Saturday, April 12, 2008

The Best Lounges and Bars in Pune

Drinking in PuneBen Franklin once said, "There cannot be good living, if there is not good drinking"! So here's a primer to 'good living' when in Pune.

The list below is my selection of the best bars and lounges in Pune. To relax with a caipiroska in hand after a long day, for a casual evening with that special person, or for some quality time with buddies over drinks and music.

1000 Oaks: The grand-daddy of them all, and still going strong! A hit with both the old-timers and the young, this place is usually crowded and full of cigarette smoke. However, 10K Oaks has great DJs, good bar-food to accompany your drinks, and an old-world British pub ambiance. After your drinks, you could move outdoors for al-fresco dining, away from the smoke and loud music. They mostly play Rock from the 70s and 80s, but some House too on selected days.

Kiva Lounge in PuneKiva: The original, smaller one is located in Ashok Nagar on Range Hills Road and is popular with the college crowd. The new, larger one is located in Lane 6, Koregaon Park. Large and tastefully decorated interiors, excellent ambiance, great music and a dance floor make this among the best places for an evening; Kiva gets enough people even on Monday evening, when most other lounges are either closed or deserted. Both the drinks and food menu have a large variety of options. Try some shots first: I recommend the Death Wish. The food here is excellent too; options include continental, oriental and Indian items that come plated. Ph: 2553-8339, 3052-0987

Update, Nov 2008: Check out the new Stone Water Grill. My review here.

Blue Fire: The new entrant in town, Blue Fire is located in City Point, Dhole Patil Road (beside Bombay Brasserie restaurant). Blue Fire has contemporary chic interiors and a large projection screen which makes this a great choice during Cricket matches. They also have a choice of indoor and outdoor lounge seating. As for food, I can recommend the Tandoor Lobster and Chicken in Pepper Sauce. Among cocktails, try their signature Blue Fire cocktail, if you are looking for something strong. Update, Dec 2008: R.I.P. Now converted into La Dolce Vita's world cuisine restaurant.

11 East Street Cafe: Another new entrant that is current very popular but expensive. This cafe has creative interiors that try to replicate a London street including a double-decker bus at the entrance, street lamps, window displays, the works! There is even a hookah lounge upstairs. Appetizers include Cheese jalapeno balls with beer sauce, Banger and Mash, and English Ratatouille. You can try their Cardinal Punch or the many other interesting cocktails. For desserts, try their Bailey's Mousse or Green Apple Cheesecake. Ph: 2633-3711

MojitoFlags: With contemporary decor and some innovative cocktails, Flags is primarily known for its multi-cuisine food. It boasts of one of the longest menus and includes food from most regions of the world. However, I like this place for it's cocktails too ( I recommend the Caribbean Storm) especially so if you have come out of the INOX cineplex next door after watching a movie. Note that this place is a little expensive. Ph: 2614-1617

Mauve: Adil Poonawala's new, upscale Japanese resto-lounge-bar is located where Athena once was in Lane 5, Koregaon Park. Haven't tried this place yet, but it's making a buzz right now. Ph: 98927-10175.
Update, June 2008 : Cramped interiors; only good during special weekends when the bold and the beautiful of Pune congregate!

Not Just Jazz by the Bay: This place has a lively ambiance especially during Karoke nights or weekends when musicians and stand-up comedians from outside Pune come in to entertain. Great cocktails, multi-cuisine food, and a wonderful ambiance make this a welcome choice for a couple of drinks during the evening. Not Just Jazz is located within the ESquare cineplex on University Road. Ph: 6604-4200

Hard Rock Cafe: Just opened where River View restaurant used to be. Ahead of ABC Farms on North Main Road. I expect to see better live bands, American starters, and an upscale ambiance when HRC finally opens (currently scheduled for April 18th).
Update, June 2008: Expected to open in July now.

Zaha: At Viva Inn, NDA Road, Chandi Chowk, this is a popular haunt for the college crowd wanting to let their hair down during weekends and Wednesday evenings. Decorated in white, Zaha is popular for its thematic days such as Retro on Wed, Bollywood Nites, etc. Zaha is closed on Mondays. Another one by Tehseen Poonawala, whose nightspots keeping popping up and closing down every few months (he's the one who setup the once popular nightspots Lush, Area 51, and Palazzo). Ph: 2295-2839.

TC's lounge in PuneTC's: Located in Millenium Plaza, FC Road, this multi-cuisine resto-lounge has a chic, modern decor that is attractive and has an extensive cocktail and food menu to please most. You can even order flavored teas, gourmet coffee, creamy shakes, or flavored hookas. Try the Chimichangas here with your choice of drinks.

Vie Lounge: This lounge is located in Koregaon Park, close to Blue Diamond hotel, in the same road as Mocha. They began about six months back with a lot of fanfare with all the rich and beautiful people wanting to be seen here initially. The decor and crowd is upscale and perfect for a special night. However, please note that they are still trying to get into their groove in Pune. I understand they have recently slashed their prices, but the service and food is inconsistent, particulally galling as their prices are high.

