As upper middle class young men, we’re the real victims of everything. For years now, we’ve been forced from our native bars by hordes of people who have no respect for chakli and are confused by the concept of having to pay for alcohol by the quarter. One by one, our sacred spaces were desecrated and turned into ‘resto-bars’ so as to accommodate the new influx of women and their fictional concerns of “safety” and “cleanliness”. As prices rise, we’re forced to leave the dive bars we grew up with and venture further north in search of greener pastures requiring less green. This nomadic lifestyle has taken its toll on all of us, with the old and weak being left to perish at the hands of the elements, while the younger amongst us tell tales of our past glory. People ask us why we don’t just quit being dramatic and go to Social, to which we retort “Why don’t you go to Social?” which promptly shuts them up.
We took it upon ourselves to locate a bar that would replace all we’d lost, one which met three simple criteria; it had to be cheap, it had to be easily accessible, and it had to serve good seafood. After spending many months drinking and smoking at our benefactor’s expense (for research purposes) we did the impossible. We found the place. And it really is a thing of beauty.
It’s called Navik, a bar situated safely under a Metro Station. Chakala sounds a lot further than it really is, which is why ever since this website’s inception, we’ve never paid it any attention, not even to insult it. And we don’t often admit this, but we were wrong. This little suburb whose only public exposure may well be this article, shows exceptional promise. There are no fewer than six bars in a 25 metre radius, all of which we hope to cover before our eventual suicides. But let’s put our plans for the future aside and talk about one of the most exceptional bars we’ve ever come across.
Navik is absurdly dark courtesy of the Chakala power grid, which is basically three dogs on a hamster wheel. Once you get past the freezing, sub-zero temperatures in the A/C section & you find yourself getting drunker, the bar gets significantly more appealing. The prices on the menu were a genuine surprise. A bottle of Kingfisher Strong was just Rs.190, which is cheaper than Janata was in 2015; and don’t even get us started on the whiskey.
Most bars we’ve been to don’t seem to take their food particularly seriously. This could be because they make all their money from the alcohol and the secret cockfighting matches. As a result, they rarely stock anything beyond chicken and maybe some three-day old prawns; if you’re lucky. Navik is not one of those places. The restaurant itself wasn’t much to look at, and the only thing that really caught our eye was a sign warning us that singing was strictly prohibited, to which Derrick promptly threw a fit. The TV was broadcasting a woman loudly getting murdered in what we hoped was a South Indian movie, which was still more pleasant to watch than the IPL, and likely less scripted. Feeling satisfied, we were ready to place our orders.
Most dive bars say they serve crab, but don’t. At 180 rupees, the crab at Navik was little, although not as small as we’d expected. We’d never had a Crab Tandoori in our life that wasn’t at least 500 bucks, because it’s a preparation reserved solely for bigger crabs at serious seafood restaurants. Navik’s take on it, was one of the most beautiful things we’d ever experienced, our very own personal, fun-sized tandoori crab. The meat was fresh & sweet, and because of the crab’s size, the shell was crunchy and perfectly edible, while the legs could be eaten whole and weren’t very different from dry, fried bombil.
Think of a thick juicy cross section of steak, only it isn’t steak, it’s fresh, beautifully fried fish, one large enough to have swallowed a Biblical prophet. The fact that a half inch slab of high quality Kingfish cost us less than a McSpicy Chicken Meal is still something we can’t wrap our heads around. The Surmai Fry was so good, we actually felt like we were robbing the place, but that could also have been Derrick stealing the cutlery so we can continue to host the website.
Bondas is squid, a relative rarity in Mumbai’s dive bar scene, even places that are fairly well known for their food like Canara and Chinaar don’t bother to put them on the menu. The squid at Navik was excellent, even more so than the one we had at Apoorva because it still had a bite to it and wasn’t weirdly soft. While most restaurants trick you into spending all your money on Neer Dosa because each ‘plate’ rarely has more than two pieces, Navik are honourable and give you five, all in a single plate.
The Decree: Navik is cheap, dangerous for women to go to, & the food is brilliant, everything we look for in a dive bar. It’s even out of the reach of the kind of people who’d turn it into an Irish House if they ever got the opportunity. Bandra has fallen, Khar and Santacruz are getting there, we need to move on, or risk extinction. And trust us when we say Navik isn’t some sort of consolation prize, it’s a victory in its own right. So go there. Go there now.