Time Out says
The British-Indian-themed bar has a terrific beer list and serves an array of Indian snacks
When Pub Royale opened in May 2015 with a British-Indian theme, it sounded almost too hyperspecific—and potentially dicey—to work. But while Britain and India have a long, complicated political history, there’s a clear culinary relationship as well, since their cuisines have merged into Anglo-Indian food, a cuisine style best exemplified by chicken tikka masala, a curry popular in Britain.
That’s the angle Pub Royale, the latest bar from Heisler Hospitality (Sportsman’s Club), takes with their food and drink, which includes a lineup of Pimm’s Cups, the summery British favorite, curries and a daily-changing beer and cider menu that rivals the best beer bars in Chicago. The drink list, from beverage director Michael McAvena (Publican), has a mix of interesting local, national and international beers on draft, as well as ciders from the U.S., Spain, France and England.
The fact that there’s a thoughtful food menu might make you confuse this for a restaurant, but it’s firmly a bar. All seats are first-come, first-served, so you can’t count on getting to eat. But if you’re hungry and manage to score seats, the menu, from Jason Vaughan, director of culinary development, is packed with hits, including spicy lamb dumplings and a doughnut made from naan dough that’s topped with chai dulce de leche.
But it was the service that really stood out—everyone I talked to there was incredibly nice and knowledgeable, making Pub Royale the kind of place you want to make your regular spot.
Atmosphere: With quirky touches—peacocks perched atop the bar, elephant tap handles, a motorcycle on the wall—Pub Royale feels like walking onto the set for Wes Anderson’s Darjeeling Limited.
What to eat: While I can never return to Pub Royale without getting the gently gamy lamb dumplings in chili oil again, there’s also buttered paneer, cheese cubes resting in a tomato sauce with slivers of salted chiles; warm, salty samosas stuffed with salt cod and potatoes; and Indian hot chicken, big pieces of fried chicken with super-crisp skin and mild heat, served with piquant fermented limes and chiles. End with the fantastically named Knickerbocker Glory, a many-layered sundae with a variety of fruits, ice creams and crispy elements, a dish that may or may not originate from a British line of “outerwear-themed desserts.”
What to drink: This is a beer bar, first and foremost, but with a daily changing beer list, it’s hard to make suggestions. If nothing on the beer list projected onto the back wall catches your attention, ask your server for a recommendation. Or, just get the house shandygaff, a refreshing combination of Off Color Troublesome and limeade, which is great paired with the spicy dishes on the menu. I also liked the dressed Hamm’s, an icy can of cheap beer with a thick cap of Valentina hot sauce poured on top, a pretty take on a Michelada.
For cocktails, there’s a funky frozen mango lassi, made with yogurt, mango, honey and bitters, spiked with rum, Batavia Arrack and Ancho Reyes chile liqueur, and garnished with sweet paprika and mint—it’s super boozy but refreshing. A menu of four Royale Cups, all made with Pimm’s and a potable bitter liqueur from Letherbee, includes the #1, a traditional, cucumber-heavy Pimm’s Cup; #2, laced with Batavia Arrack and with subtle spice from Ancho Reyes, the best of the bunch; #3, a Scotch-based version that tastes a little too wintery to work in summer; and #4, a Jungle Bird riff that’s lightly bitter with Campari. Our server told us that there are more Cups on the way, including a Malört version.
Where to sit: It’s first-come, first-served for all seats, and there’s a mix of bar seats, communal tables and high two-tops in back. While I easily snagged an open bar stool on a Tuesday night, on a busy Friday, my date and I chatted up another couple so we could swoop in and grab their seats when they were done.
2049 W Division St
|Transport:||El stop: Blue to Division. Bus: 49, 50, 70.|
|Opening hours:||Daily 5pm-2am|
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