Sunday, April 01, 2007

"Cheers"

If you're looking for a cheap-daaru night with a bunch of old friends in Bombay, I have two words for you - Shetty bar!

In my mind, I classify drinking places by how no-nonsense they can get. So on the one hand, there's the "ambience places" that you drop in to listen to decent music and share space with a upmarketish crowd, all the while paying upwards of 250-300 bucks for 60 ml (reportedly) of alcohol. At the other end of the scale would be places like the notorious Standing Bars of Goa. I was only recently educated about these places... so no-nonsense that the patrons (usually daily-wage labourers) only stop by for a quick shot of the local brew. You expect neither food nor conversation and - on an average - end up spending less than 5 minutes there (hey, there's wife-beating to be done, remember?).

A Shetty bar sits comfortably in between these two extremes. Let me explain with this weekend's experience at Two Star, Kalina. The place is obviously quite popular among the locals, cause even at 8:30 we cannot get a table to ourselves in the AC section. But that, you'll quickly learn, is not a problem in a Shetty bar! The smiling waiter leads us to a table where there's this one sombre-looking guy sitting by himself and tells us to sit down. We're caught a little off-guard, but are chastised ("saab, Saturday night hai!") and then reassured ("arre, woh sirf ek-peg-wallah hai"). We aren't expected to chat our new friend up... hell, we even get our own snack bowls... no need to share! But fortunately, the table next to us is paying up. The three men there are well and truly in their cups! As they get up to leave, one of them looks at me very cross-eyed, shakes his head and offering what I'm sure he thinks is a smile says "Good night, saar". I can't help beaming back and saying "Good night".

Now we have our own table. In a Shetty bar, you are not restricted to ordering your alcohol by the peg. You can get your very own quarter... even a whole bottle if you're really in the mood. One of the hallmarks of a Shetty bar: the chakna flows like nobody's business - chakli, potato wafers and of course salted peanuts. The service is excellent even on a visibly busy day, with your waiter only a holler away. The food menu is ample as is the quantity of each dish. You stuff your face with appetizers, never failing to order the very Shetty Chicken 65 - a fusion Chinese starter with a South Indian touch. There's also usually a house favourite. Like the Cheese Masala - blobs of processed cheese in your all-purpose moghulai gravy - at Janata (I'm not sure if it's Shetty-run, but it sure is built along similar lines).

There's also usually some drunken excitement to be had. Last night, for instance, there was the bizarre site of this 11 or 12 yr old boy drinking beer with his 30-something friend. They were the topic of conversation at at least one table other than ours. After a while, this one drunk guy walks over and takes a seat at the kid's table to have a word with the man... and an argument breaks out! We secretly rejoice and watch with glee. A few fuck-offs and MCs later, the waiters wade in and break it up.

By the end of the evening you've had about 5 drinks, run through a yard of chicken and watched a good old-fashioned scrap... all for about the price of a couple of drinks at one of them fancy places. And that's why I raise my glass to Alpha and Anil Lunch Home, Two Star and Niranjan! More power to the Shetties! *clink*

1 comment:

~ Ms. Cute Pants ~ said...

TWO STAR, Kalina....it took me a while to realize Hey I know Two Star...the place I've walked by so many times growing up. It's nice to know someone from my old neighbourhood is blogging too!