These days, it’s too risky a proposition to just focus on the whisky. Sure, the place I visited is called ‘The Whisky Bar’, but if my drink is not accompanied with something nice to munch, I might as well stay at home. Luckily, at this resto-bar, good food makes as much of the menu as good tipple.
As for the rest of the place, take a load of these numbers: a 6,000 sq ft area, 700 bottles of the dark liquor used as décor, a 155-people seating area, 11 unique whisky brands in the menu, a 60-feet-long bar (North India’s longest) with three individual bar sections (Tiki, Classic and Speakeasy) and an 18-page drinks menu.
On a pre-launch visit, I enter the place and shuffle through its sprawling expanse before settling for a corner table. The Whisky Bar’s founder, Dheeraj Sapra, spots me from a distance and immediately joins me. Right off the bat, he isn’t your snobby, self-absorbed entrepreneur—the run-of-the-mill kind who is detached from his venture—but someone incredibly passionate and, especially, concerned about what he’s up to. “I’ve been involved with everything. You know how many floorings I rejected before selecting this one?”
And with that, my focus shifts to the décor. Just above the bright hues of the mid-century furniture, you have turquoise projections that give the place a very lounge-y vibe; at the bar, however, everything is a classy mix of copper and wood; overall, the place is a whisky library, with all kinds of brands adding as much dimension to it as would a variety of books.
Yet, everything has been done keeping whisky in mind. Dheeraj wishes to create a connoisseurship culture. He plans to have offers on, say, the 18-year-old variant of a bottle, and not the cheaper 12-year-old everyone goes for, so that people can graduate to better whiskies, and, most importantly, learn the difference between the two. He also plans to host tasting nights and pairings sessions.
Taking a cue from his idea of pairings, I ask the hosts to pair each delicacy with a suitable drink. This is what we came up with:
Vietnamese Veg Roll + Whisky Sour
Unlike most whisky sours I have had, the one here does not lack in sugar, texture, taste or tang. A balanced drink feels like a dish in itself, so food is mainly on the sidelines. Therefore, it made sense for me to pair it with the Vietnamese veg roll (asparagus, Lebanese cucumber, bell peppers; served with sesame sauce), which doesn’t attract too much attention, and yet, complements the drink well.
Achari Salmon Gravlax + Old Fashioned
Here, however, it is the dish (a gravlax served with methi thepla) that overpowers. The ‘old fashioned’ ideally shouldn’t be paired, but one sip of the drink and I realise the gravlax has met its worthy match in terms of flavour. What ensues is a duel of sorts, where you are the sole winner.
Kataifi Wrapped Achari Arbi + Scofflaw
Another tangy dish, in a delicious pastry avatar, that is complemented by the ‘scofflaw’, a blood-red sweet whisky cocktail from the Prohibition-era days. The drink is sweet, the food is savoury—all you need from a pairing.
Kadhi Chawal Risotto + Manhattan
Before you write this off as an abomination, I should tell you that the kadhi chawal risotto was the highlight of my meal. Somehow, a curdy kadhi flavour did wonders to the risotto, and I was forced to eat more than my share. The timeless Manhattan is a spirit forward, which means that the whisky’s flavours are what shine through. In the end, it’s a combination for the ages.
Chocolate Waffle + Dirty Martini
Yes, I know, the dirty martini is not a whisky cocktail. I have it with the waffle here, served as a dessert. The gin drink, blessed with dry vermouth and the brilliance that olives bring, helps neutralise the sweetness of the chocolate with every sip—and lets me savour the waffle all over again with each bite.
The Whisky Bar is open everyday from noon to midnight. 011-33107578