly beings who might just join you for a drink.
The ambience is set with WB Yeats blessing the place with A Drinking Song: “Wine comes in at the mouth, / And love comes in at the eye; / That’s all we shall know for truth / Before we grow old and die. / I lift the glass to my mouth, / I look at you, and I sigh.”
Armed with these words, alcohol, retro music and some superb chicken skewers, you are sorted for the evening. On some evenings, Quench might be filled with college-goers but it empties out by 11 pm. If you are looking for an extensive wine menu, go elsewhere. Here you get basic Sula, and at a good rate.
Safety factor: Quench is extremely harmless
Male eye candy potential: You might not bump into the model-types, but the cute-cum-interesting quotient is high
Best straight drink: Beer
Best dish: Chilli cheese toast
It’s worth it
Alps Beer Bar: You must have seen the Taj Mahal Palace and Hotel opposite the Gateway of India. Behind the grand edifice, in an alley, is a small, red board that says ‘Alps Beer Bar.’ Inside this bar, you will find six tables, a bunch of waiters who are always watching TV and some great beer and steaks.
Easy on the wallet, this place was once among the few places to serve imported beers. A pitcher of draught beer, served in a large plastic jar, chilli sausages and some fries later, you have reached the perfect state of mind: happily buzzing. Be warned: the place has no AC, but the large windows that open onto the road allow some breeze in. Your view is an old guesthouse called Carlton Hotel and its residents, mostly young firang backpackers, are the ones who frequent Alps the most for beer and chicken curry and rice.
So there have been a few drunken brawls at Alps. And, it is considered a bit seedy. Also, the toilet is so small that you are sure to get stuck. But, after a couple of beers when you are sitting at the table with the evening light streaming in through the windows and the gentle breeze making the overhead red lamps dance, you know you will come back to the small red board that says ‘Alps Beer Bar.’
Safety factor: As long as you don’t participate in a brawl, you are pretty safe at Alps
Male eye candy potential: There is a poster of Sean Connery!
Best straight drink: Draught beer
Best dish: Pepper steak
Janata: Everyone, at some point in their lives, has been a regular at Janata. At the bottom of Pali Hill, one of the plushest localities in the city, is a watering hole where two worlds collide.
While the ground floor might seem seedy, climb up a few steps into an air-conditioned enclave so noisy that your ears will ring. Ask for a table (the place is always packed) and you will be shown to one that hasn’t been fully occupied yet. Eventually, you hope, the strangers will finish and leave and you can occupy the entire table.
The crowd in the two large rooms on the first floor is young and fun. Some come there to tank up before they head to expensive nightclubs, others come to unwind after a hard day’s work and the rest to escape the drudgery of everyday living. And nowadays foreign backpackers and expats also find their way to Janata. But everyone leaves happy when the police van comes to shut the place down at 1.30 am.
For a place so cheap, the food is delicious. The garlic naan and tiny butter garlic prawns make the best meal after lots of alcohol.
Make no mistake; Janata is not for the mild. They don’t serve you a small or a large, they serve you a quarter or a half. You don’t stop at Janata for a drink or two, you stop there to get drunk.
Safety factor: The police van does a round of Janata, but no one is ever arrested
Male eye candy potential: Been too drunk to notice
Best straight drink: Old Monk and Coke
Best dish: Butter garlic prawns
Roxy: Ostensibly the city’s classiest nightclub, where lots of women celebrities party regularly. Great ambience with the warehouse-like walls fitted with metal masks and chains. The bar is the activity zone when a party gets going. Drink some shots or guzzle your favourite single malt. Entry is restricted to members and in-house guests of The Park. There are some walk-ins but the screening at the gate helps. There is no cover charge but a couple of drinks and finger food could cost up to Rs 1,500 per person. On nights when bands like Jalebee Cartel or Midival Punditz perform, things could get noisy after midnight. Not really a pub for great conversation (you may need to shout in order to be heard). The bartenders (and hostesses) are effective and fill your glasses silently. “I love the retro Hollywood look of Roxy. In fact, I also love the martini there,” says Chaity Ghoshal, a Roxy regular.
Safety factor: You’re very safe at Roxy.
Male eye candy potential: Sometimes
Best cocktail: Roxy Special
Best straight drink: Gin, vodka, Jack Daniel’s
Best dish: Non-veg kebab platter, Mediterranean platter
Plush: Things come alive at this pub at The Astor Hotel on weekends. The DJ plays hip-hop and trance after 10 pm. The L-shaped bar is the talking point of the lounge, but there is a low seating arrangement to facilitate conversations between a dating couple or a gang of girls. There is a cover charge too on weekend nights. There is screening at the gate and this ensures that stags stay out of the high voltage parties.
Safety factor: The guests all know each other at Plush
Male eye candy potential: Good!
Best cocktail: Long Island Iced Tea
Best straight drink: Single malt, Jack Daniel’s
Best dish: Mediterranean platter
Privy: There is a cover charge of Rs 1,000 for a couple, redeemable for what you drink and eat through the night. The place opens from noon, so the younger crowd can come in to party pretty early. The average age group of party animals spotted here is between 21 and 30. The three cabins have two sofas each, with drapes flying around and creating a romantic ambience just right for a first date.
The DJ at the console ensures that the tiny dance floor at the further end stays packed! Regulars say that the fact that Privy is located inside a mall (Forum) which has its own security, plus the security inside the lounge bar makes it very safe for groups of young women who party without guys.
Safety factor: You’re very safe at Privy
Male eye candy potential: Sometimes
Best cocktail: Vodka Red Bull
Best straight drink: Vodka
Best dish: Chinese, tandoori platter
Soho: The lounge upstairs at this two-tied place on the corner of Lansdowne and AJC Bose Roads is cosy and comfortable, perfect for a gang of girls to hang out on a Saturday night. The DJ sometimes plays old Hollywood numbers that actually rock the dance floor. Bartenders entertain you with great cocktails accompanied by excellent flaring. So stay hooked! “I just love the two-tiered hangout and the place seems to be loved by groups of women. It is cosy and comfortable,” says fashion designer Agnimitra Paul.
Safety factor: You’re safe at Soho.
Male eye candy potential: Sometimes
Best cocktail: Mojito, 4th of July
Best straight drink: Vodka
Best dish: Jalapeno cheesemelt
It’s worth it
Olypub: The right place to party if you are worried about your peg size since the waiter measures it right in front of you.
From college-going women to women who want to take their colleagues out for a drink, you can spot them letting their hair down at any time of the day. You can’t dance or listen to loud music here, but for spending great buddy time mingled with awesome food and inexpensive liquor, Olypub on Park Street is your best bet. If you are laughing loudly or cracking a joke you wouldn’t share with the boys, don’t worry. Nobody minds if you’re a little loud or tipsy at Olypub. It’s a great budget hangout for women. But be prepared for chipped cutlery, slow service and a noisy ambience.
Safety factor: You’re very safe at Olypub
Male eye candy potential: Hardly any
Best straight drink: Vodka, beer, whisky
Best dish: Beefsteak, grilled fish
- From HT Brunch, May 8
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