We’ve all had those days when you walk into a great-looking restaurant with a promise of a lovely evening, only to be welcomed by Honey Singh blasting through the speakers or an “Indian dubstep” track destroying that candlelight. Slow clap for a ruined date! Music goes a long way in contributing to the ambience of a place and if you are someone who categorises your music folders alphabetically according to genre in an almost Monica-esque fashion, music is the ambience! In which case, you might want to head out to these eateries in Mumbai that aren’t a Blue Frog or a Hard Rock Café and who happen to know their indie rock from their indie folk.
An interesting wall of portraits and pop art muriels alongside the bar greets you into Lagerbay, but it’s most likely that your ears will be busier than your eyes in this restaurant. At different times of the day, you’re likely to come across different types of music at Lagerbay. Their collection is in turn both educative and entertaining, just like their bar menu. Lagerbay’s retro music collection can turn a lot of fat, rich playlists green. Make sure you have Shazam installed in your phone before you walk in to this place.
2. Café Mondegar
No list of restaurants with great music is complete without mentioning Café Mondegar. For the uninitiated, let me tell you why in one word- Jukebox! Mondy’s (as it is fondly called) is home to some great draught beer, chicken sandwiches and classic rock. The Jukebox sitting comfortably in the corner of this fun eatery is as old as the owner, or so he claims its. For fifty bucks, you get to queue up 3 songs of your choice on the jukebox. I would recommend playing something from their enviable classic rock playlist and on a very drunk night, push some ABBA buttons and watch the crowd come alive like the caricature on Mondy’s walls.
3. The Birdsong Café
The first time I walked into this quaint little café in the quiet bylanes of Bandra was on a Monday morning. The first sound that had greeted me was the familiar swooning riff of Coming Back To Life. Now, I don’t know about you, but I immediately trust a place that plays Pink Floyd on a Monday morning. This was followed by Edith Piaf and, a couple of brilliant hot chocolates later, Elliot Smith. The rustic ambience, the lovely pasta and a hot chocolate so nice that I’m mentioning it twice are very likely to convert you into a regular, if the reassuring diversity in The Birdsong Café’s playlist doesn’t do the job already.
4. Quench Café
If you aren’t very familiar with Versova, you might have to do a bit of digging to get to this lesser known branch of the Bandra eatery. It also happens to not serve alcohol. Maybe that explains why it is lesser known. What it does happen to serve is a good amount of great music. Great covers to classic songs (read – James Vincent McMorrow and London Grammar covers of Chris Isaak’s Wicked Game), Iron & Wine on lazy afternoons along with some interesting Top 40 picks on Friday evenings (hipsters, bear with me). This, coupled with the bright-coloured ambience, makes Quench Café an ideal chilling-with-close-friends-and-not-getting-drunk setting.
5. Café Verve
This might be breaking news worthy of Arnab Goswami for territorial Bandra/SoBo hipsters, but Thane has lovely places to hang out at too. Located close to a small lake and at a walking distance from Thane railway station, Café Verve is a pet-friendly, chilled out place with an impeccable taste in music. Jazz, folk, rock, old Kishore Kumar classics – you name it and this place will serve it as hot and delicious as their Philly Cheese Bagel.
6. Café at The NCPA
If you have a deeper, more classical taste in music, you’re very likely to spend an evening or two with Chopin, Lizst or Rachmaninoff at Café at The NCPA. On other evenings, some incredible jazz quartets are also likely to pay you a visit along with the cool sea breeze in this open air restaurant. Meetings, dates, family dinners, chilling with friends, this place is ideal for all and the music is ideally educative for all. What else would you expect from a café located at the cultural centre of Mumbai? Its whole wheat beef burger (if available) is rather grand.
Location: Nariman Point
Speaking of pet-friendly places, this small and pretty café is home to the most adorable dog and to some incredible vinyls. The tracks in the playlist at Gostana have been clearly and carefully handpicked and reflect an indie evangelist-esque taste in music, which complements the warm and refreshing ambience of the café. It also happens to host Twitter contests with vinyls as giveaways. Walk in with your dog or walk in with your book, you’re very likely to blend in with non-interfering, elevating music at Gostana.
8. Executive Enclave
One of the few rooftop restaurants in the city, Executive Enclave does not disappoint with the ambience, largely aided by good music. This place is a safe bet for a first date and the music here is good enough to act as a litmus test for whether you should consider coming back for a second with your date. Safely betting with instrumental numbers, Executive Enclave definitely knows how to enhance their USP of being a cozy, rooftop restaurant.
9. Café Monza
Yes, there is civilization in Navi Mumbai and yes, it has enviable food places too. Delicious pastas, rich desserts (read – blueberry cheesecake) and light, educative music are what you’re likely to find at this tastefully decorated café in Kharghar. Country lovers, rejoice. Definitely worth a visit if you’re anywhere in the satellite city.
10. The Little Door
First things first – fantastic variety in music. The Little Door literally pays tribute to every genre every other day. As a regular here, I am yet to hear a song being repeated. This place regularly hosts acoustic nights and has a generally encouraging vibe for music lovers. I tend to throw a bit of an elitist frown at the music most DJs churn out in pubs nowadays, but The Little Door had me surprised. Delicious pancakes, delicious pork sausages and delicious, delicious tunes!
11. The Irish House
If you’re a the-music-is-too-loud kinda person, you should probably avoid this place. But if your idea of an evening well spent includes never-ending beer and group-singing to Coldplay, you won’t regret walking into The Irish House. Compared to its Fort counterpart, this branch has a livelier crowd and more enthusiastic music lovers. Their collection isn’t experimentative and they like to stick to good ol’ safe bets like U2, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Foo Fighters and an occasional Fleetwood Mac, making it perfect for indulging in some nostalgia. The food is decent and the pricing of the alcohol even more so, but the people at The Irish House put the music to the forefront and that’s how they like to keep it.
Location: Lower Parel
12. Harry’s Bar + Café
Another music centric place in Mumbai, although this one is better suited to electronic, house and EDM lovers. I was surprised to find very uncliche 70s electronica music played at Harry’s the first night I walked into this place. It is definitely more suited for nightlife, but one can also walk into Harry’s for an afternoon beer with retro music. Do not step out without trying its Mini Burgers.
13. Open House
Great food, jaw-droppingly delicious desserts and light ambient music decorates Open House, located in the heart of Shivaji Park. The music ranges from Indian instrumental classics to old Simon & Garfunkels on any given day. Recommended for casual afternoons with your cousins or for catching up with some old friends.
14. Kala Ghoda Café
There is a reason this restaurant is called a South Bombay classic. Along with the cozy, laid-back ambience and food, the adjective applies to the choice of music too. The playlist has very obviously been handpicked for an ambience that encourages conversations and hence, is very non-interfering. Non-interfering, but just audible enough for you to notice the blanket of comfort it wraps around you. Hot chocolate, hummus and conversation your evening away at KGC.
15. Café Zoe
A personal favourite. Any place that welcomes me with Belle & Sebastian, Angus & Julia Stone and Tycho undoubtedly wins me over within the first 5 seconds. Fantastic food, quirky-meets-industrial décor, a good collection of books are bonuses upon bonuses at Café Zoe’s. One might even call it an indie music den (it certainly is mine). Walk in on a particularly bad day, begin with a corn and roasted garlic soup with a chicken ravioli and watch the music at Zoe’s turn your day around.
Location: Lower Parel