SoHo: Curently in vogue with the younger crowd, Soho can get very crowded during weekends and on most other days too. Soho is located in Kalyani Nagar on the opposite side of the same road as Lifestyle. Soho has a cover charge during weekends and special nights. They have ample indoor and outdoor seating. The indoor turns into a crowded dance floor on weekends. There isn't much to write about their decor, but this is the place to be if you like an younger crowd and the food/drinks are very affordable. Ph: 2668-1987

Bar Asia: Located one level above the street opposite Pune Club and co-located with Nawab Indian restaurant. This bar is small, has lounge seating, and modest prices. With live music on some days, intresting (and very spicy!) oriental and Indian starters, Bar Asia is a good option if you are in the vicinity of Blue Nile and shopping at the mall nearby. Ph: 6520-2475

The Ship: Designed to resemble a dining room aboard a yatch, The Ship boasts of a well-stocked Sports Bar and plated multi-cuisine food. Frequented by visiting foreigners as well as Indians, this is another place to consider if you are in Kalyani Nagar. The Ship is located one level above street in the Fortelezza Shopping Complex opposite the AMC Gold Labs CinePlex. This place is too quiet for the younger clientele which is why the older ones prefer it!

ZK's Lounge in PuneZK's: Owned by Indian cricketer Zaheer Khan, from where this resto-bar gets its name, ZK's has a seperate lounge area on the 2nd floor done up in modern chic. Lots of glass, vibrant colors and mood lighting make this the perfect choice if you are in the Kondhwa area of Pune. A variety of Indian and Continental food options accompany a decent drinks menu. Ph: 2683-2366

Indyaki: Recently reonvated, this restaurant-lounge plays House and Trance most often. The lounge is indoors, while the restaurant has both indoor and outdoor seating options and serves pretty good Indian food. The owners also run the popular Koregoan Park restaurant, Arthur's Theme. The chief grouse I have is that children from the restaurant section aren't kept out of the lounge area.

Curve: Located in ABC Farms on North Main Road, Curve is located on two levels. Curve used to be popular some time back and still has a good atmosphere during weekends. With an eclectic selection of food that includes some great thin-crust pizza, Italian entrees and some mean cocktails, this is another place to choose from if you are in the Koregaon Park area. Ph:6400-0410

At TC's in PuneShisha Cafe: Amidst green trees, Persian carpets, hookahs and live musicians, this one is a rather unique experience. However, the food is it's weak point. I haven't found anything on the menu that I have really liked, but Shisha makes up with its live music, deewans to sit on, and hookahs. Ph: 6520-0390

High Spirits: Live Retro on Wed nights, but you will many times find it closed for private parties. Affordable liquor which is why they are popular for a certain section of the younger crowd. Ambiance not great but food is ok. Stick to whiskeys, rum and vodka; their cocktails aren't the best.. Ph: 93710-06430


Update, June 2008: High Spirits is now called ONE. Initial reviews suggest it's worth checking out.
Update, Dec 2008: Correction, ONE is a different place altogether like reader 'trips' points out below. My brief review comments posted here.

July 2008 Update: Check out K FY, a lounge in intimate settings based in Koregaon Park which provides a Goan touch with its authentic food and Feni. Retro music on weekends. Located at 235-5 Popular Heights Road, Koregaon Park. Ph: 40024425.


Finally, there are the bars at the 5 star hotels which are good too, though frequently only by businessmen. Entresol Bar at the Meridien with its live band, 262 Lounge at the Sun and Sand that serves some great kababs, and Casabella, the Anglo-Saxon pool-side bar at the Taj Blue Diamond are great choices in this category.

As you can see, there are now (finally!) enough options in Pune to liven up your evenings. Cheers!

Pics Courtesy: Kiva by ashbert, Martini by cgrossmeier, Mojito by samsmith.

40 comments:

Alok said...

Yeah ! that's indeed true.

Looks like you hit the middle of the rock ;)

Nomadic Matt said...

A good bar makes any city better.

My favorite bar is Cheap Charlies in Bangkok.

indicaspecies said...

Wohoo..can I have a Margarita some place there please?

Zhu said...

Man, you should publish that in a travel book, it's valuable resources for travelers!

Shantanu said...

@alok: Welcome to my blog!

@nomadic matt: And that used to be the problem in Pune only a few years back. Things have changed for the better now.

@indicaspecies, zhu: Thanks for being among my most regular readers. :-)

Nomadic Matt said...

I've heard of holi...it is something i really want to check out...it seems a lot of fun.

Lounge Articles said...

your post is very comprehensive; its invigorating my desire to try out few of them in the city this weekend :) nice post

Shantanu said...

@nomadic matt: Like your Thai New Year celebrations but with color added to the water!

@lounge articles: Thank you!

backpakker said...

Its time for me to visit Pune :)
lakshmi

Blue Bike said...

Wow ... those good ol pune days ... really miss that place :)

Shantanu said...

