Step into the dimly-lit world of India’s old smuggling dens at this brand new retro-themed cocktail bar. Bandra Bhai is hidden beneath a concealed staircase at the back of Fitzrovia’s new Pali Hill restaurant, inviting you to explore the secrets of India’s 1970s era. Decked with red velvet chairs, golden lamps, leopard-print pillows, lifesized peacocks and retro wallpaper, the bar’s basement interiors emulate the luxurious, secretive vibes derived from India’s infamous underground operations.
The space is a tribute to a time when India’s economy was closed, driving the emergence of a black market and a ring of ‘smugglers’ that dealt illicit goods such as exotic malt whisky, gold watches, and even Japanese televisions. To cover up these secret dealings, the smuggler’s dens were often disguised as other places of business, like photo studios or sexologist clinics.
But rest assured you won’t run into people trying to “solve your marriage problems” at Bandra Bhai. The stars of the show here are definitely the cocktails: A menu of classic and contemporary mixtures with an Indian twist offer something for every taste. The ‘Rajdoot’, a vodka martini inspired by the traditional Bond-esque ‘Vesper’ cocktail, is infused with a touch of Indian spice in the form of cassia bark, samphire, and sage with a touch of elderflower.
If you’ve skipped dinner at the Pali Hill restaurant upstairs, a selection of Indian small plates and bar snacks will keep you happy. Try their Old Delhi Chicken Tikka, Hara Kebab, Mangalore Buns & Crab Sukkah or the Grilled Lamb Cutlets.
If you’re looking for dark underground vibes with a bit of kitsch and bespoke cocktails, definitely give this bar a try!