Nightclubs: Addas of fun and food, music and art

first_img“Where do they go, the lovelies, where do they go? ” Once upon a time, they began their evenings at single-cuisine restaurants, moved on to strobe flashes and claustrophobic bars of discotheques in megastar hotels, and wrapped up at dawn in sleepy hotel coffee shops. Not anymore. Now, if you,”Where do they go, the lovelies, where do they go? ” Once upon a time, they began their evenings at single-cuisine restaurants, moved on to strobe flashes and claustrophobic bars of discotheques in megastar hotels, and wrapped up at dawn in sleepy hotel coffee shops. Not anymore.Now, if you wish to karaoke or have your own birthday rock show at a night spot, listen to Dom Moraes spout poetry at a lounge or feast on an art exhibition at a restaurant, you actually can. A range of neoteric hotspots combining a rash of activities has taken over the one-dimensional disco domain: stand-alone, niche restaurants with bars and lounges like Mumbai’s Indigo and Athena, quaint joints like Chennai’s Korea House and Akasaka, spacious cafes like Delhi’s Turtle and Fab, theme pubs like Bangalore’s Urban Edge and Sparks, even sports bars like Kolkata’s Winning Streak.Gayatri Kachru Aspiring actress and studentIt’s Latino night at Twisters, a two-month-old south Delhi pub, and salsa lessons are on. The buzz is palpable; standing room, only just. And if you are wondering about the yellow ceiling, blue walls and traditional paintings, you can go and down another drink.Here, you can afford to, unlike at the five-star hotels. At Rs 350 for a beer, it’s much easier on the purse than the Rs 550 at star bars. Traditionally, five stars have always been identified with prices that tax the wallet: Oberoi Mumbai’s Frangipani is 20-25 per cent more expensive than south Asian wok speciality restaurant, Sidewok.Luxury hotels blame it on tax. The tax on food in hotels is 33 per cent while in independent restaurants it’s only 15.3 per cent; the tax on alcohol is 36-37 per cent against 23 per cent in restaurants. “We are popular because we offer five-star facilities at cheaper prices,” says Twisters’ S.S. Gill. Leaning back in a leather chair, NRI engineer Navesh Khandelwal voices the preferred partying flavour of the 20 and 30-somethings who have outgrown head-banging: “It’s more chilled here, more relaxed.”advertisementMumbai: music and art find new breeding grounds with karaokeChilled translates into happening, as in organising innovative events, and the megapolises are competing with a vengeance. The usp for the multicuisine restaurant Stop At Sam’s is “Chennai’s most surprising restaurant”. It is. There are talk sessions and workshops with city celebrities, and walls often double up as art gallery. Says Gunit Singla who owns the RA Puram cafe with husband Samir: “Last year, we held 14 special nights, including a Friday the 13th spooky night, and a Thanksgiving night with tandoori turkey on the menu.” Another new Chennai joint, Artz, has jumped onto the art bandwagon and welcomes amateur and professional artists to display their works. Mumbai’s Olive Bar & Kitchen took to the event trend when it opened its Mediterranean doors nearly a year ago. “We are trying to push the boundaries of who we are, moving beyond being restaurants to becoming neighbourhood addas,” says A.D. Singh, one of the five owners of this restaurant-cum-bar. Music and art are among the creative founts that spout fun at The Art Club vents organised by Art Works with support from Olive. This, when blindfolded restaurant regulars aren’t soiling their hands at pottery dos. Preity Zinta and Hrithik Roshan, who live in the neighbourhood, are known to drop by occasionally, though they haven’t taken up painting. Yet.Mumbai: poetry reading at Athena and wine appreciation at OliveBut does this brouhaha translate into better sales? Not directly, explains Singh. “Most of our events are during off hours, during afternoons or early evenings. We hope these cultural events will help cultivate long-term customers.” So wine appreciation workshops and poetry readings do a good job of keeping the culturally inclined entertained at Chateau Indage’s Athena, another new destination in south Mumbai. Managed by Moshe Shek and Vikrant Chougule, Athena isn’t about the gentle buzz of a restaurant, the vibrancy of a bar or the serenity of a lounge. It’s all three coming together in10.000sqft.Delhi’s DV8 pub – the legendary Cellars redone – with its old-fashioned interiors hosts fashion shows, media nights, live music – retro, jazz – and even Formula 2 race days. Plush leather chairs, bookcases with yellowing books, subtle lighting all add up to cosy comfort. At Fab Cafe, also in Delhi, theme nights like the Roopa Gulati show, book readings and jazz nights are standard