10 of the best bars and clubs in Mumbai
India's most cosmopolitan city boasts stunning rooftop cocktail bars, Bollywood hangouts, and grungy holes in the wall … Monisha Rajesh trawls Mumbai's best late-night venues
More after-party than a bar, this neon-lit bunker has the body of a VW Beetle suspended above the bar, a DJ playing in a Maruti van, and a traffic jam of hubcaps, number plates and bonnets jutting out from its brick walls. It gets as crowded as a local train, so get there early, pull up a stool and pass the time with a copy of Jeet Thayil's Narcopolis – a tale of Mumbai's underworld – while waiting for Bandra's loyal locals to descend after work for Kingfisher, chicken in wire mesh, and chilli paneer.
• 30 Lourdes Heaven, Pali Junction, Bandra West, +91 22 2600 5494. Open 6.30pm-12.30am
Biceps, chest hair and Amazonian women fill this Bollywood-star magnet, but don't be put off by the air-kissing gloss. On a Friday night, South Mumbaikars flock to the open-air rooftop bar on the 34th floor of the Four Seasons Hotel. Cocktails at sunset are popular, with the city's lights on one side, the sea on the other, and a laid-back crowd moving in between – but by midnight you'll have to weave around a dancing mob to get to the bar. Dress up or dress down, but leave the trainers at home.
• Four Seasons HOTEL MUMBAI, 114 Dr E. Moses Road, Worli, +91 22 2481 8000, fourseasons.com/mumbai. Open 5.30pm-3am; Rs1,500 (£19) admission from 8pm on Thurs, Fri and Sat
Janata Lunch Home
Not for dates, this no-frills, no-clean-crockery joint is jammed night and day with students, idlers and anyone reluctant to produce more than fluff from their pockets. Meaning "the people's" lunch home, Janata is the place to share a quarter-bottle of rum and half a tandoori chicken for under a fiver, on Formica-topped tables. Serving beer from noon until at least 3am – even when the shutters are down – it's cheap, cheerful and worth foraging for in Bandra's backstreets.
• 78a Dr Ambedkar Road, Pali Naka, Bandra, +91 22 2605 8403. Open noon-3am (and maybe later)
Tote on the Turf
A massive revamp has shifted Tote's focus from a design-led, superior space with inferior food, to a more informal venue where chargrilled kebabs are ferried over from Neel, its adjoining restaurant. With numerous awards for its interior – a wood-panelled bar, suspended mezzanine, and rain trees at the entrance – Tote draws a mixed crowd. It stocks a wide variety of beers and Indian wines, depending on the theme of the night – a thumping Halloween party and Mumbai's biggest New Year's Eve bash grabbed their fair share of headlines.
• Mahalaxmi Race Course, Keshva Rao Khadye Marg, Mahalaxmi, +91 22 6157 7777. Open 11am-1.30am
Cosy, bordering on cramped, this is a lifeline for travellers craving a taste of home – and free Wi-Fi. Popular with students early evening, and an older business crowd a little later, it's an ideal alternative to Leopold's down the road (made famous by the novel Shantaram, and now so commercial it stacks copies of the book by the till). Housed in a 120-year-old heritage building, with wooden floors and low ceilings, the bar is hung with sepia prints of Victoria Terminus and serves everything from blueberry pancakes and French toast to San Miguel, Hoegaarden and Jagermeister – a rarity in Mumbai.
• Wodehouse Road, opposite Regal Cinema, Colaba, +91 22 2287 5752, woodsideinn.in. Open 8am-1am
An award-winning Spanish restaurant during the week (try the fabulous pork belly), Amadeus has a stylish, low-lit lounge that morphs on a Friday and Saturday night into a sangria-fuelled hotspot for SoBo-ites – South Bombay's old-money crowd, who steer clear of Juhu and Bandra. Between live music and DJs, Amadeus mainly rolls out western dance, but will throw in a few Bollywood teasers. Energy pulsates wall to wall, and if it can get a little too busy at times they're still a hospitable crowd.
• NCPA, Nariman Point, +91 22 2282 1212. Open 7.30pm-12.30am
Ghetto by name and ghetto by nature … dive bars don't come more thrillingly dingy than this Breach Candy classic, whose doorway is a hole in the wall. Not so much a student hangout as a beloved bar of media-trendies who've been coming here since their teens, and regulars glued to the bar stools. Power-ballad-tastic, Ghetto is a billiards-and-beer joint, with walls covered in graffiti – including a mural of a bemused-looking Jim Morrison – and lit with bizarre black lighting; it feels like Halloween every day.
• 30 Bhulabhai Desai Marg, Breach Candy, +91 22 2353 8418. Open 7pm-1.30am
Like much of laid-back Bandra, cosy, cupboard-sized Elbo Room is the place to "slum it" with cheap martinis, salami pizzas and pints of Leffe with the locals. The owners rig up a temporary outdoor screen for major sporting events (mostly football and cricket), though an indoor, smaller screen is a permanent fixture. Music leans towards retro pop, and a DJ booth stubbornly wedged into the corner often kickstarts a makeshift dancefloor by night. Guest DJs play 70s, 80s and 90s rock on a Wednesday, but don't expect much by way of elbow room, or access to the toilet – there's one unisex loo for all to share.
• Plot 500, Sant Kutir Apartments, Linking Road, Khar West, +91 22 2648 3316. Open 3pm-1am
Olive is a Mumbai tradition, drawing a mix of Bollywood actors, Bollywood wannabes and amused locals to its TGIT (Thank God It's Thursday) see-and-be-seen night. The beautiful Mediterranean restaurant is soft white, candlelit and casual, with pebbles underfoot, and one set of bathrooms at the back of the venue that allows everyone to check each other out en route. Tables are cleared to make way for the dance floor, which moves from lounge to house music until two or three, depending on when the police close it down. International wines are moderately priced, but specify your choice of vodka or they'll hit you with a Grey Goose.
• Pali Hill Tourist Hotel, 14 Union Park, Khar West, +91 22 2605 8228, Olivebarandkitchen.com
Like the bedroom walls of a first-year student, WTF! is plastered with posters of Pulp Fiction and Bob Marley, and dotted with old vinyl. Lipstick red lacquered booths are lit with low-hanging giant bulbs and quickly filled by a mid-week, post-work crowd nursing local beer and mandarin mojitos until 1am. When Mumbai's heat takes over, crowds shift to the gravelled courtyard which feels much like a no-frills version of Olive and is kinder on the ears once the DJ's retro rock, pop and odd bit of country starts pounding the walls inside.
• Vora Building, 3rd Road, Khar +91 22 26486233
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