Strip a bar down to its basics, and all you really need is an accommodating room, some seating, an efficient refill team, some liquor and – ideally – a liquor license.
My Bar in Paharganj has the essentials, and quite a few bonuses. Opposite the Metropolis hotel, this air-conditioned establishment is conveniently located within walking distance of the Ramakrishna Ashram Metro stop. Manning the door is a guard whose age, enthusiasm and mustache rival – nay surpass – those of Rajinder Chauhan, the gatekeeper at the similarly no-frills bar 4S.
Inside is a cavernous room, soothingly lit in pale fluorescent green. Pop music just loud enough to talk over comfortably and a TV broadcasting cricket complete the ambience. There’s a two-sided bar as you walk in, but the rest of the space is filled up with utilitarian chairs and tables. Occupying these seats, often for hours, are the patrons: mostly male, mostly local, with a smattering of foreign backpackers. Lady drinkers may occasion slight attention, but My Bar doesn’t feel unsafe or unwelcoming. The men here seem content to let women drink in peace.
The staff, scuttling about in their My Bar logo t-shirts, are also unfazed. Our waiter slapped down an ashtray and left us to peruse the two-page drinks menu. You’ll find “premier beer” (pints from R65), Bacardi breezers and whiskey (regular, deluxe, super deluxe and Scotch), in a colorful array of brands, such as Director’s Special Gold, Antiquity Blue and Black Night. “Whiskey” also encompasses your standard rums, gin, and vodkas, including Romanov, Gorbatschow and Smirn Off.
The food menu is an exhaustive run-down of Indian-Chinese-Continental, crammed across several laminated pages that are greasy with the promise of the dishes to come. In view of its price and range, all that really needs to be said about the cuisine is that it looks supremely suited to its purpose, namely as stomach lining. We shared a hookah ( R160), which was supposed to be “the apples flavour” but tasted more like the remains of someone’s pan masala sheesha. Did we mind? Not really. It doesn’t feel like lowering the bar, when My Bar exceeds expectations in so many other ways.