fare. “The concept of ‘cool’ is changing. We fit into the new concept,” says Manager Ruchi Tandon. The new concept? “Calm, stimulating atmosphere”, rather than the “rock till you drop” partying ‘n’ boozing earlier.Vidhi Bhartia, Kate Bharucha Students”The number of people at discos has definitely dropped in the past few years,” says Rajiv Joshi, marketing manager, Razz berry Rhinoceros, one of Mumbai’s oldest suburban discos best known for introducing the afternoon disco concept. “One of the main Reasons for this is the many new forms of entertainment, besides new places like theme restaurants and lounge bars-cum-restaurants like Athena. The saving grace is teenagers who still love partying here.”The idea is that after dinner you don’t have to go hunting for a nightclub or pay high cover charges to sup on music and ambience. So Mumbai restaurants like the Sidewok and European Asian Indigo are fashioning themselves as “party destinations” and providing “lifestyle experiences”, not simply being places to eat out. Indigo, with a tea-garden bungalow feel, has candle-lit lounges, a bar and an eating space spread over two floors. Athena’s strategy is to lure sports and filmstars, besides socialites and industrialists, the staple fare at any popular Mumbai nightspot. Its club fees seems to have been fixed with the caviar circuit in mind. At Rs 65,000 per annum for the most exclusive membership, it might seem steep, but the 50 memberships on offer sold out even before the official opening, claims the management. Members paid for conveniences difficult to come by: guaranteed bookings, free entry for guests and access to exclusive lounges.advertisementCuisinista Rashmi Uday Singh views this nocturnal shift from dingy discos to more eclectic options as the beginning of a new trend. The success of these modern rendezvous owes itself to the insatiable “new Indian who wants Manhattan, Paris and London experiences in his own land”. Higher disposable incomes, exposure to TV, the Internet and increased travelling have created this new genre of Indian-born international desis.In fact, restaurateurs like the Mumbai-based Doshi family have even sought inspiration from the joints they visit during foreign sojourns. And after their New York eatery shut down, an Indian equivalent was dreamt of. Now, there are three. Karma, a casual Italian eating place and watering hole, opened three months ago. Above it is Bellisima, a fine dining restaurant with new world cuisine. Next to it is the Polynesian flavoured Liquid Lounge with a 30-ft bar serving cocktails, and a live band playing four to five times a week.This burgeoning of modernistic hangouts like lounge bars, restau-rant-cum-bars, coffee joints, karaoke nightspots, bowling alleys-cum-bars, event-centric pubs and offbeat cafes has completely altered the nightlife profile in cities. Take Delhi. Once thought to be dull and dorky, it is fast metamorphosing into a city of pubs, corner cafes and restobars. Panache replaces Punj, and five-star discos are becoming passe, while the existing hangouts are reinventing in a bid to survive.Surprise is of essence at restaurants like Stop At Sams (top) which holds talk sessions, even as coffee bars like Qwikys hold live band performancesWhen Club Zeros in GK-II opened in 1999, it was an uninspiring restaurant serving Indian and Chinese food. In December 2000, it was redesigned into a restobar. Manager Ka-mal Sud claims it is the first such club in GK-II. “We had to redefine ourselves in the face of fresh competition,” he says. “We realised that people come in not just for food, but large helpings of fun too.” Further down the same block, Snob, a four-year-old restaurant, shed its penchant for grub to transform into a pub a year ago. Says Delhi student Priya: “The service might not compare with the best hotels but, hey, it’s different, it’s fun.”Despite bouncers at the entrance in most such pubs, there’s no entrance fee. We2 at GK-I, a pub with a central bar area and big glass panes, has a definite international touch. Goan musician Nelson Furta-don, his flowing moustache twitching, prefers playing at the new trendy places because he finds them livelier. “Hotels are for people like my parents,” he says. Variety is the bon mot. Buzz, a new restobar at Saket in Delhi, with a mul-ticuisine menu and a brimming cocktail list, is part of a gastronomic subculture spawned by the PVR cineplex that also includes a branch of Qwikys, McDonald’s, Pizza Express and Barista in the same compound.Harish SamthaniFormer rally driver and party animalBig-city nightlife seems to have reached the second stage of evolution. This stage is spelt out succinctly by Nikhil Chaturvedi, managing director, Provogue: it is the plane at which the ultimate party dream progresses from shouting above the din