DREAMING OF BEER TOWERS IN BOMBAY
Why not Leopold’s in Mumbai for our establishment of the week? After all, these days we’ve got about as much chance of going there as any of the (unaffiliated) Canadian chain locations of the same name.
But, alas, we’re still dreaming of travel as we navigate the third and maybe fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, so I’ll mine the recommendation of a travel pal – a regular pre-pandemic visitor to India’s largest urban centre – not to mention countless others who rate the place a must-visit venue in the city still steadfastly called Bombay by many of its inhabitants.
Located in the southernmost district of Colaba, or Old Mumbai, the iconic Leopold Café & Bar dates to 1871, making it one of city’s oldest restaurants, notably pre-dating independence. It is also a rare remaining Irani café in Mumbai, originally founded by Zoroastrian immigrants.
However, nowadays the café’s notoriety comes from a bevy of bullet holes in its walls, a legacy of the infamous 26/11 terror attacks in Mumbai in 2008, in which the café was among the targets and six patrons were killed. (It re-opened four days later, helping it become an anti-terror icon amongst residents).
Less controversially, the venue is also a pilgrimage site for fans of the popular 2003 novel “Shantaram” by Gregory David Roberts, which featured Leopold prominently.
But beyond the two modern references, Leopold has long been a “superstar in the city” – a traveller and backpacker hangout, and convenient rest stop for visitors to the nearby Colaba Causeway shopping district, Gateway to India, and Taj Mahal palace. It also caters to a loyal local clientele, ensuring that, as Roberts’ novel stated, it is “constantly crowded.”
The cramped atmosphere is accentuated by tables in close quarters and a cluttered décor of artwork, Hollywood and Bollywood posters, and vintage advertisements covering the walls.
A diverse menu ranges from Indian favourites like butter chicken and tandoori to international staples such as burgers and pizza. But a unique attribute, for those who dare, is a Kingfisher beer tower, which is perhaps best saved for lunch or dinner given the café opens early for breakfast.
Then again, given a year and counting of pandemic purgatory, I’d take a beer tower at any time of day in almost any far-flung city at this point. “Mmmm,” to mimic a prescient Homer Simpson, “beer tower!”
Leopold Café & Bar is located at Shahid Bhagat Singh Road, Colaba Causeway, Mumbai, and is open daily from 7 a.m. to 1 a.m.
With glass purposefully in hand, we at Travel Industry Today continue our series on some of the planet’s best bars, patios and rooftop venues. For more articles in the series, click here:
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First published at Travel Industry Today