Can you make everyone happy? We will soon know, when Ms. Tequila Shots meets Mr. Posh Cognac tomorrow, when Chipstead opens.
Hot shot CEOs used to relax over single malts in masculine oak-panelled bars. They’re still drinking those single malts. But in sparkly Jimmy Choos, swivelling in time to Latin lounge on designer barstools.
The CEO has changed. So Fort St. George, at Taj Coromandel, the last refuge of the old-fashioned business man, is gone.
In its place is Chipstead, designed to be contemporary and comforting, edgy and dignified, young and classic. Trying to appeal to a rapidly changing city where boundaries blur with such regularity, there’s no such thing as niche anymore. After all, the target crowd is everyone (with the possible exception of pesky teenyboppers). The Taj Coromandel doesn’t want to just be the place where our dads hang out. It’s now hoping to also draw the young executives in: flashy tattoos, stock-talk, platinum credit cards and all.
However the result is a bar that’s still looking for its own distinct personality. Chipstead (named after the bungalow that stood in the space the hotel now occupies), a number of elements work together to create a slick international feel. This could be a bar in Hong Kong, Singapore or Dubai. It has the personality of a sleek supermodel, at home at any ramp anywhere in the world.
Eccentricities are what give a bar individuality. Chipstead has a cautious let’s-make-everyone-happy design. Fortunately its creators made space for a couple of quirks. Like surprising stained glass windows, which filter the light from the lobby. And funky constantly-changing rainbow-coloured overhead lights, which may be a bit too cute for more serious patrons. Then there’s the curtain of steel beads at the entrance, adding a careful touch of high-end hippy chic to the whole picture.
The bottom line is luxury. Unabashed, glossy, self-indulgent luxury.
Surprisingly, it doesn’t come with an intimidating price-tag. Taj Coromandel’s response to competition has been a wily effort to create a new pool of consumers. Clever new marketing strategies work on luring the younger pub-and-party crowd into the hotel, hoping that they’ll react to their first spoon of caviar like sharks tasting blood.
General Manager of Taj Coromandel, N. Prakash, holds up a bottle of the world’s first black vodka, Blavod, as the rest of his team opens box after box of rare cognacs, whiskeys and even rums, all set in satin like rare jewels. Since Chipstead aims to expand horizons, it really works hard on variety: about 350 wine labels, 50 whiskeys, 40 kinds of white spirits, 10 rare liquors. To make things easier for customers, there are the martini/champagne/long-haul whiskey/vodka flights, a collection of three 30 ml pours designed for tasting, all at Rs. 1,000.
You can experiment with vodkas, ranging from Grey Goose to Stolichnaya-Below 42 (Rs. 450 for a 60 ml pour). Or try the original alcohol popsicles, cold, creamy and intense made with a combination of alcohol and icecream (Rs. 250). Flavours include vanilla banana, unabashedly pink strawberry and good old Baileys.
Thanks to their agile mixologist, Jiri Majerik (who previously worked across in the U.K.), there’s an endless collection of cocktails. His spicy Golden Dragon, with chilli and honey infused vodka, leads the list. Jiri’s got a gift for unexpected combinations — try his fragrant coffee-passion fruit cocktail, sprinkled with fresh coffee beans. He’s also introducing molecular mixology to the city, using unexpected ingredients such as airy apricot foam.
There’s wine, available by the glass from Rs. 350 onwards. There’s absinthe, for tortured novelists. Of course, if you want to go all Paris Hilton, they’re happy to help. For starters, nibble delicately on some Beluga Caviar, available at Rs. 10,000 for 25 gm.