Bar Review: The Bar Stock Exchange, Bandra

TBSE_BandraIt may have always been packed but we were never fans of The Big Bang Bar and Cafe. To us, the only thing the place had going for it was its considerable space, which was squandered in a vanilla venue with a generic multi-cuisine food menu and an ambiance akin to a pub but with music more suited to a nightclub. When we heard that the owners were going to convert it into another branch of their popular chain The Bar Stock Exchange, we, for one, were looking forward to the change.

For unlike The Big Bang Bar and Cafe, The Bar Stock Exchange is among the city’s most unique theme bars where, as you probably know, the prices of the alcohol vary according to supply and demand. Unlike the real share market however, the rates are always kept within an affordable range. While you don’t need to break the bank to visit, a head for numbers does come in handy. So popular is this fourth branch that when we went by last weekend seeking a table for just two at around 9.30pm, we were told our position in the queue was 36. Half an hour into our stay, we had progressed to number 28 in the line and on our way out at about 11pm we had inched only to number 16.

It’s easy to understand why The Bar Stock Exchange is such a big hit. This really is one of the most pocket-friendly pubs in town. When it opens, prices range from as low as Rs19 for a peg of Old Monk and go up to a high of Rs792 for a pour of 18-year-old Glenfiddich whisky. Even when the spot was packed at 10pm, the rum was a thrifty Rs90, cheaper than what it’s tagged at in similar establishments. We were also very pleasantly surprised to find Gateway Brewing Co.’s White Zen beer available on tap for as low as Rs125 at the start of business (we paid Rs134 for our glass). And though you don’t really come to a joint like this for the cocktails we were also happy to note that they do a slightly spicy Bloody Mary, for which we shelled out a mere Rs251.

Perhaps the prospect of such sweet deals makes both patrons and waiters a little more patient. We spent our evening by the bar in the al fresco section and while orders came thick and fast, neither customer or bartender lost their cool even when a few folks took their time to make some mental calculations, like the girl and guy next to us who debated between two kinds of whisky before settling on a Smirnoff. The only area we felt the staff were over-eager was in the swiftness with which they cleared food plates that still had a few morsels left on them.

Though we’ve always preferred The Bar Stock Exchange to The Big Bang Bar and Cafe, when we visited the flagship outpost of the former in Andheri East in December 2014, we found the grub as forgettable as it was at The Big Bang. However in January this year, the chain hired chef Kshama Prabhu, who has done stints at The Tasting Room cafe and The White Owl microbrewery, to oversee their menu. Her additions include the 2am Cheese Pav (Rs150), a poshed-up version on the streetside masala pav, which achieved a good balance between the cheese and spice. We also tried the poutine mushroom melt (Rs180), a well-portioned and flavoured baking tray full of French fries, cheese and brown mushroom sauce.

Like the food and the simply but tastefully decorated black and glass decor, the music was agreeable if not particularly unique. They were playing remixes to be sure, but both the tempo and the volume of the noughties alternative rock and current pop hits playlist was at a level that enabled conversation. If only they took reservations.

Prices exclude taxes.

This review was conducted anonymously. It is our policy to review to wait at least a week after an establishment opens before reviewing it.

The Bar Stock Exchange, Third Floor, Kenilworth Mall, in the same building as KFC and Bonobo, off Linking Road, Bandra (West). Tel: 022 2600 8833. Open daily, from 6pm to 1.30am. Get directions here.

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