British India Greets the English Pub. Part VII.

Late Flourishing of English Pub in India: Dewar’s of Bangalore

Via Boak & Bailey today, our attention was drawn to Rashmi Narayan’s article Bangalore’s Rendezvous With Beer, which just appeared at the Burum Collective.

Narayan is a food and travel writer based in London. Her article paints a lively and informative picture of current craft brewing and pubs in Bangalore (India). The city’s official name today is Bengalaru.

While not mainly concerned with beer and brewing history in India, she referred to aspects of it, including a storied bar in Bangalore called Dewar’s, which no longer exists.

Citing a 2013 article by Rasheed Kappan in the Deccan Herald, she noted Dewar’s was a resort of the British soldiery during the Raj.

Hence Dewar’s must be counted as one of the British-inspired pubs of that period, and fits well in our series of earlier this year, “British India Greets the English Pub”.

Kappan wrote that Dewar’s, at 3 Cockburn Road, was established in 1933 by the last owner’s grandfather, who later established Dewar’s wine shops in the city. The chain still goes strong but has long been out of family hands.

Some sources date the founding of Dewar’s Bar to the 1920s. Whether 1920s or 1930s, the bar clearly originated in the inter-war period, a late stage of the British Raj.

It was always Indian-owned. The name and decor were adopted to appeal to its initial British constituency.

My series has discussed other examples of late-stage, English-oriented pubs in British India, two during World War II.

Dewar’s ceased trading in 2010 or 2011, and by 2014 was being torn down, as Sunil Bellubbi related mournfully in a blogpost in May 2014 in the Bangalore Mirror. It seems the building was not quite old enough to warrant historical preservation.

I am unclear when the porticoed structure housing Dewar’s actually went up. To my eye it had a characteristic prewar, blocky look.

One still sees the type in parts of the Anglosphere, e.g., a bank or two in Ottawa and Toronto, Canada. Some accounts suggest the building was originally a bungalow.

A 2008 blogpost by “Soldier of Fortune” (Samil Malhotra) conveys interesting information pertaining to Dewar’s final phase. He described well its decor, drinks, food, and lingering “English ghost air”.

The website Mumbai Paused in January 2010 published an evocative photo-essay, “British Hangover at Dewar’s Bar, Bangalore”. (The actual author appears uncredited).

It emphasized, as other accounts, the resolve of the proprietorship through the generations to leave original furnishings and décor unchanged. Sample quote:

The building is the same. The bar behind the counter is the same. The round rosewood table that was originally imported from Singapore looks age proof [and] is the same.

Among diverse items pictured: a faded, 1950s/60s colour advert for Tuborg Lager. Another, the figurine of a well-known Scotch whisky. Indian art festoons as well, some picturing deities.

A fine depiction of Dewar’s exterior in the 1970s, by the Bangalore cartoonist and illustrator Paul Fernandes, is included in a 2011 article in The Hindu.

A spin-off of Dewar’s, called Dewar’s Marine, continued business in another location, reproducing the bar’s famous fried fish and other dishes. I am unclear whether it operates at the present time.

I have identified yet further drinking places in Bangalore of the last century representative of the old era, when bar patrons initially, as for Dewar’s, were Britons, other Europeans or Anglo-Indians.

This period must be set off from the modern period of the Indian beer bar per se, as Narayan’s article explains. There is some cross-over in the sense that some modern Bangalore bars offer British theming or ambience, as I noted earlier in this series (see footnote #1).

Part VIII will follow.






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