Beneath the streets of Fitzrovia, step into a retro Indian smugglers den which has a gorgeous new cocktail list. Full of spectacular trinkets, foreign liquor, gaudy art, and velvet upholstery, Bandra Bhai is a tribute to underground operations of years gone by and is now your delightfully tacky, dimly lit, groovy basement spot serving great cocktails in London.
Bandra was once an old, predominantly catholic fishing village in Bombay, now a thriving urban neighbourhood. Bhai is translated as a brother in Hindi, also street slang for gangster. Until the early 90s, India was a closed economy. Limited items were available to buy and imported goods were scarce. This created a thriving black market and a ring of “smugglers” who could get you everything from exotic malt whisky, gold watches or Japanese televisions to all kinds of other illicit stuff, if you knew how to get to them. Often there were fronts for these dodgy dealings, sometimes posing as a photo studio or even sexologists. Every Friday and Saturday night there is also some live music to go with these next level cocktails.
The new cocktail menu
Bandra Bhai serves a selection of cocktails inspired by India, created to compliment the food served in Pahli Hill. Cocktails are designed by mixologist Martin Zemanovic (previously at Oblix, The Shard) who has used a variety of flavours, techniques and even some smoke. Martin is a talented mixologist with an appreciation for flavour and balance.
Cocktails include: Mango (Desi Daru mango vodka, lime, alphonso mango, yoghurt); Sweet Corn (Macallan 12, sweet corn, Cocchi Americano); Pistachio (El Rayo tequila, pistachio, citrus, maraschino cherry); Blood Orange (Pensador mezcal, blood orange, verjus, grapefruit) and our personal favourite, Date (BB whisky blend, date, smoke). Martin and the team have chosen some great ingredients for these cocktails with some quality liquids including Konik’s Tail vodka and Tidal rum.
Non alcoholic options are also available including Saffron (Everleaf Forest, apple, saffron, tonic) and Matcha (Mint, citrus, matcha, salt).
What about the food?
The bar snack menu features a selection of items which complement the drinks. Dishes include Spiced Papari (Chickpea flour, chilli and Ajwain); Chilli Paneer; Mangalore Bun & Crab Sukkha (Fennel seeds, crushed chilli & ginger); Barbecued Hampshire Spare Ribs (Sticky jaggery, cloves, black pepper & guntoor chilli) and Grilled Lamb Cutlets (Black pepper, cumin, crispy curry leaves & mint raita).
Bandra Bhai is located below Pahli Hill restaurant which offers regional Indian plates, brought straight from the home kitchens of Mumbai. The menu brings together the regional flavours of Mumbai’s vast culinary communities and ingredients sourced from local and high-quality suppliers, combining chef Avi Shashidhara’s classical training and inspiration from his upbringing in Bangalore, for dishes that are warming and packed full of flavour with surprising details. In March 2023, Avi appeared on BBC2’s Great British Menu becoming a finalist and winning the starter course at the final banquet. His papri chaat with roast pumpkin, chutney, pomegranate and beetroot really stole the show and is available in the restaurant.
To discover more, visit: pahlihillbandrabhai.com
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All imagery courtesy of Pahli Hill / Lateef Photography.