If you lived in India during the ’70s, and wanted to get hold of, say, a Japanese television or some malt whiskey, then you were bang out of luck. Those things were imports, and India was a closed economy.
Unnnnless you happened to know of a black market smugglers den, hidden behind a fake photo studio or one of the many ‘sexologist’ clinics (it was the ’70s).
This is what Bandra Bhai is – a slice of history plucked from India’s past, and nestled underneath a Fitzrovia restaurant. To find it, just head into Pali Hill restaurant and make your way down the staircase hidden at the back. It even has a poster for a sexologists clinic as you go down.
Inside, it has all the trappings of a louche smugglers den. It’s a vibrant mishmash of textures and patterns, with eclectic furnishings and tickets lining the shelves. The peacock standing in the corner (taxidermied) seems comfortably at home in the plush mixture of velvet & varnish, all surrounded by loud wallpaper in, as they describe it, a “delightfully tacky” bundle.
Images: Jenni Helin
But the drinks? There’s nothing mishmashes about them. They’re put together by one Dav Eames, who has spent the last decade as mixologist-in-chief for Marcus Wareing. And the rigorous culinary discipline he acquired there has gone a long way, as testified by his list of Indian-influenced classics here. His version of a Sidecar (Green for Gold) throws in some gunpowder green tea syrup. The whiskey laced Smokey Joe is served in vintage smoked glasses, found at an antique sale while the Dev himself was at a wedding. The Gabbar Singh Side-Hustle blends Cognac with pineapple, celery, almond, and lemon – ingredients that have no right whatsoever to work together. And yet, as you sip them through the cold metal straw protruding from the glass pineapple it’s all served in, you’ll be happy to be proven wrong.
The food is supplied by the chefs upstairs, and comes in the form of quick bar snacks, including a helping of delicately spiced crab sukkah, which you can stuff into a couple of pocketed Mangalore buns, or a plate of fragrant lamb cutlets served with crispy curry leaves and a cooling mint raita.
You’ll happily smuggle them out of the place in your stomach.
NOTE: Bandra Bhai is open now. You can find out more, and make a booking a their website right HERE.
Bandra Bhai | 79-81 Mortimer St, Fitzrovia, W1W 7SJ
Like Indian-inspired speakeasies below their counterpart restaurants? Check out SOMA.
The Nudge is an independent, searchable and highly-curated guide to the most interesting places to go and things to do in London, giving members unrestricted access to our full compendium of continually-updated restaurants, bars, events, exhibitions, date ideas, itineraries, member perks, weekend guides, monthly agendas and more – all delivered via our website, email newsletters & members’ app.
Join us to see what’s hot in London this week; to explore all of the recommendations & ideas stored within The Nudge’s website and members’ app; and to start making the most of life in London today. Start Free One Week Trial