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Tote Bar – Set the Bar High

Situated on the first floor of the restaurant Neel, the new Tote Bar promises a fresh experience and a night you will never forget
Situated on the first floor of the restaurant Neel, the new Tote bar promises a fresh experience and a night you will never forget.
Mumbai’s nightlife is getting a makeover and boy, are we glad! If you are over 25 years and looking for a place to welcome the early sun, but not be surrounded by squealing partygoers, you may want to consider the new Tote Bar that reopened this September. The Tote Bar, in its earlier days, housed a three-foot platform that accommodated most of its seating area and supported two stairways to the mezzanine floor. Given the narrow structural space, and to no surprise, busy nights were not much of a crowd pleaser largely owing to the stairway at the entrance and the deck level. Now that’s something you already knew and that’s a rationale enough why your hopes are high for a new lounge spot to hit over the weekend.
If you have been to Tote Bar before, you may take a few moments to understand what is so ‘new’ about the place. So let me save you the time and tell you. Eliminating the deck level with tables and the stairway to the mezzanine opens up the space and increases the capacity without giving one a bottle neck feel – a good move resulting in an open, airy, high ceiling lounge. 
In addition, Tote’s new resident DJ focuses on international upbeat music such as pop, RNB, funky jazz, club and eclectic house to satiate your music dynamic. So that’s the new quotient for this old bar. In a conversation with Network Prive (a social networking company that the Akerkars hired to handle the entertainment fraction of Tote and the brainchild of Akash Sheth, Mehul Patel and Mickhiel Pinto), let’s give you an insight into what’s in store for the barflies this party season. “We have received an overwhelming positive response after Tote reopened. The idea for us is to bear consistency so the response continues,” they excitedly shared. Why don’t you check it out for yourself? I did.
Parties Galore
For all the party hoppers this month, Tote has an exciting array of events to rope you in, no matter what genre you belong to. “What one may refer to as the biggest party of the year, ‘New Year’s Eve’, is definitely at the top of our list among other events. We plan to do a Retro night, an Expat night and a Diva’s night followed by a few others,” shared Mr Patel. 

Ever wondered what sets one bar apart from another one? Every place plays almost the same music, has a similar crowd and sports a contemporary decor. So what is it that makes you pick one place over another? Ask Mr Sheth and he will be quick to point out that it is the events that make or break a place. “Events at the bar play two major roles: one being engaging old and new clientele, and second, it is an important part of brand building. So while events contribute to bringing in a diverse crowd that are not necessarily weekend party goers, it also enriches the Tote Bar brand,” he said.
Crossing the red line
Once you steer clear of the men in black at the entrance, find your way up a fleet of stairs as a gush of cold wind greets you upon entrance to the main bar. Take a few moments to accustom your eyes to the darkness while rapid green and purple colored laser lights (which perfectly highlight the contours of the beautifully done bar that won ‘The best bar design’ last year) give the place a vivacious buzz. Do keep in mind that towards the weekend, Tote has a strict guest list, which includes table reservations. If you were to drop by this bar with your loved one, you will be welcomed as they encourage couples and mixed groups of both sexes, so stags beware. Fortunately so, as per the law, they do not encourage anyone below the legal drinking age of 21 which I truly hope will not vanish away into thin air as time passes. With regards to dress code, the usual House Rules apply, but I would recommend smart and dressy clothes as the crowd is classy and sophisticated, yet fun loving.
After taking all this in, it is only normal for one’s attention be diverted to the bar and the numerous bartenders who are blissfully singing along to the thumping music – enough to get you into a good mood. “The deGustibus Hospitality group has always emphasized on quality as part of their practices and have ongoing trainings conducted with staff. The training module encompasses international standards and awareness of latest trends and one will notice the effort in the staff,” said Mr Pinto. 
A bartender offered us the drinks menu which my companion and I took a few moments to sift through. Tempting us besides our usual and familiar concoctions, we were pleased to discover a few innovative and fresh cocktails and mocktails. We sampled a Virgin Caipirojca which consists of macerated lemon, fresh mint leaves and crush ice which kick-started the senses and was extremely refreshing. Looking for something to open up your palate? This is for you. Next we had the Virgin Ruby which consisted of Pomegranate, cranberry and lime and is something those with a sweet tooth would enjoy. I would recommend the Virgin Tic Tac which consists of Macerated lemon, mint and sour green apple for those who love a strong apple tinge in their drink. The Virgin Juvenile was made up of Orange liquor, fresh orange, fresh mint which deemed to be fresh with a fruity punch. Even the Virgin Watermelon Muddle with Fresh watermelon and a litchi crush is something the fruit lovers would enjoy. 
I really enjoyed the Melon Cooler which had Champagne and Melon Liquor – something out of the ordinary – because it was sweet, yet not just there to give me a sugar high. From the usuals, I must say that the Cosmopolitan was perfectly concocted and hit just the right spots on my tongue but the Whisky Sour was a letdown because of its extreme sweetness.
A perfect balance
After sampling the drinks, we went on to satiate our appetites and balance the liquid with gastronomical delights from their restaraunt Neel. Neel at Tote on the Turf is deGustibus’ Awadhi, Lucknowi restaurant that has been extremely successful over the past couple of months and the food literally just melts in your mouth. The menu showcased an extensive range of kebabs and starters which I thought were great bar snacks. “The popularity of Neel has complemented the bar as a great space for pre- and post-meal drinks,” said Mr Sheth. The vegetarian platter consisted of Jaituni Khumb Tikka which was Green olive rubbed, tandoor cooked mushrooms, and even though I am not a mushroom lover, this is something I would recommend. The Nadru Ke Shami Kabab, which was minced lotus root patty, tawa seared, was something that did not appeal too much to me but I am sure that those fond of lotus root will end up licking their fingers. Lastly, I sampled the Sofiyani Paneer Tikka which was absolutely delicious and literally melted on my tongue – as promised.
My companion had the Kakori Kabab which was finely ground lamb seekh simply sigdi cooked, but tasted and looked appealing. He claimed it was perfect and easy to chew and also literally melted in his mouth. Mahi Sarson Tikka and Murgh Karachi Kabab formed the remainder of the non-vegetarian platter and were both very well marinated with a good blend of spices and flavours. Kudos to the perfect timing in the tandoor with just the right amount of smokey flavour. The platter was swiped out in a matter of seconds which only proves how scrumptious it was!
All in all, let’s hope the place picks up on usual weeknights and draws in a lot more crowds because this place has a lot to offer for the slightly mature, yet animated crowd.