Call it Classic, Old Skool or by any other name, Retro never goes out of style. Fads may come and go like ballet skirts and bushy beards, but things people have grown up with will always remain close to their hearts. The guys at Radio Bar in Bandra seem to understand this very well. That's why, everything, from the décor to the menu, is rooted in your Wonder Years even as it has elements of the cutting edge to it. We were drawn to the coolth of the place from the get go (the foot-stomping opening party) and revelled in it over two more visits. One was a finely tuned review hosted by Hitesh Keswani of Silver Beach Hospitality fame, the other was an anonymous evening to gauge how Radio Bar connected on an open frequency (very well, let us assure you!).
Old transistor radios, cleverly lit, line one side of the indoor area. An old-fashioned jukebox glows on the other side. 'Bring on the Night' announces the wall installation made of padded headphones and twirly wires. Below the bar, a bunch of assorted speakers create a boom that's more aesthetic than sonic. The seating is a mix of trendy high chairs and tables and comfy American diner-like booths. The ceiling lighting, if you look closely, is made up of microphones that double as bulbs. The al fresco section has a chilled-out vibe while the lower level in the basement, with another bar, has ample space for dancing and multiple DJs. This is more contemporary, although it does have some really zany Dubsmash-style mixes playing on its screen (think the mustard field scene from DDLJ in REVERSE, interspersed with Bart Simpson dancing!). To offset the extreme flashback brought on by the sight of SRK and Kajol, there's a percussion set that's all the rage internationally these days! And the music is of the moment too.
Now while Radio is predominantly a bar, bear in mind that it has a super chef - Chef Rohan D'Souza - who has been put through the paces under Chef Marco Pierre White (of 'Yes Marco!' Masterchef Australia fame) and has already proved his mettle in both Silver Beach Café menus, so the food is rather moreish too. They have an innovative and extensive list of grilled skewers and fried 'bites' that will go well with drinks. We loved the Calamari Samba (South American style calamari rings served with a sweet and spicy salsa) and the crisp Spinach Fritters and gave the Banana Fritters (banana balls tossed in tamarind and soy glaze) an A for effort.
The salads we sampled were fresh and crisp, with just the right amount of dressing. Perfect for that hot evening when you want to cool off with a Sangria and something light. The cool watermelon, goat cheese, rock melon and haricot bean salad was especially good, although, in my opinion, it really didn't need the filo pastry shavings for added crunch. If you're looking for something non-veg, you can't go wrong with the Asian warm grilled prawn, glass noodles, shiitake and malta orange salad. We thought it had the perfect mouth feel and can be a very satisfying meal for one or a shared appetiser for two.
Although the mains are also quite intriguing and well thought out (the Singapore rock crab lasagne is the Chef's signature dish and a crowd favourite) and the barbecues are sensational, we found ourselves coming back to the pizzas on every visit! Perhaps it's a subliminal connection between the old-tech theme and college-day binges and the fact that these pizzas have been rejigged to please even our grown-up palates. The ones on offer certainly didn't disappoint. Brought to the table in long-handled pans with LPs (remember those?!) at the bottom, they were perfectly done, with a crisp base and topped with delicious and visibly fresh ingredients.
The ones we tried were high on flavour. The vegetarian Mushroom Ragout (with parsley, sun-dried tomato, zucchini, broccoli and roasted bell peppers) and the Made in Japan (wasabi, tempura prawns, shiitake mushrooms, avocado, sushi rice, alfalfa sprouts and drizzled with creamy ponzu) were both simply fabulous and gave a new meaning to 'scratching the vinyl' as we made sure we finished every morsel, down to the last slice off the LP!
The bar menu does something that should've been done a long time ago - themed the drinks by music genre. Hard Rock and a wide selection of hard drinks - which includes single malts of many vintages as well as both green and black absinthe - is the perfect pairing. And wines go with Jazz as smoothly as cocktails gravitate toward Latino and Pop. The drinks themselves? While some seem to need a bit of fine tuning (the Radio Special Mojito and the Avocado Margarita were a bit too blah), we loved our Fire & Ice - the perfect blend of whiskey, maple syrup, cream and cinnamon. Just like the rest of Radio Bar, it had something old, something new, a bit of comfort and a bit of zing!
Radio Bar: Open from 7pm onwards; Ground Floor, Hotel New Castle, Linking Road, Next to Satguru, Bandra (W), Mumbai 400050. Tel: 022-26499900/7700.