15 July 2016

Shaw Brothers or Chhota Bristol


Recently I went to Shaw Brothers again after almost six months. This is the oldest Bar in Calcutta. It was established in 1872. People also call it Shaw Bar or Chhota Bristol. During the British Raj there used to be a hotel nearby named The Bristol Hotel. The regulars at Shaw started affectionately calling their den as Chhota Bristol. The address of Shaw Brothers is 1A, Jawaharlal Nehru Road, Calcutta 700013. Its inside the Metro Gulli at Esplanade.  

There has not been much alteration at Shaw Bar over all these years. Previously smoking was allowed, but nowadays it has stopped because of the Government Ban. To smoke one has to go outside or to the toilet. I am totally against this Smoking Ban in Pubs and Bars. While having a drink I really feel like having a cigarette too. And its damn irritating to leave your glass and go outside to smoke. I am sure a lot of other people will also share my feelings.  

At Chhota Bristol you have to pay first. Once you occupy a seat, a waiter will come with an empty clean glass, for you to drink plain water, if you wish to. Drinking water is already present on the table in bottles. Previously they used glass bottles. Nowadays they use plastic bottles. You have to select your choice of drinks and give the required amount of money to the waiter. There are no Menu Cards. He will return with your drink after some time, along with the drinks of the other fellows at your table. And with a very small plate of complementary chhola, sliced ginger and salt. Inside Shaw Brothers there is a LED screen which displays the prices of the alcohol. There is also a small aquarium. If the seats near the aquarium are empty then I always sit there and watch the small fishes swim peacefully without disturbing one another. 

There are five types of waiters in Shaw Bar. The first type brings you the alcohol. The second type brings you the food. You can order things like dry chilli chicken, chicken pakoras, fish fingers, mutton liver etc. Give him the money and he will return with the food after some time. The third type roams throughout the place with a tray full of snacks like potato chips, peanuts, cheeselets, bhujia, cheese cubes, chanachur, salted cashews etc. The snacks are there on small paper plates. You have to wait for these type of waiters to come to your table. Here you have to be patient. He will come to your table at his own leisurely pace. These days the snacks items are priced at as low as six rupees. Only the Amul cheese cubes are expensive at eighteen rupees per cube and the salted cashews are forty rupees per packet. The fourth type of waiters roam throughout the place with a tray of salads, guava slices and cucumber slices only at five rupees per plate. He will also come to your table at his own leisurely pace. The fifth type of waiters are there to bring things like aloo-chat, aloo-kabli, chana masala etc. for you. These cost ten rupees per plate. The waiters here keep green chillies inside their trouser pockets. If you want one then ask any one of the waiters. Chhota Bristol doesn't have its own kitchen. The food comes from the street vendors outside. 

Shaw Bar is always full of customers. It is infact difficult to find an empty chair, especially in the evenings. The alcohol prices are very reasonable. The food prices are low. It is a decent place filled with middle class people who are serious about drinking. No one behaves like a drunkard here. If a person here consumes too many drinks, then the kind waiter will tell him to go home and come back another time. Over the years the regulars have formed family like ties with the old waiters here. 

Women are not allowed here. There is no Ladies Toilet. It has been an all male bastion from day one. Men here love their alcohol and they know how to behave responsively. The service here is closed every evening around 6 p.m. for a few minutes because then the daily puja is performed at the Counter. Here are some pictures of Chhota Bristol :  


Just outside the gate of Shaw Brothers there is a cigarette-wallah who sells normal cigarettes, flavoured cigarettes, paan masala, gutka, lighters, cigars, hookah jars etc. I always buy the flavoured cigarettes from him. These days I am addicted to flavoured cigarettes and I have almost stopped smoking normal cigarettes. They come in various flavours like Gum Mint, Clove, Sour Apple, Pan Masala, Strawberry, Chocolate, Cocktail, Grape, Orange etc. These flavoured cigarettes come in beautiful and colourful capsules. I also collect these capsules. The brand name of these flavoured cigarettes is Luvin. They cost ten rupees per cigarette... 


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