Bengaluru’s new ZLB – A Kyoto Speakeasy at The Leela lives up to the mystique of speakeasies

A snapshot of ZLB - the interior of a Kyoto speakeasy

A snapshot of ZLB – the interior of a Kyoto speakeasy | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

The first rule of speakeasy bars is you don’t talk about it. Yet here I am, breaking it down, sharing it, attracting more people to the sneaky spot, even if I run the risk of being barred from there in the future.

Of late, the vernacular trend has taken a steady hold on metropolitan India. Perhaps it is the lure of being ‘in the know’ of belonging to that set of cognoscentes with the most refined of tastes. It’s like being a member of a club, but without pledging your allegiance to it for the rest of your social life.

A cocktail at ZLB - a Kyoto speakeasy

A cocktail at ZLB – Kyoto Speakeasy | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

That’s why PCO, perhaps India’s first legal speakeasy, has become a bit of a hit in Delhi. The bar, Cocktails & Dreams, is in Gurgaon and is conveniently located opposite a market shop, so technically it’s not really hidden away, despite the basement location. Mumbai had a speakeasy inside the Thirty City a few years back, although, to be honest, given the deep-inside-the-meet location of many star outlets in India’s starry city, one would be forgiven for assuming That they are all speakeasies of some sort. To speak

One defining feature that makes Speakeasy special is that it allows you to run over with friends and instantly impress them with the sheer prowess of your Uber F&B quotient. It’s little wonder that the idea of ​​opening grand bars with obscure locations and vaguely cool entrances is catching on, even in small towns.

The latest offering from The Leela Bengaluru is exactly that. It starts when you make a reservation, then you receive a WhatsApp message with walking directions from the hotel lobby to the bar; Trust me, you’ll need them. I’ve spent the cumulative equivalent of months staying at that hotel and yet I’ve never been to where ZLB – A Kyoto Speakeasy is located. While I won’t give you too many details, since finding the space is a big part of the allure, I will admit that I wandered my way through the kitchen, chopping past cooks nonstop on my quest.

Snacks on offer at ZLB - A Kyoto Speakeasy

Snacks on Offer at ZLB – A Kyoto Speakeasy | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Upon entering you see a distinctive wall containing bottles of rare spirits that have already been claimed by cognoscenti, now here housed in a display case, locked, with access granted only to those owners Who can come and take part of his personal stash. The wine storage room doubles as a smoking area and the restroom is tucked away behind a walk-in freezer door.

It’s a lot to absorb right away, but the main course is yet to come. As you walk into the main salon, you almost seem to have traveled back in time – a jazz band playing, a singer leading the pack sensually serenading the crowd, plush designer sofas reclining nicely (and dressed in lounges (Sabyasachi for Nilaya by Asian Paints), huddled around small tables with exotic drinks. As far as optics go, you’ll want to dress up to do justice to the space.

The drinks mostly harken back to the Roaring 20s when shirts and clothes were starched and the drinks, stiff. When I unintentionally lock eyes with someone at another table, we almost exchange that subtle nod between ‘people in the know,’ a sign of approval that nods to each other’s good choices at the bar. accepts.

We tried a few cocktails and snacks, and without dissecting the dishes, they performed well on all senses – from the extraordinary presentation of one smoked whiskey drink to the subtle garnishes at play in another; The bartenders are doing a fantastic job behind the sticks and the chef has provided a worthy Jugalbandi with snacks.

A cocktail at ZLB - a Kyoto speakeasy

A cocktail at ZLB – Kyoto Speakeasy | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

The drinks are a nice juxtaposition of the classic with the modern, such as the Paleman, inspired by the famous Halloween monster, or the Kyoto Sunrise, an homage to the Land of the Rising Sun. It almost looks like a noir film set.

Recognizing politeness as a virtue, like running a successful speakeasy bar, has an inherent paradox – the minute its existence becomes common knowledge, its value is diluted. Only time will tell whether this bar remains a low-key cult choice of connoisseurs or opts for a more mainstream flow. Either way, don’t come without a reservation.

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