It was a promise long forgotten ,and so, on a friday evening : I decided to hit Chipstead.Since Madras is notorious on the Stags and 'covered footwear' issue : I called beforehand to ENSURE I will not get booted @ the door.It took some time for the receptionist to get it right (I dont think anyone has called to check in on the bar: they just waltz in), but I wanted to be doubly sure. Single ,not ready to mingle and possibly dont look the age (I am reminded everytime I buy a ticket @ Satyam that certain movies are for above 18 audiences only. I am not sure if I should take that as a compliment!), I was unsure if this place is a bar, a lounge or a disc or one of those places that is one thing Mon-thur, a second on fridays and (inexplicably) becomes option 3 on weekends.Anyways : permission granted (was basically asked to walk in) and so I did..
Did you know: That the place is called 'Chipstead' because the property that stood @ that exact spot (an old bunglow) was called that? I guess they decided to keep the name intact!.The Bartender didnt know that and its not even mentioned in the Taj directory website. I came by the information a long time ago as I follow 'Madras Miscellany'off the Hindu (about the only thing the newspaper is good for : that and the obituaries :).
For the "neat lovers":
The Dr.Jackyll part: Extensive Whiskey and Scotch sections!. If you think Westminister @ the Sheraton had an 'acceptable' quantity:then this will blow you away. And Im not talking about routine stuff either.Great selection that can go as deep into your pocket as quality can get you this side of the country. I believe this is the FINEST I have seen as far as Whiskeys and Scotches are concerned.Even beats the ones @ Bangalores Stables.They have entire sections dedicated to specifics like 'Speyside Scotch','The Islays','The highlands' (Anyone who discerns taste knows that these are sections in scotland where the scotches take on the region specific tastes). Not to sound like a geek : but Mull out the most popular ones by name and you'd find it : The popular glens (fiddich, drummond and monangies),the usual Chivas, Ballantine,Jura and A Dalmore. All in attendence! First place I saw a Japanese Whiskey list!. Damn. (Take the Japenese penchant for going after anything the west does : Baseball teams and alcohol.. and it wont surprise you as much ). Absinthe! Are you kidding me??! They have a cute absynthe fountain and a couple of bottles chilled out for the same. NO OTHER PLACE I KNOW SERVES ABSINTHE. Just to check : I did ask Richard what the alchol volume was . Two bottles of around 65-75% each. (Another did you know? : Normal alcohol has anywhere between 40-55% tops of alchi/water ratio. Absinthe's like "the green fairy" is upto 86% pure alcohol. I think I saw an absinthe spoon as well. I had a very bad experience with absinthe the last time I tried it so did not opt for one.
The Mr.Hyde part: They probably have such an extensive list because most expats and forigners who come to Madras are (possibly) British , either from the high commision standpoint or from most service and liturgy organizations that affiliates to Brit domains. And while saying Brits ,I include the Scots and Irish as well. A few of these are tourists ofcouse, coming to take the nostalgia of the old days of the Raj. Hence the need for an extensive whisky and scotch list. Why Japanese ? Thats obvious too. Most big mechanical firms are tied up to some big Japanese firm in one way or the other.And while Hyundai or the Koreans are not enterprising with their alcohol as of yet: the Japs are here to stay! Having said that bit about Absinthe, is it legal to serve absinthe in India? I dont think so. Well, maybe as a cocktail mix : but straight shots of absinthe can be a big problem. By law, and not only in India, absinthe has been banned from being sold legally. (We did get green fairy in Goa though: but this was post a lot of searching ,even for Goa). Some countries do allow for absinthe to be sold : but it has to be "watered down " to an acceptable 45%.Do the math. You take one shot of the green liquid that is as potent as 2 large whiskies in one go, and Absinthe is mostly shots . Not a cocktail and not something you can have 'on the rocks'.
