Gastropubs and the Rise of Casual Dining in India: History and its Trend

India’s experimental artistry can be witnessed yet again, in the form of a fusion of fine dining with the casual aura of a pub or an innovative encapsulation that has become a favourite among its diners. With burgeoning consumer demands, hunger for exclusivity and desire for comfort food, gastro pubs have become the places to head to when eating out. It’s like a double-edged sword, offering not only deliciously scrumptious food but also an ambience that is capable of bestowing upon you an unforgettable experience. Whether it’s the “selfie corner” or the dance performance of the staff, there’s plenty entertainment.

What makes the gastro pub concept even better is the notion of unpredictability in the dishes, carefully selected and cooked to perfection. While the names might sound familiar, believe it or not, the taste is exquisite.

But why would someone choose to dine at a gastro pub and not the conventional fine dining restaurant? Its mass appeal lies in the affordability of the venue. It can be afforded by a vast section of the population, encompassing all age groups. With very few limitations on the variety of dishes, these pubs meet the needs of all sorts of diverse demands, be it variations in cuisines, liquor etc. It’s historically known for serving sundry forms of beer, each more refreshing than the other. What’s more suitable for a hot summer Sunday afternoon?

Dominantly, they seek to promote all sorts of local, freshly grown ingredients to offer a combination of dishes that are healthy, unique and appetising.


What makes the gastro pub concept even better is the notion of unpredictability; Image credit: Istock

History of Gastro Pubs

The trajectory can be traced back to the 1980’s, in Britain, when the economy was hit by recession. It forced numerous owners to give up their leases. In this situation, as a revival attempt, one such pub stood the test of time and transformed into what is called the “gastro pub” today.

It lies at the threshold or the transition from a bar to restaurant. But where does the secret to a memorable night out lie? Good company! And that is what the ambience of a gastro pub attracts. It could be the celebration of a special occasion, a silver anniversary, a fabulous 50th birthday or a terrific 21st!

The Eagle was the first pub, which suited the criteria to be called a “gastro pub”. The etymology of the term is slightly ambiguous; its essentiality lies in the concept and why it has been trending in recent times.


The focus is not just on drinks but on food too; Image credit: Istock

Gastro Pub Trend in India

Bengaluru has been a guinea pig in terms of pubs in India. It is home to the first gastro pub in the country, Monkey Bar. Manu Chandra, executive chef, gave the country inventive food and drinks beyond the confines of fine dining restaurants, making casual dining the next best thing. With an eclectic décor, rugged furniture and bricked walls, the gastro pub is the hub of an enthusiastic crowd, with vigor and an acceptance of unpredictability.

In conversation with Karan Khilnani, partner of Pune-based Elephant And Company, he takes us into an insight on the short, yet glorious history of gastro pubs and its future in India. Located in a prime area in Pune, Kalyani Nagar, Elephant and Co is an enchanting bar, one that has been able to create a niche for itself in the hospitality industry.

According to Karan, the primary element in a bar is the vibe it exhibits. It’s the people who contribute significantly in maintaining that vibe. So it’s the people who are the sole creators and influencers. What differentiates a gastro pub is also the combination of both, food and quality drinks.

“The concept of gastro pubs in India is fairly new but I think it is a trend which is catching up very quickly. People have started paying more attention to food as well as the drinks. Fun fusion food is now a trend. The industry provides a lot of scope for experimentation so we, as restaurant owners, should make use of it.”

monkey bar

Monkey Bar interiors; Image credit: Istock

The gastro pubs have taken such a rapid turn, leaving lounges and resto-bars far far behind. Their menus have suitably been labeled as “globe trotting”. Innovation is never kept at bay; there’s always a lip-smacking menu.

Gastro pubs have treaded on paths that have transcended geographical boundaries. Be it American, Indian or British gastro pubs, it is gradually becoming a well-known trend, making pub hopping or bar hopping a favourite past time.


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