When we heard that Purple Haze on Residency Road was shutting down, our first instinct was to anxiously check on all the 1990s bars of our acquaintance, establishments that were popular back when cocktails didn’t need mixologists and the best bar snack was the humble peanut masala.
Behind each of those glorious, beer-addled afternoons and rum-soaked evenings stand great men. To reassure ourselves that all is not lost, we went out to shake the hands of six of the most beloved barmen of Bangalore. If you drop in to one of their pubs tonight, blow them a kiss from us. If you don’t know these bars, or haven’t ever felt the need to enter their domains, welcome. You must be new here, but we know just the people you should meet.
Desmond Rice, Desmond's
Owner and MD at Hangover since its launch in 2015, you probably recognise Desmond Rice as the kindly, diminutive gentleman who greets you when you enter. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that Mr. Rice has been the gatekeeper of Bangalore’s nightlife since the 1970s. This writer’s father recalls a very amiable Desmond at the legendary Blue Fox on MG Road. “I started concentrating on food as a partner in Tycoons and carried that quality to Desmond’s on Lavelle Road.” In an industry with extremely high attrition rates, Desmond still works with several members from his original 1989 team, we discover. Over the years, he has served countless regulars and several celebrity diners, including the cast of A Passage to India. One chilled (EM)Forsters, please.
Hangover, 1080, 12th Main Road, Indiranagar.
Behind each of those glorious, beer-addled afternoons and rum-soaked evenings stand great men.
Elango, as he is fondly called, now 39 years old, started working at Pecos when he was just 16. “It was a great learning experience, both in terms of the industry and the music scene”. He reminisces about the time when a community of music lovers gathered at Pecos to listen to CCR, Grateful Dead and Steely Dan on cassette over a pint of beer costing Rs 7 each. After seven years at Pecos, Elango trained at Oberoi Hotel and returned to head the kitchen. Since leaving Pecos, his signature dishes, chilli beef fry and chicken curry dosa are now the star attractions at his four pubs across the city including Elango’s in Koramangala, Oliver’s in Whitefield and Regulars in Indiranagar. Elango rues the fact that pubs today don’t stand a chance at having a cult following because of online reviews and the constant mushrooming of new joints. But he’s happy to see places like Toit and Plan B do well, because at some point the owners were all regulars at Pecos. We’ll drink to that.
Elango’s, 64, 1st Main, 7th Block, Koramangala.
Dominic Savio, Tavern
It’s hard to miss Dominic Savio. Tall, burly and with his tresses flying behind him, he seems menacing enough to put an end to any bad behavior, until he breaks into a smile. Having started as a printing technologist with The Hindu, the sudden career change came from watching his brother-in-law create curious concoctions at home. Seventeen years ago Dominic made his first cocktail, Sex on the Beach, at Black Cadillac as an assistant bartender, while the rest of the crew was on a shift break. Seven SOTBs later, the nervous apprentice was confident enough to make this his fulltime job. Ever since, Dominic has worked at some of Bangalore’s most popular pubs including Hypnos, Cohiba Cigar Lounge and Tavern. Many Museum Inn regulars, including this writer, believe that the decline of the Tavern Era started when Dominic decided to move on. He currently works as the Executive Manager, F&B at Hangover. We ask Dominic what he does on his day off and he says, “I like to stay home with my daughters when I’m not working. I don’t drink, but I do like fixing drinks for others, especially for my father.” In the name of the holy spirit!
Hangover, 1080, 12th Main Road, Indiranagar.
AT Ishaar, Scottish Pub
Having worked at Scottish Pub for 19 years on St. Mark’s Road, AT Ishaar has been witness to the many changes in the city’s nightlife scape. One of the few places in Bangalore to have barely gone through a makeover, Scottish Pub remains a popular haunt for its cold draught and murky wine. In the last five years though, the stars of UB City and the trending microbreweries have slowed down business, but he gladly notes that regulars still come back even if it isn’t as often as before. Ishaar hopes to someday go back to his village in North Karnataka and leave behind his many drinking buddies. Good luck getting on the wagon!
17/21, Vasavi Complex, St. Mark’s Road.
Munawar Basha, Purple Haze
Basha’s long career behind the bar started at Cellars in 1996, after which he was the prized catch behind the bar at Black Cadillac. In the last few years as bar in-charge at Purple Haze, Basha has faced the tough challenge of sobering up “experimental youngsters”. “The government should enforce the 21 & above drinking age at pubs. Having a more mature drinking crowd is better for business and also safer for the staff.” Basha’s main skill as a bartender is his ability to connect with people, “because just flares and juggling belongs in the circus, not behind the bar”. His latest stint as a bartender will begin shortly at Friends Pub in CBD, and he signs off with a promise to create a cool list of beer cocktails, perfect for Bangalore’s bellies.
Friends Pub, opposite Ritz Carlton on Residency Road.
Thimmaraju, Dewar’s Wine Store
Sitting on an overturned crate outside Dewar’s Wine Store, Thimmaraju’s prompt car delivery service has cleared up many traffic pile-ups on St. Mark’s Road. In the last 15 years, Thimma has become indispensable to the little wine store on the corner, often handling issues with cops, and helping customers with added requests for cigarettes or food. As we stand talking to him, he receives a phone call with an order for a bouquet of assorted liquor, and in no time he brings out wrapped bottles and exact change. The drop is made without a hitch and as he heads back smiling, he coyly tells us that he has never had a bad experience with a costumer.
25, St. Mark’s Road.
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