A Fitzrovia based Indian restaurant Pahli Hill just opened its own bar Bandra Bhai specialising in cocktails and regional nibbles.
While Pahli Hill restaurant is all about dishes from regional cuisines of India Bandra Bhai, which is directly under the restaurant, is about cocktails with a twist all headed by mixologist Martin Zemanovic.
The bar’s décor takes inspiration from an Indian smugglers den. It’s a two room venue with gaudy art, plenty of velvet, various trinkets and a slightly bohemian style, all under dimmed lighting.
It’s delightfully ‘tacky’ and with its décor inspiration it provides an escape from the busy streets of Fitzrovia. with the cocktails named after edible things found in nature such as pistachio, saffron, mango, coffee, apple, to name a few.
We embarked our cocktail journey with Pistachio, which is probably my favorite. It’s a little bit like Margarita in style but less zingy on the tongue.
It comes in a coupe glass with salt sprinkles on one side of it. Just like its Mexican cousin it has tequila, El Rayo in this case, and citrus plus pistachio, which gives it a smooth and slightly nutty tone, and maraschino cherry for fruit aroma.
Continuing on the fruit theme, my guest ordered Mango, served over a single large ice cube. We made a mistake ordering it at the beginning, Mango being quite sweet it would go as a dessert or after meal drink much better.
When I saw Desi Daru mango vodka, lime, alphonso mango and yoghurt, I expected it to arrive milky in colour and a little milkshake like.
Instead it’s mango rich on the nose and tongue, pleasantly sweet with a very smooth finish and completely clear. It reminded me of mango lassi minus the clear colour.
Before moving on to more cocktail sampling, we also tried some nibbles as the bar menu borrows dishes from the upstairs. Chilli paneer was pleasingly smooth and creamy, a much needed feature since it was a little too spicy for me.
I cannot handle spice, unlike my guest who rated it ‘mellow’ on the spice rating. We also sampled tandoori sourdough roti with chilli and herb rub and chicken tikka.
All were well made and fresh with plenty of flavour, justifying Pahli Hill’s mention in the Michelin Guide 2022. Sadly, all were also too spicy for me to handle as I completely lack tolerance for Indian spice.
Unlike my guest who happily kept on grabbing the bites as they passed by. With my mouth burning it was time for a new cocktail. Apple for my guest and Sweet Corn for me.
Apple is a gin based cocktail, topped with granny smith apple, saffron and champagne and served in a champagne glass, which confused the waiter as he was about to give the drink to me and not my plus one who was a male.
We had a little laugh about it before trying the Apple. The colour is stand out; it’s bright, almost neon, clear yellow green. It comes pleasantly chilled and quite crisp and fruity.
My Sweet Corn is slightly more masculine in presentation, like the Mango it comes in a conical shaped old fashioned tumbler with a striking blue line on the inside. The drink is also served over a single large ice cube.
Sweet Corn is a Macallan 12 based cocktail with sweet corn and Cocchi Americano. It’s sweet, but not as dessert like as Mango, with Macallan giving that oak and spice notes.
With the cocktails list so good we couldn’t resist one more, which was Coffee for me. I was tempted by the banana mention in the menu and Date for my guest.
The Date comes presented under a little glass dome to keep the smoke plus BB whisky blend and date in the glass proving rather presentable when the glass cloche is removed. Taste wise it’s a bit like old fashioned, but with a woody presence.
My Coffee features Konik’s tail vodka, coffee liquor and burnt banana. It’s a twist on the classic espresso martini with a barely noticeable banana touch, it’s there but it’s extremely light.
The verdict is Bandra Bhai’s cocktail list maybe short consisting of only ten alcoholic and three non alcoholic cocktails but it’s strong and mighty, which we felt as we got up from our plushy seating. Each cocktail is different and bound to please even the picky noses and is craftily designed in an intimate bar setting.
Bandra Bhai, 79-81 Mortimer St, London W1W 7SJ