of a cramped disco to a craving to hear and be heard in a more innovative partyscape. So, moving from the regular disco option of Gatsby at Park Sheraton in Chen-nai, you have beach discos like teenage haunt EC41 on the East Coast Road, mushrooming on the road to Maha-balipuram and flying in DJs from Delhi, Mumbai, even Goa.”Music is one thing,” says Harish Samthani, socialite and a theme-party organiser, “but more than that it’s the ambience … the open sky and beach which a closed disco cannot offer.” Add “beach” to “parties” and “discos” and you have the hottest Chennai partying trend. Throw in speciality restaurants like the Thai Benjurong, Japanese and Korean joints, discos like the two-year-old Hell Freezes Over – which has about 300 visitors every night and is the first night club in Chennai to introduce an all-woman disco – coffee bars like Qwiky’s that have live bands performing on weekends, and you have the new Chennai outing scene.Chennai party animals, however, claim the city could raise its cool quotient further were it not for stringent liquor laws. Neigbouring Bangalore too nurses this grievance. Bars and pubs here are supposed to close by 11 p.m. but it hasn’t stopped India’s Silicon Valley from being a pub-crawler’s haven: there are 125 pubs and 1,353 bars and restaurants here. The city’s latest attraction is 180 Proof. Once a Gothic confection of high ceiling, arches and tiled roof, it is now a five-level pub with a DJ and Thai dinner. Its old-world charm combines a hi-tech flavour symbolic of the neoteric spirit – laidback ease and 21st century modernism.Six years ago in Kolkata, nightlife meant private parties or a choice of three discos – Incognito, Someplace Else and the Anticlock, all in hotels – but the discos now are wisening up to change. Winning Streak, the city’s first sports bar, is Anticlock in a new avatar.A bar-cum-hangout joint for the 30-35-year-old set, it has sports memorabilia as decor, a mini putting z one, a video arcade and plans for mini basketball and football courts. “Business was stagnating at the Anticlock,” admits proprietor Bunty Sethi. “You need a whole new set of changes if you want to bring in a new crowd.” The managers at The Park Hotel agree. Its two-year-old disco Tantra has introduced global flavors – quieter cigar and malt bars within discos.advertisementVikram Bawa, Maushumi UdeshiPhotographer/ModelThe new options aren’t just for Page 3 socialites; the world cuisine fad and oodles of “we are more than just about food” attitude is seeping into smaller restaurants too. Rewind, a small eatery in Mumbai, is jazzed up often with live music performances. Starters & More that started out as a restaurant is now set to bring in live music, karaoke on two nights, telecast of Formula 1 racing on a big screen, live performances by Sony Music artists and even panja (fist) fights.Notwithstanding the newfangled party temples and their drumbeating about being different, there are people like Prakash Khubchandani of Popcorn Entertainment, Mumbai, who says, “Everyone likes change, but these are passing fads.”Achala Sachdev, choreographer, thinks Indian nightlife could do with further evolution. “It is true we have gone beyond pubs and dingy discos,” she says, “but the third stage has not been reached where you have speciality bars like reggae or jazz bars abroad or stand-up comedy acts at both restaurants and bars.”Bangalore: A pub-crawler’s haven, the Silicon city’s joints are veering towards variety by holding fashion shows at pubs like the Urban EdgeFood critics and entertainment industry experts, meanwhile, believe that the staying power of such joints will not depend on the “fluff” – snazzy events or Page 3 appearances – but the quality of food and beverages, and consistent output.Another development that could heat up competition among the new watering holes is the five-star hotels restaurants and lounges waking up to the poaching of their clientele. So they are focusing on innovation in services, cuisine and dcor.The President, Mumbai, has recently opened Kaleidoscope restaurant, that promises to be easy on the pocket and offers comfort food, even as five-star discos are becoming more spacious or reinventing completely. After 23 years, Delhi’s oldest surviving cult discotheque, Ghungroo at the Maurya Sheraton, has decided to close down. “The new Ghungroo,” according to Sheraton General Manager Gautam Anand, “will be spacious and versatile, literally and metaphorically, and ready by December 2001.” It will be open for lunch, dinner and snacks, not just evening events.”And the lovelies, he knows, will come.”- with Supriya Bezbaruah, Methil Renuka, Anshul Avijit, Arun Ram, Kavitha Muralidharan, Stephen David and Labonita Ghoshlast_img

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