How bright is too bright? It’s a question posed by Doolally Taproom at the start of an evening, but by the end, it really doesn’t matter. The thing is, Doolally is really well-lit. Like sunshine on a hungover morning. Like a cell-phone flashlight in a movie theatre. Like the first murmurs of recession on a soon-to-be receding hairline. This originally Pune-based micro-brewery has spread its wings, slotting into Bandra’s pub-hopping nightlife culture with ease. Sure, they only serve beer and no other kind of alcohol, but one must never underestimate the gluttony of the beer drinker. And since the beer happens to be micro-brewed, it adds considerably to the novelty of the place. There’s four different kinds (craft beers and a cider) on the menu, each priced at Rs 250 for a glass and a grand for a pitcher. The India Pale Ale is a tongue-jerkingly bitter brew; and, appropriately enough, it’s dark but not really dark (is calling it brown politically correct?). Race issues aside, it’s the kind of drink that leaves an odd, lasting mouthfeel (it’s a real word…) that wasn’t very appealing to this writer’s sensibilities. See, I prefer light and fruity beers — the fruitier the better. It has the inherent machismo of the beer drinking ritual — while watching football and mouthing off, preferably — and the daintiness of a colourful cocktail with a fruit slice attached to the straw. (I do draw the line at Shandy though.)
Unfortunately, the wheat beer (Hefeweizen) there was out of stock. That may seem surprising and a little off-putting but the story is actually really cool. I don’t know the exact details yet, but the Mumbai manifestation of Doolally doesn’t yet have a functioning brewery. Instead, since they’ve opened, they’ve been bringing their beer down from Pune via giant kegs in trucks (!). They run out of beer, and then the supply gets replenished. The wheat beer wasn’t available at eight that evening, but by 11, we were drowning in pitchers of the delightful concoction since a consignment had just arrived. In the meanwhile, though, we gave the Apple Cider a shot. It’s a popular item on their menu, but let’s just say it was distinctly unappetising, largely due to the sugary sweetness and lack of any discernible beerness to it. Judging beer is a thankless task, really, as it’s entirely dependent on personal taste unless you’re a hotshot zythologue or beer sommelier or beerologist (which I’m expressly not).
As for food — because beer makes people ravenous and rowdy — the only thing that really seemed worthy of a spot on the menu alongside the wheat beer were the fries, these fat, geometric arrangements that come with an elaborate spread of dips ranging from some cheese thing to a mayo-variant to green chutney and a couple more. The fries cost Rs 250, and a refill is for Rs 150, which means the dips themselves are worth 100 bucks. I don’t judge books by covers usually, but the Kerala Pepper Prawns (Rs 450) looked like undigested innards. They tasted better than they looked, sure, but that’s not saying much. And I didn’t quite understand the concept behind the Goan Sausage Calzone (Rs 350). Goan sausages in a calzone.
That aside, Doolally boasts a kind of intimacy and warmth to it. The tables are close to each other, there’s some sort of living room-esque bookshelf, even a bunch of board games if you so please. Posturing seems limited, although that may be my mind playing tricks on me since, technically, it is a Pune-based establishment, and has the accompanying small city charm that Mumbai or Delhi can in no way recreate on their own. The serving staff seemed enthusiastic, not just friendly, and each order we placed was followed by three other waiters checking up on us. Which is nice. And if you happen to be the experimental kinds, we suggest crafting a Stider of your own. How? Order a glass of the Oatmeal Stout and one of the Apple Cider; mix the two in equal halves and you get a neat little Stider, where the bitterness of the black beer and the sweetness of the cider are offset by each other. Theoretically.