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28.07.2016

Following a lightning west Delhi campaign, BarShala, with its super-cheap drinks and upgraded-dive aesthetic, has moved its frontlines closer south, opening in quick succession in Paharganj and East of Kailash in the last couple of weeks. The speed must be to make room for all the people here: a full house and the sheer volume of conversation gives even a quiet weeknight in this community market the sense of weekend frenzy.

Love Thy Bro

The place looks as if the creative lead from Happily Unmarried contemplated tying the knot but took (the night) off with his best man instead. Brightly painted chairs meet solid wood benches, exposed bulbs, and mouthy prints in reciprocal back-thumping fraternity.

BarShala takes its unpretentiousness real serious-like, even ditching split ACs to hark back to the simpler times of the undressed window and Haldiram’s namkeen for dinner. Bachelor padding?

Theka Break

BarShala bridges the gap between sit-down drinking and the theka just around the back of the market, complete with a pay-before-you-drink policy and a 3ft by 3ft smokers’ cabin for the determined huffer. The bar clearly means business, although it would do a lot better if it actually stocked everything on their drinks menu.

After being told Smirnoff and Antiquity Blue are out of stock, we settle down to nurse our grudge (no orange juice to sweeten the deal, either) with a quart of Blender’s Pride and another of Magic Moments. Ice and soda take a while to arrive, though the fish fingers we order practically swim out in oily deep-fried glory immediately.

With what you save on the bills here, it’s impossible not to feel goodwill for the kitchens and the cashier alike, though. The food maintains strict bro-code; there’s nothing to startle you, whether it’s the dhaba-standard pyaaz-with-green chutney or Limca served directly in Pet bottles. The surprise is that some of it actually tastes good. Their hariyali kebab is served hot, fresh and perfectly spiced, if you can hold the waiter’s attention long enough to order it. Those who like their chicken with a bite would do better to order the nakli chicken than the chicken chaat.

Family Rooms

In spite of the demographic they’re catering to, BarShala is surprisingly women-friendly. Neighbourhood bachelors are watched closely by the friendly staff and bouncers, who readily helped us find corner seating and kept a watchful eye.

The worst thing to happen on this evening was a 20-minute long power outage with no back-up. We are readier to excuse them on being told they’ve been open only five days. Still, we don’t entirely regret the fact that we were a bit too buzzed as the evening progressed to assess the bathroom with a truly critical eye.

If you’re the sort of drinker who longs for a MyBar in every neighbourhood, BarShala might just be the dive you need (and deserve). With its price point, vigilant bouncers and general air of bro-homie, it captures the vibe of a certain sort of Delhi bar perfectly -- and it might soon be in your quiet, non-bro neighbourhood.

Getting there: BarShala, 2, Community Centre, East of Kailash, opposite Sapna cinema complex and next to McDonald’s. A meal for two with two rounds of drinks costs approximately Rs 1,000, only cash payments accepted.

Accessibility: Level 1 is located on the ground floor and has easy access, but there’s no lift to the first floor. PS. Watch out for the wire mesh next to the staircase as you exit—it’ll readily slice off the (finger)tips you just dropped.

bpb reviews anonymously and pays for its own meals.

This review was contributed by Bhuvi Gupta, a publishing manager for a tech startup by day and jewellery designer by night. She loves winding city streets, the smell of rain, Wong Kar Wai and cats.

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