Taking 30BB to the Northeast: Shillong – 3 bars stirring it up
Shillong can feel like many different places at once. If Police Bazar in the city centre has a bustling energy, Jaintia Hills’ toytown setting, far removed from city settlements, can export you to another world. In October, when I left Mumbai to discover the bar scene in Guwahati and Shillong, as part of an assignment for 30 Best Bars (30BB) — an initiative by Tulleeho and MW magazine to rank and celebrate the country’s best bars and bartenders — I was visiting the Meghalayan city a second time in 2022. And indeed, it felt like a whole new place altogether, perhaps because I had an agenda. But also, due to the weather, which interestingly, played a huge role. A word of caution: avoid the location when it rains.
Truth is, Shillong to me had always been a destination best reserved for nature junkies, and its picturesque towns and locales allude to that notion. Hardly had I imagined the city to throw up choice bars and cool nightlife hangout spots. But I love to admit, I was wrong. This time, I learned that the hamlet is as much about pristine blue water bodies (think Lake Dawki, Rainbow and Krang Suri Falls) and miraculous spots like Nongriat’s Living Roots Bridge, as it is about thriving nightlife.
From fancy rooftop bars to a quirky little underground pub, with a busy indie music programming, Shillong is a city dweller’s port of call and a haven for true-blue travel enthusiasts, in equal measure. And through the course of my stay, I enjoyed enough tipples and bars to attest to the fact that this verdant hill station is a must-see for those who love drinking and having a good time. Here are the places I stopped by, ranked in order of preference:
#1: The Evening Club, Shillong
Inconspicuously sitting in a basement in Shillong’s Police Bazaar, The Evening Club, or simply, EC is where all the cool folks are at. The watering hole has quickly garnered a lot of adulation for forefronting the tourist hotspot’s live music scene with a vibrant programming helmed by owner Jeffrey Laloo, incidentally a bassist himself. I won’t lie, I’ve sipped on better G&Ts in my life before, but sometimes, the answer to ‘what makes a bar good’ is larger than the sum of its parts. What I mean is that, EC, with its unabashed tribute to Kolkata’s OG pub and gig scene, ends up showing you a pretty good time. Don’t miss Trincas, a cocktail dedicated to one of Kolkata’s oldest bars or, simply share your spirit and flavour preferences, and let the bartenders treat you to something fashioned for you on the spot.
#2: Cloud 9, Shillong
Spread across 5000 square feet, Cloud 9 is Shillong’s number one partying spot, with happening DJ nights and entertainment for locals and travellers alike. Wooden seating, flooring and walls help create a vintage/sophisticated ambience, which truth be told, can be misleading, given what it actually looks like at night. A good spot to let your hair down, but with a bar programme that could receive a welcome fillip from a facelift and some modernisation.
#3: Glass House, Shillong
I settled down with a coconut mojito at Glass House, which sits inside Hotel Alpine Continental, and has an al fresco seating area that’s genuinely enjoyable in Shillong’s climes. There’s not much to write home about my tropical tipple, that save for a slight buzz, failed to do much else. It’s a good spot to hangout with a few of your friends, but for a single drink while travelling solo? I am not so sure.
Also check out:
- Tango Restobar & Lounge
Club Heritage , Tripura Castle
- Blueberry Inn
- Kitchen Express
- Irish Pub