We visit London’s newest speakeasy-cum-drinking-den, Bandra Bhai, hidden in the basement of Pali Hill restaurant in Fitzrovia, which is a hidden gem for contemporary cocktails. They kindly offered to let us sample the menu.
Recently opened in the basement of Pali Hill restaurant on London’s Mortimer Street, visitors would barely recognise that there is a new bar. The only hint of Bandra Bhai is when heading downstairs within the restaurant there is a red poster for a herbal sexologist clinic inspired by 1970s India, and a concrete door. Opening this door reveals the hidden glittering gem that is Bandra Bhai bar. Opulent and with its own taxidermy peacock in the corner, Bandra Bhai is themed around the old smuggling dens of troubled 1970s in India.
Cocktails were concocted by the owner, we were told by taking inspiration from classics and spices that were available to them at home. Whatever the creative process of designing the drinks, the results are anything but homemade.
From the cocktail menu, we recommend:
- Green for Gold (£12.50) – made with Opihr Gin, lime, gunpowder green tea syrup, the aromatics cardamom scent set this apart from anything we sipped before.
- Disco Inferno! (£14.50) – made with cardamom infused vodka, mango, chilli and lime, do not underestimate the flavour of this fruity favourite
- Spiced Jaggery Old Fashioned (£14.50) – made with, Woodford reserve, jaggery, char masala, aromatic bitters, this glittering interpretation of an old-fashioned was our top pick from the menu.
- Gaba Singh Side-Hustle (£16.50) – made with Cognac, pineapple, celery, almond, this cocktail is of course presented in a golden pineapple, be warned will give instant FOMO to anyone else in the bar who hasn’t ordered it.
Whilst the Pali Hill restaurant is upstairs with a full meal service, Bandra Bhai does provide a few bar snacks. Our top three are:
- Mangalor Buns and Crab Sukkah flavoured with fennel seeds, crushed chilli and garlic (£14) – fill the buns with as much Sukkah as you can, which is bursting with flavour and incredible moreish. Don’t be alarmed if you find yourself ordering more of the Mangalor buns.
- Old Delhi Chicken Tikka (£14), a simple and well executed choice that will be sure to fill you up and counter some of the intoxicating effects of the cocktails.
- Grilled lamb cutlets (£20), unusual as a bar snack but if you don’t mind risking a little mess, these cutlets served with a mint raita are a whole bar meal rather than a bar snack.
Readers may note that the cocktail prices are at a mid-to-higher price point, but we found this reflected their uniqueness and creativity, the compelling storyline of the smuggling den atmosphere, and the friendly and unpretentious service received. We really couldn’t find fault with anything, except that the peacock is yet without a name.
Given the intimate nature of Bandra Bhai, we recommend this bar for a date night to surprise and delight your partner, or as an alternative venue for a aperitif between 3 or 4 friends before dinner.
Location: 79-81 Mortimer Street, London, W1W 7SJ (Look for Pali Hill then head downstairs)
Bandra Bhai is open Wednesday – Sunday. For more information and to book, visit bandrabhai.co.uk.