The Monkey Bar somersaulted its way into Mumbai via its successful branches in Delhi and Bengaluru and has had the chatterati going bananas about it for some time now. If you haven't been there yet (what WERE you doing all this time?), you should. And even if you've already been there, checked it out and marked your territory, here's why you'll be jumping up and down for more...
1. Monkey see, monkey do
Each time you come to this cheery space with a chilled out vibe, you'll see something new and fun. The décor is so upbeat, with colourful chairs, chalk drawings and quirky geegaws, that you'll find yourself monkeying around in no time. The music too is an eclectic mix of 80s and 90s faves and today's hits... perfect to pep up patrons of all ages. And all those Bambaiyya bandars that you'll keep discovering as you go along? They're as much fun as, well, a barrel of monkeys!
2. Bandar bahar
The andar is great, but the outdoor section is where the cool kids go. It's especially pleasant when it's raining outside. Here the mood is so mad that you might just find yourself climbing the wall! And... wait for it... this is where you'll find the Foosball table too. Go get your F.R.I.E.N.D.S and make it a match. If Marcel, the capuchin monkey, joins in the fun, we're sure the management will be welcoming.
3. Macaque it large
So, it's a bar. You want to have a drink. But let us warn you... you'll also be entertained. Very entertained. The names of the eight MoBar specials are so cheeky, you won't be able to resist a toothy grin while ordering. We tried the Shazia Imli, named after a certain Delhi mediaperson/politician/activist, and the tamarind-based cocktail with rum and chilli paste was as lively as her antics. If you're an elder in the pack, especially if you are a Mad Men fan, you will certainly go for the Don Draper, with Ballantine's finest, melded with sugarcane, clove and bitters. Or a Copper Monkey, which is all about 100 Pipers whisky, passion fruit, mint and lime. The Mangaa, from the Bengaluru branch, is your typical sweet and sour aam panna with a twist of vodka.
The GT & Karnal, reminiscent of the Grand Trunk Road, is an import from the Delhi MoBar, a gin and tonic with fennel and cucumber for extra zing. Another gin drink that dances your way delightfully is the Ginger Rogers, flavoured with ginger ale and peach. And a cocktail that really goes viral every evening is the MMS - Monkey Masala Soda - that's spiked with vodka and kaffir lime. Of course, there has to be a Bombay drink and we love everything about it. The name of course... Saat Rasta (Trip to Arthur Road). Then there's the power-packed ingredients that pack a punch that the toughest gorilla-like goon behind bars would appreciate... Jägermeister + absinthe + vodka + rum + gin + tequila + beer + triple sec mixed with ginger juice and muddled with fresh coriander! Tart, tasty and terrific, it also comes with a multi-hued flashing LED ice-cube to add some tricks to your treat. The rest of the bar menu? Well it has everything a man (or monkey) could wish for. Global and craft beers, regular alcohol and alco-pops, a vast list of the classic cocktails, single malts and even real Champagne. And then there are refreshments such as tea and coffee and healthy smoothies like the Banana Nutella, which could appeal to all manner of primates.
4. Stuffed silly
But remember, it's a gastropub. So your tastebuds and tummy are really well taken care of too. We know you've already swung by Olive and loved Chef Manu Chandra's menu for a while. But this is one that doesn't just impress the critics... it could feed an army, a veritable vaanar sena! Tapping into the trend of finger food that's full of nostalgia and exploring various regional cuisines of the country, Chef Chandra offers 36 small plates. A big opposable thumbs up to the Bengali Mochar Ghonto Chop (crumb-fried banana flowers), superlative Sindhi Daal Pakwaan, the authentically delicious yet innovatively plated Laal Maas Phulkas and the moreish Kheema Baos, plump and piquant. Still tempted by the Adhunik Pani Puri? It's fun to see and great to Instagram, looking straight out of a sci-fi thriller, but the experimental spherification of the paani is a little forced and not as tongue-tingling as you'd like.
Laal Maas Phulkas
Adhunik Pani Puri
Speaking of #instafood, if you're on social media, you must have seen images of their #blackburgerbun, with two patties. There are six other fab ones to try. Are you rubbing your sated tummy already? But you haven't even seen the mains yet! And their portions are so big, you'll be wishing you had cheek pouches to stash the food in for later. Now, those in the know know that Chef Chandra is known for his mastery with pork. So if you're fine to trot along with that meat, you can choose between Coorgi Pandi Curry with Pita, MoBar Bork (crisp pork belly slices with black bean) or the extremely fiery Naga Pork & Noodle Bowl (there's a paneer or mushroom version of this for vegetarians). But, whether you prefer veggies or chicken or seafood or meat, there's something to please everyone. Even those, who wonder what meat tastes like but don't want to convert. They will be simply amazed by the robust flavours and textures of the Jackfruit Biryani.
Chandraji's Mutton Balti
5. And thereby hangs a tail
A meal like this is enough to make you feel langur-ous. But don't desert without trying dessert at the tail end. The eggless Rasmalai Panna Cotta is ingenious, with a texture to text about. While all the others, such as the Cheesecake or the Cherry Crumble Pie, are very good too, the one to flip over is the Chocolate Pot de Crème with Salted Caramel, which cleverly combines the comforting taste and crunch of caramel popcorn with dark chocolate and a lemon poppy slice cake made with olive oil! Like that, just like we always do, we're pretty sure you'll have a swingin' good time every time.
Rasmalai Panna Cotta
Chocolate Pot De Creme With Salted Caramel
Monkey Bar, Summerville, Junction of 14th & 33rd, KFC Lane, Off Linking Road, Bandra (West), Mumbai
Pictures by: Kunal Chandra and Priya Pathiyan