Bar Review: Todi Mill Social, Lower Parel
It’s nearly five times the size of the Colaba outpost – 7,000 square feet as opposed to 1,500 square feet – yet the Lower Parel branch of Social is just as cacophonous. In other words, it’s just as big a hit with the city’s tipplers. Each of its 225 seats were occupied when we went by at the relatively early time of 8pm on a weekday, and had to wait almost half an hour for a table for two. Here, you can’t even blame the kids for the noise. There were many under-25s but also an equal amount of office folk, none of whom were using the place as a co-working space at this hour (the place officially turns into a bar at 6pm). We doubt they could have got any work done anyway given the pounding drum and bass blaring over the speakers
As aurally cluttered as it may be, thanks to the additional space Todi Mill Social is not as claustrophobic as its Colaba counterpart, if you manage to get a table and aren’t standing by the bar. Once seated, you’ll be able to take in the industrial aesthetic created by interior decorators Studio Eight Twentythree, the kind so beloved by The Busride design studio, which did up the Church Street Social in Bangalore. Studio Eight Twentythree have resisted the urge to adorn each surface of the former loom mill, choosing instead to stick to such tried and tested decorative features like barbed wire fencing, and exposed brick and air-conditioning ducts. The look reminded us in part of a penitentiary, also because some of the service staff are clad in orange overalls. The few flourishes are in the form of vintage furniture – we sat in a cane office chair but glanced enviously at our neighbours’ comfy tub seats.
The outcome is a workable grungy vibe so we couldn’t understand why the presentation of some of the drinks is so poncey. The Lantern (Rs380), a commendably compatible blend of bourbon and smoked orange marmalade, is meant to be sipped through a straw emerging from an actual lantern in which the glass is placed. More ridiculous is The Schizophrenia (Rs380), in which the glass is fitted on to the base behind a slanted mirror with a hole near the top for the straw to pass through. The idea is for you to see yourself as you sip, said our waiter leaving us somewhat perplexed as to the connection between the cocktail and the mental disorder. A lavender-scented agarbatti stands near the drink, which is garnished with an orchid. The smoke from the incense stick presumably flavours the mix of Absolut Kurant vodka and sweet and sour. Alas the theatre of it all could not mask the unpalatable sweetness of this flavour combination, which was matched in its intensity by the Negroni (gin, vermoth and Campari, Rs400), which had a bitterness to rival the most vile cough syrup.
We tried these tipples because they are among the handful of additions to the cocktail menu, which include the U. S. Mule (Rs280), a tweak of the Earl of Grey offered at the Colaba Social, which is made with smoked gin, tea and Tang. The addition of green apple makes only the slightest difference to the concoction but at least it doesn’t ruin it. Our food order too had both hits and misses. The Croquettish (Rs160), deep-fried cylinders of cheese, potato and corn, proved that it’s hard to go wrong with the union of these ingredients. The Cheese Masala Pao (Rs160), on the other hand, had loads of spice but not enough cheese for that much bread. The bigger letdown was the full-of-promise Pork Belly Pops (Rs250) in which the bite-sized, curry leaf powder-coated pieces of meat were far too chewy. Of the new mains, the chicken gravy of the Kori Roti (Rs250) had a pleasing homemade savour. Allowing the waiter’s strong recommendation to overrule our reservations, we also ordered the Achari Basa (Rs270). The bland fish, of which they serve a generous portion, was so insipid that we enjoyed the side of sauteed strips of carrots and zucchini more.
The mixed results of our visit led us to the conclusion that the sprawling Mathuradas Mill Compound – clearly Mathuradas Mill Social doesn’t have the same ring to it as Todi Mill Social – has yet to house a bar that gets everything right. Though some of the resident establishments have started hosting gigs, Blue Frog, despite the recent dip in the quality of its programming, remains where we go for the music, not for a meal. Café Zoe, designed by The Busride, is still the best looking of the lot; you feel fancy just by being there. Social, if you stick to the tried and tested items (Anda Shammi Pao, Cheese Burger Salad), scores for pub grub that’s comforting for both the palate and the pocket. When really skint, Hoppipola is where you can chug a few on the cheap. We’ve yet to understand the appeal of The Barking Deer. While most of them have a couple of good house specials, none serves cocktails exceptional enough to be the main draw. As Todi Mill Social has shown us, there’s lots of space in the compound for more bars. We’re waiting for the one that beats them all.
Prices exclude taxes. This review was conducted anonymously.
Todi Mill Social, #242, near Viva Centre and Cafe Zoe, Mathuradas Mill Compound, Lower Parel. Tel: 022 6511 0361. Open daily, from 9am to 1am. Get directions here.
Corrections and clarifications The original version of this post stated that The Busride designed Todi Mill Social. The interiors are the work of Studio Eight Twentythree. The error has been corrected.