A small crowd gathers outside 20 Teck Lim Road. They shuffle around and leave dejectedly when a waiter from perennially packed, award-winning restaurant Burnt Ends turns them away. But instead of heading off and abandoning all hope of snagging a reservation, they could have tried their luck by waiting at the new bar upstairs. And with cocktails this excellent, they might end up staying all night.
Yugnes Susela, the former head bartender behind Smoke & Mirrors, is the brains behind The Elephant Room. Away from the glitzy rooftop perched atop the National Gallery, he finds new inspiration to explore flavours beyond what he was doing.
For his freshman menu, he’s set his sights on Singapore’s Little India. The seven drinks are named after iconic sites of the area like Tekka, Jothi’s Flower Shop and Buffalo Road. The first is the bar’s signature tipple, a tribute to the heart and soul of the community – the food centre and wet market that residents count on for nourishment. Tekka ($22) blends Old Monk rum with coconut and lacto-fermented bananas. Resting on top of the glass is a delicate sliver dehydrated banana skin, dotted with lime cream and chicken 65-spiced caramel – and like the dink, it’s sweet, funky and savoury all in one mouthful. The Buffalo Road ($22) is another winner, combining pink guava-infused gin with vetiver and tonic that makes for a herbaceous G&T. Call it a night with the legendary Beeda Man ($22) of Rowell Road. Just as the sweet betel leaf treat is served at the end of a meal, this digestif of sour mango-rum modulated with the peppery, citrusy and anise-y tones of caraway is great for sipping.
A word of warning: if you don’t like Indian food, you’re probably not going to enjoy the drinks at The Elephant Room. They are big on spice, incredibly layered and audaciously bold – as you’d expect from the cuisine. The kitchen also doles our four dishes so you don’t end up drinking on an empty stomach. There’s the classic street snack Desker Road ($13), pani puri filled with moringa avail and coconut crumble as well as Tamarind Curry Prawns ($21), grilled tiger prawns served in a tangy tamarind curry you can mop up with a piece of flatbread.
As the team tells you when you arrive, The Elephant Room is “bringing ripples of Indian heritage through modern tipples and bites”. It’s accomplished this in spades. Couple that with the genial hospitality of the bartenders, attention to detail right down to the sourcing of textiles and attempts towards zero-waste, this new bar is definitely worth checking out.
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