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16.08.2017

A few years ago I ran into an old college acquaintance at Yacht Bar on Hill Road, Bandra, who saw me and said: “What’re you doing here? I generally see you at Toto’s, and could imagine running into you at Janata, but Yacht?!” I replied with a detailed account of my school lunches at the bar, indignantly establishing my position as a native. In the ‘80s and early ‘90s, when we were looking for a non-bakery lunch, my sisters and I would dive into Yacht and order half plates of mutton biryani. Often we ran into our PT teachers, each set bemused by the presence of the other amidst all that dinginess, but still perfectly at home.
 
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Standing across from St. Andrew’s Church on Hill Road, and just as much of a Bandra institution, until its recent shuttering, Yacht served signature That-meat-which-shall-not-be-named Chilly, alcohol by the bottle or glass, and stayed open from breakfast right through after-midnight. The only frills you’d find were in the curtains that fluttered from the grilled windows – a well-chosen brown that concealed reams of dust from decades of traffic.

No free chakna. No music. No A/C. But the maroon rexine sofas were comfortable and if you found yourself seated in the window section of the bar, you could even catch a glimpse of the tiny TV on one side, and St. Andrew’s famous wisdom in quotes on the other. (To avoid sunburn, use ‘son’screen.)
 
In an area that sees leisure spots spring up quicker than resident Salman Khan can say something stupid, Yacht was ageing quietly, and nor was it interested in a hair graft (well, until now). An academic friend recently found it mentioned in the 1933 edition of the Times of India Directory of Bombay (City and Presidency).

In an area that sees leisure spots spring up quicker than resident Salman Khan can say something stupid, Yacht was ageing quietly, and nor was it interested in a hair graft (well, until now).

I’m still too afraid to check out its new and sanitised ‘resto bar’ incarnation: What if it’s terribly comfortable? What if I like it?
 
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Over the years, the clientele at this ‘serious-drinkers’ bar’ changed. You had the morning crowd, made up of the burji- and kheema-pao eaters and longtime customers taking up their favourite spots for an early drink. Afternoons saw mixed business – college kids dropped by, as did the lunch crowd ordering their biryanis. Evenings loosened up with gangs of boys - college-goers, office-goers or pre-game party-goers. Women patrons were few and generally accompanied by men, among them nostalgia hunters or those looking for an alternative to almost completely gentrified Bandra hangouts. Foreigners dropped in, reflecting the suburb’s growing expat and tourist population.
 
On my last visit, an ex-navy captain proudly shared that he was the only gin-drinker at the bar and pointed to his plate of cheese triangles on toothpicks. “I’ll show you how to neatly divide them into 16 pieces”. I left the captain in his Yacht with a reaffirmed sense of belonging and the crazy, crazy belief that this place would never change.
 
Getting there: Hill Road, Next to Saint Andrews Church, Bandra West.

This story was contributed by Rehana Munir.

Image Credit: Motherland Magazine

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