Those Were the Days when there were no pubs in Bandra. Today pubs have proliferated in Bandra like mushrooms do in the monsoons. Toto’s (someone’s pet dog?), Hawaiian Shack (Do they live in shacks in Hawaii?), Salt & Pepper (The Big B used to have a beard like that till all the pepper finally turned salty). Oh there were plenty of speakeasies to speak of in lieu of pubs. Waroda Road, Bazaar Road, Chimbai, Cemetery Road were tipping to the brim with tipplers.
The only joint that came close to being a pub was Yacht. What an appropriate name too, given its nautical location. No, not the snooty Yacht Club in tony Apollo Bunder, just the humble Yacht Restaurant on Hill Road. Yacht pronounced by various generations of Bandra Buggers as Yatch, Yourchit, Yoursht etc brings back myriad memories…. Yacht was where most of us downed our first beer. No other alcoholic beverages were served here, only beer. I recall one of our gang once was so full of beer, we thought we would have to carry him out on a bier! Another time another of our gang (now alas no more), took us for a birthday treat to Yacht. He ordered “Aloo Mutt-er”. When the dish was served, he screamed at the waiter saying there was “only Aloo no Mutton!” On another occasion our canny Glenn Roach, ordered some kheema pau. After a while, he requested for some pieces of nimbu. He squeezed the nimbu into the water and imperiously summoned the waiter telling the bemused chap: “Main te-ray-ko uloo banaiya. Dekh phookat mein nimbu pani mila!!!
Old timers will recall a wandering out of luck, Anglo Indian lady minstrel. She frequented the Bandra Catholic dominated housing societies like Virendra, St. Peter’s Colony, Nirmala Colony, etc She literally sang for her supper. Her theme song was “I went to see my darling last Saturday night”. On days she made surplus cash, she would troop in to Yacht for a beer. She kept the waiters entertained with peppy Hindi hits for hefty discounts or free beer.
Yacht with its vantage location was never short of customers. No idea how the authorities turned a Nelson’s eye to this beer bar located smack opposite a Church! Incidentally, those were the days when the sermon was the major component of the Sunday mass. En masse, weary men to escape the weekly assault on their eardrums, would make a beeline for Yacht for a refreshing cup of tea. You could tell which priest was spewing fire & brimstone by the length of time spent by these outstanding Catholics, in Yacht. The management of Yacht was always customer friendly. Many out of town bachelors used to stay in Ferns Mansion, which houses Yacht. Even in the pre demonetisation days, these poor bachelors were perennially facing a cash crunch. They were generously granted credit facilities by Yacht, in an age when credit cards were not quite on the cards.
There was something magnetic about Yacht which attracted customers like ducks to water. This in spite of the fact that its disadvantages far outweighed the advantages. There was no AC. The conveniences were most inconvenient. Today Bandra has a fancy Smoke House Deli. In Yacht, you were always in real danger of being smoked out. While sitting at the tables, your feet would actually crunch the chicken bones callously tossed there by previous customers! There used to be regular dry days then. Yacht circumvented this problem by serving their regulars, beer in steel glasses. What steely resolve. But then, Yacht was always a glass apart.
Did you know Yacht used to have a sugar cane (ganna) crushing machine? That’s why it was such an endearing family restaurant. Along with the hard core alcoholics, teenagers with their crushes, children & women frequented Yacht to get their respective fixes. Those suffering from jaundice, would willy nilly rush to Yacht to get their dose of ganna juice. Unfortunately the ganna machine was discontinued. Perhaps the cases of jaundice decreased so obviously the cases of beer increased!
Yacht is now going in for a makeover. One of our pals took us on a virtual tour of the revamped Yacht. It looks swanky & chic. Even the name has been changed to Yacht Restobar. Well, well our staid Yacht has certainly raised the bar…..