@backpakker, blue bike: Oldtimers tell me that Pune is changing much too fast, as compared to other cities in Pune. They think, for the worse! The cost of progress, I guess. :)

HookaLova said...

I've been to the hooka lounge at 11 East Street Cafe! I highly recommend it!

trips said...

High spirits hasnt been changed to "One"..they are diff places altogether

tanmay said...

tooons the cafe under down..is the most happening place for rock lovers...

Shantanu said...

@HookaLova: Thanks.

@trips: Thanks for pointing this out.

@tanmay: Thank you for adding your comment here.

Vishal Pipraiya said...

how did i miss this? this is the most useful post I have come across on your blog. Not to say aren't worth their salt, but this one is really gonna useful to me. Thanks!!

Shantanu said...

@vishal: Thanks! Good to see you back here again.

Anonymous said...

Hello, I am looking for a sports bar in FC/JM road to have (date) with girl..kind of sports bar and nice food ..
Appreciate your response.

Shantanu said...

@Anon: Most of my favorites are in the Camp area. Especially so, if you want some good food too. Other than TC's, I can't think of a good 'date' bar/lounge in the JM Road area. If you can make it to the Koregaon Park area, try Kiva or Stone Water Grill (for location/contact search them on this blog).

tejas said...

ohhh damm... where is the toons cafe underdown..
neways toons the cafe underdown is the auesum cafe in pune...
dj timing 8pm to 11pm...
belive me guys this is the best cafe. fr beer lover n auesum food

rusy said...

@ tejas>> ya tejas dude u r right m frm ahemdabad last year wen i ws in pune i sw this cafe and its like oh my god the auesem music,auesum crowd...this is the most happening place in pune its better dan 1000oaks,kiva,sohos nd even hard rock cafe.....misss u toons...

Shankar said...

Update: Mauve has closed down and TC's new Avatar is Mmyra

Shantanu said...

@Shankar: Thanks! I guess I should update the post given how many people still come here.

Vishal Pipraiya said...

Definitely one of your most read posts since it appeals to the lowest common denominator unlike other posts which cater to the high flying ones :).

Also, HRC since opened up full time and Malaka Spice has shifted location.

Indraneel Majumdar said...

Shantanu..I left Pune for Mumbai sometime early last year and on an assignment now have to rake out all the Pune Restaurants, night spots and discs. Your blog is most useful. Keep us informed with an updated one!

Shantanu said...

@Vishal, Indraneel: Like you have indicated, it is time for an updated list. Especially since bars seem to go out of business pretty fast in Pune. Thankfully, there are others that take their place.

Vishal Pipraiya said...

Thank you shantanu.

P.S. TC's is now rechristened myrra

praful said...

I wanted to know whether Indiyaki has shut down....

Anonymous said...

Shantanu,
nice blog here.
but before you cherry pick pictures from the net, please take some time to read and understand the license that attributes the pictures.

http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/deed.en

This applies to the kiva pic.
I don't mind ppl using pics from my page, but I'd rather have them ask for them before just snatching them. I've had ppl ask me before and I have always granted permission as long as they abide by the terms. Its there for a reason.

Thanks for understanding.

-Ashwin

Shantanu said...

@Ashwin: I tried to abide by the terms. My understanding of the license was I could use it provided I attribute it correctly (which I have and linked back to your Flickr page). Did I miss something?

prajwal said...

hey dude u put down some really good stuff..anyways me n my some frds r real sports freak especially football.. may i know wer i can go n watch em ..

Anonymous said...

you're mostly fine. just that the images don't link via the CCC license wrapper.

if you click on the license link next to the image on the flickr page, you should get a url with the attributes.

thanks

Anonymous said...

Regarding Kiwa, the larger one in Koregaon Park, I couldn't disagree more! The service was stiflingly claustrophobic, as in too many wait staff per customer, they just kept hovering around and bothering me, the food was very mediocre, and the martini I ordered was a joke. I was tempted to go teach the bartender how to make it properly. The music was too loud at the wrong time, as in when people first arrive in the early evening and just want to chill out, have a drink and a chat. And lastly, the music they played was utterly shite. They need some new direction!!

gunjan said...

Hi m an interior design student.m duin my 4th year n have a project about bars n lounges.I want to do case studies of bars. Can nebody help me coz generally ppl dont allow for clickn pics and study their designs.....plzzzzzzz

Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

This review of bars in Pune started off quite grand but unfortunately now needs a serious upgrade. Most of the places suggested no longer exist or have been replaced by some that aren't even mentioned.

Let me know can help you out
Cheers!

tony said...

Restaurants in Pune is really a major attraction inside city. Right from the simple restaurants offering various local dishes at cheap rates on the regal restaurants serving Indian additionally foreign varieties in the platter; these have contributed a lot to the popularity of the city in India and in foreign countries. icrave pune

painkiller_overdose said...

Any change or new addition to this list ?

Shantanu said...

@painkiller_overdose: Oh yes! There are many, many new ones now. Have to find the time to update this list.

Anonymous said...

very good!