Tag Archives: Nightlife

Club Pangaea

Guilt plated ♦

photo 5Judging by the tremors Pangaea has caused in the lifestyle media with the news of its opening, the nightclub at the Hotel Ashok promises a seismic shift in the after dark life of the capital. The club aims to “redefine high-end entertainment”, said Spice Global chairman and owner BK Modi in Blouin ArtInfo. Reservations will cost up to Rs 4 lakh a table, reported Forbes India. The Pangaea club in Singapore, reportedly serves a $26,000 cocktail. Collaborator Michael van Cleef Ault – an inter­national nightlife baron who created the Pangaea brand (yes, he’s one of those van Cleefs) – said the Delhi club is “a sensuous and brilliant journey into the decadence of the Renaissance”. Is Pangaea all it’s cracked up to be? To find out, we headed to the Ashok one Friday night. A velvet rope and a small army of bouncers and hosts in black uniform stood outside where F-Bar used to be, bowing us in without a peep about cover charge or table price. We suppose the generosity and the warm welcome was bestowed upon us due to the relatively early hour (about 10pm), and our gender. Milling about inside were more waiters and two European women in red dresses. Around us: walls padded with red velvet – somewhere between bordello and loony bin, chandeliers and thick curtains, drawn apart to reveal some startling wall décor looming above the leather sofas. Front and centre is Eugène Delacroix’s “The Death of Sardanapalus”, which depicts an Assyrian king overseeing the murder of his harem to protect it from his enemies. Is the figure of a naked woman, bent painfully backwards in the grip of a man plunging a dagger towards her throat, really the best embellishment for a Delhi drinking hole? Will the patrons Ault mentioned in a Sunday Guardian interview – “Indian jet-setters”, “Delhi’s most affluent”, “the Bollywood star, the Hollywood star, the super­models and rock stars” – relish the opportunity to appreciate this classic of French Romanticism as an example of what Edward Said called “the Oriental genre tableau”, while nursing their bejewelled cocktails? We doubt it. Even if this were Prufrock, not Pangaea, that might be too much to ask. Anyway, neither famous people nor fancy cocktails were visible on our visit. In fact, there was no cocktail menu at all. When we asked for something interesting, we were offered the standard choices of “Cosmopolitan? Mojito?” The club plans to offer bottle service, but that night they didn’t even have Johnnie Walker. It’s been reported that the management here fires any waiter who doesn’t bring you a drink in three minutes. This wasn’t a problem as it was a relatively empty night, but getting the bill took longer than expected (and we had to ask for our change). Of the party-goers who did show up, some looked barely out of school and the rest were garden-variety scruffy south and west Delhi punters. The men were moussed-up, the women epilated and nervous as they swayed on their high heels to overloud EDM. A group congregated near the bathroom so they could gab. People seemed to be coming and going from the cordoned VIP section fairly freely. We lingered past 1am, but after a wallet-busting G&T and dirty martini (Rs 570 and Rs 700, sans tax), it was time for us to go too. Casting a look back at the not-so-sensuous decadence of a city’s youth adrift, we slipped under Jan van Eyck’s disapproving “Portrait of a Man in a Turban” and out the door. That we then sat for half an hour in the Ashok’s lobby, watching businessmen and NRI families from the late international flights checking in, tells you all you need to know.
Originally published in Time Out Delhi, December 6, 2013.

Published: December 11, 2013

Choose your own Delhi adventure

377185_515880551771315_634309273_nTime Out Delhi’s 5th anniversary issue ♦

“For over five years, Time Out Delhi has brought you the best of what’s happening in town each fortnight, as well as enabled armchair exploration of city culture and cuisine. We hope our special cover story spurs you to action – starting with your fingers, which will have to do quite a bit of flipping through the following pages. Use this game-style guide as a primer for your day out; we know the real adventures happen when and where you least expect them.” From August 2012.

Read the full story below, or download it as a possibly prettier PDF here.

Published: August 31, 2012

Hippies vs hipsters

The case for Paharganj ♦

DSC_0019For years, there’s been no stemming the southbound, outward drift of Delhi nightlife. The mega-clubs of Noida and Gurgaon first lured revelers away from the city with the promise of police raid-free parties. Then South Delhi got its own malls, complete with rooftop clubs: extravagant light-and-sound beacons of the lush life, outdoor dance terraces, imported ingredients and, inevitably, the popped-collar crowd.

The emergence of Hauz Khas Village as a nightlife destination was welcome. It’s not difficult to see how, in its contr­ast to the ostentation of other options, that neigh­bourhood acquired its alternative tag. But take out the new restaurants and music venues, and there are still a few core reasons – walk-ability, scale, safety, expat patronage – why HKV’s popularity was almost predestined.

But enough has been said about that urban village (not least of all by Time Out). It’s time to move on. In the past few weeks, we’ve heard murmurings about two other historic Delhi areas that make us want to start casting predictions about where the next scene will pop up. A couple of Dilliwalas (including original HKV restaurateur Ritu Dalmia) have recently touted Daryaganj as the next big thing. The neighbourhood bridging central and old Delhi certainly has the charm of other old world cities that have transformed into trendy destinations. The tea shop Aap Ki Pasand predates Elma’s by years, Moti Mahal has long been a low-key dining option, there’s art-deco elegance hidden in the bylanes, and the sexologist signboards on BSZ Road achieve kitsch more effortlessly than anything in HKV. The boutiques and cafés will surely come.

However, our money’s on the imminent gentrification of Paharganj. Most Dilliwalas treat a trip to that locale as a foreign journey, and it’s true that Paharganj is culturally a satellite state of India’s hippie trail nation. But that’s changing. First, one of the city’s most conveniently-located Metro stops deposits riders right into the market. Then, anticipating a demand for hotels during the Commonwealth Games, the city spent a couple of crores sprucing up Paharganj’s lanes. There are still open sewers and rubble, but besides kamikaze rickshaws, Paharganj is easily navigable and safe for women, buzzing with people until well after midnight.

And then there’s the foreigner quotient. They may be backpackers, not expats, but this international population gives Paharganj a cosmopolitan character. The budget tourists keep the area affordable, with business owners catering to a crowd that appreciates value-for-money rather than showy spending.

Paharganj already has more 24 hour joints in less space than any other Delhi neighbourhood. It’s just a matter of time before a game-changing venue will open: a restaurant that ditches the usual multicuisine mish-mash, perhaps, or a live music café. In the past few months, we’ve noticed several new places, including a Mediterranean hookah bar and a coffee shop promising Italian espresso across the street from each other. Connaught Place’s Outer Circle has a number of new bars too (including live music lounge Sura Vie), which could make rickshaw-enabled pub crawls a viable option.

Then there are the old establishments, like Ajay Guest House’s café, which recently rebranded itself as hip, organic Brown Bread Bakery. We were recently enchant­ed by the green rooftop at Fire and Ice, especially its view of the romantic domes of the sadly decrepit Qazi Wali Masjid from between its vine-covered trellises. At Dokebi Nara, the Korean den that’s been fermenting cabbage in its hallway for eight years, we eavesdropped as a table of Bengali intellectuals downed pints and smoked their way through packets of Gold Flakes. “Have you seen Ritu Dalmia’s new book?” one asked another, “the launch party was last night.” Listen up, restaurateurs and scenesters: Paharganj is calling.

Originally published in Time Out Delhi, December 2011.

Published: December 23, 2011