The right location is critical for any business establishment’s survival and success. However, what if location is the only redeeming feature of an establishment, and everything else shouts mediocrity?
That is the question which pops into the mind when one visits SBX Sports Bar in Bhandup. Located in one of the two prominent malls in the suburb, we expected the place to be buzzing. Sadly, it wasn’t. Putting this down to the inclement weather and the fact that it was a weekday afternoon, we were willing to buy the management’s statement that the footfall is higher on weekends, especially since it is the only sports bar in the suburb.
Six-month old SBX tries hard to strut like a sports bar with machismo, sporting a small, caged basketball booth where folks can throw a few hoops or a snooker table next to the bar where one can pay for a round with friends. There is also a faux brick wall with black and white photos of sportspeople, tablemats with sports trivia as well as small LCD TVs airing different sports channel and football shaped chairs – yup, the usual trappings of a sports bar.
We read the menu with surprise because the prices mentioned were very reasonable, unlike other sports bars in the city. Deciding to test their signature cocktails, we had the Maria Sharapova (INR 249). The vodka-based drink with melon, mint and lime was just what our parched throats needed after the long commute to Bhandup.
The whisky stiffened Magic Johnson (INR 249) is designed to thrill youngsters who visit SBX for its inexpensive drinks. Tennis player Sania Mirza’s namesake, Sania (INR 249) lacks her aggressive stroke. But if you like lychee juice then this vodka-based drink with some fresh mint leaves might find favor with you.
The usual comfort food one finds in any bar is available at SBX. We tried the Golden Seacatch Basket (INR 275) which had deep-fried butterflied prawn and crumb-tossed and fried bass with fries. Served on a bed of lettuce leaves with salad, the seafood was a little too oily for us. The Jhinga Koliwada (INR 275) too had big, juicy prawns but luckily this variety wasn’t as greasy. In fact, the spicy batter of Bengal gram flour, spices and a little yoghurt made it airier and complemented the shellfish perfectly.
The mystery of the low prices was revealed when we tried the Jack Daniels Buffalo Wings (INR 185) – the portion sizes were disappointingly small. The thick coating of sauce on the meat was slightly sweetish as the BBQ sauce over weighed the JD in the preparation.
The Makai Corn Sheekh Kebab (INR 160) thankfully was not as dry as served in most places, probably because a little bit of processed cheese is added before the kebab is cooked in the tandoor. For once, the vegetarian appetizers trumped the non-veg varieties on the table.
Having tucked into these side dishes, we felt trying the main dishes were unnecessary. However, we decided to follow Chef Mirchandani’s suggestion to try a couple of options beginning with the Chicken Dum Biryani (INR 235). The well-cooked chicken pieces received great balance from the deep fried onions and spices surrounding the rice.
The Veg Khao Suey (INR 175) came as a jarring shock, more for its unappetizing appearance than anything. A set of small porcelain bowls – the ones that usually house tomato ketchup in any restaurant – carried condiments like burnt garlic, chilli flakes, peanuts et al, while a bigger bowl housed the overcooked noodles and yet another one held the Thai curry. The latter had a grainy texture because of some Bengal gram that was added in its preparation – typical of the Indian jugaad when it comes to localizing food.
SBX Sports manages to hold on to the semblance of a sports bar by the skin of its teeth, because once you take away the sporting memorabilia and bric-à-brac, it comes across as just another lounge bar. The service has its high points, but the presentation of the food and portion sizes served definitely needs a serious rethink. The lucrative prices on the menu might attract the young crowd to walk in through the door initially, but it is unlikely to keep them coming back, especially when they can pop over to Powai or Bandra for better options.