The Bombay Club (830 Conti St., 504-586-0972; www.thebombayclub.com) is one of those "blink and you'll miss it" nooks in the French Quarter, with an entrance tucked in the driveway of the Prince Conti Hotel. Inside, nailhead leather booths and heavy wood furnishings surround a behemoth central bar. A suspended profusion of martini glasses and goblets creates an overhead crystalline garden. It's a dark, homey, throwback vibe without irony or retro kitsch.
"The Bombay Club has always been unique in a sense, for lack of a better word, that it's sort of a supper club," says Andrew Gross, volunteer manager. "That's what [the original] vision of it was: a nice place where adults could come out, eat and listen to great New Orleans music."
The club's decor, where a prototypical English hunting print hangs next to a promo for Jack Daniel's, reflects the imprint of its iconoclastic late owner, Richard Fiske. Fiske purchased the club 19 years ago and ran it with its wife, Willie, until his death last July.
He left behind a restaurant, bar and music venue known for its romantic atmosphere and lauded martini program. Alongside typical contemporary variations like lemon drop and chocolate martinis, the club serves more than 100 drinks, including a cucumber martini and a "meat-and-potatoes" martini that includes boudin. Gross credits the staff for handling such concoctions. He describes their employees as service industry professionals, rather than transient workers on their way to their next destination.
The Bombay Club offers nightly dinner service by executive chef Nick Gile. The chef serves contemporary Creole French cuisine with seafood variations inspired by Fiske's native Boston. Along with a weekly lobster night during summer, scallops, shepherd's pie and other "Yankee" dishes regularly appear on the menu.
"[Gile is] an excellent chef; he's really creative without being silly," Gross says. "We're not blowing smoke into oysters or anything, but it's a very good menu within those limits."
Gross first met Fiske after being asked to leave the restaurant for wearing indecorous attire. The two eventually became close friends, and Gross later invested in the club as a partner. During his tenure as interim manager, Gross has worked to attract a younger clientele to supplement the club's regulars and its tourist business. Fiske was a friend to many old-time New Orleans musicians who eventually rose to stardom; Gross has shaken up the club's music schedule with Glen David Andrews, Sasha Masakowski and newer acts.
He says to look out for an all-star lineup during Jazz Fest weekends, when tourists and locals converge for $3 martinis during happy hour and evenings of music and dining.
"We're privileged to live here in New Orleans," Gross says. "People save for a long time to take a trip here ... While they're here, they might have two or three nice meals out. If they choose to have one of those here, we really are honored by that."