"For the cocktailers":
The Dr.Jackyll part: Their Bar Menu is neat.Matt black.and cleverly done with 'inserts'.They have a 'Chipstead recommends' section which is a melee of different mixes.The usual mixes of Vodkas,Rums and (interestingly Whiskey based ones as well). I am to understand its quite popular too. Three people ordered from that list while I was @ the bar. The pricing does not hurt either.:) .Their mocktails are listed as 'Virgin Cocktails' (foxed me a bit as I went thro the menu about twice thinking it was odd such a place would not entertain teetotalers). And in going with the trend they have on the spirits ,the mocktails work the same mix. Complimentary trays of nuts and assortments if you choose not to order up. Jiri Majerik (the Head guy @ the Bar) was nowhere to be seen.Watched Richard (my bartender) make a few cocktails.Whatever Richard's talents are as far as cocktails are concerned I am not aware of as I did not opt for one: but the 'style coefficient' while using a martini shaker was evidently lacking:). Surprised to see unmarked bottles used for making the same though.Interesting (on the attention to detail scale) was their cold storage for different alcohol types. The wines were refrigerated @ 2 C , the beers @ 5 c etc. Reassuring to say the least. My coaster was a metal one with a rubber base. Another first.Asked Richard to switch it with a more (water indulgent)one.For a cutty double on the rocks : their stirrers were not one of those ghastly 'flagpoles'you'd see @ the leather bar.They are the right size.
The Mr.Hyde part: Inserts is a great concept.What that means is the menu Card remains : but they can remove the inserts to add/delete a few entries or even change complete sections without worrying about it looking out of place.Also : When the cocktails /mocktails have the same basic ingredients (for eg: a Bloody Mary and a Virgin Mary),the bar needs to stock lesser of these usually diverse ingredients (thereby leaving more space for the racks and bottles). 'Chipstead Recommends' is a very clever idea. Most of the cocktails listed here say 'a combination of three rums/vodkas etc.'. That means basically that if I procure a vodka (for eg: pinky), and find it not too popular with the crowd, I have the option of finishing it off on these specific cocktails. So essentially, Chipstead will never get stuck with any brand that cannot be siphoned off one way or the other. positive? yes: you know they always keep fresh stock when it comes to basic vodkas and rums. negative ? yes : you might not like a particular type of vodka or rum , but since it is in a cocktail it becomes impossible for you to distinguish and you have it anyways. So you end up paying for something you didnt like in the first place !:) Unmarked bottles while making these popular cocktails means you can only end up guessing what baseline alcohol is being used to make one. Order up a screwdriver and youd be thinking : what did i get ? Pinky, Smirnoff, Romanov? Alcazar??. The different temp refreigeration means that they live up to their star standards : and they get their fair share of people who would prefer it that way!. Which also translates into them picking the good stuff vs the popular stuff.A metal coaster is great until 5 minutes after your drink settles on it. Post that : because it cannot absorb: your glass starts to 'skid'.And unlike normal circumstances: you cannot flip your coaster over if it gets wet coz a metal surface will not sit :) So has Jiri left the establishment? Is Mickael Besse still running the chocolate thingie over @ Satyam?
The Dr.Jackyll part: The place has a super dim seating section and a whole row of barstools. The overall impression about the place is brown. The lighting @ the Bar is @ acceptable levels. The drinks being lit from 'downunder' ala the Leather Bar.The DJ desk is @ the far right with a Bass speaker right next to it.The place to me (feels) very odd. the lighting opposite the bar and the woodwork by extension is different shades of faux flooring brown. The wavy pattern is good as it appears to take the AC ducts in. Their Barstools that have a back, so you can let your guard down.Savio ( the DJ ) was great. I was expecting an overdose of Hiphop or Retro rock : but to listen to really old ones like Cliff Richards/Neil Diamond and Shakin' stevens on a Friday night brings back some old and happy memories.I offered to buy the guy a drink , but he refused to :) said the bar would take care of him !
The Mr.Hyde part: It almost looks like they made it look like an office space, then went along the mode of the leather bar, then realized that the leather bar is @ The Park , and made some changes to get out of that niche.To top it all off : they have cordoned off a part of the seating (Much like a VIP section) with chain mail ? Mea culpa, but it feels like a strip-club without the laser lights and the poles!. The DJ desk is almost crammed into the end of the bar. Poor fellow barely has a place to stand. Would I be wise in speculating that they were not too sure of what they wanted their audience makeup to be when they renoveated the place ? Coz they could have shifted the DJ station to the supposed VIP section. He can entertain and take requests and will not make the bar the only area of focus . That would make the place a disc more than a lounge: but looks like Chipstead has muddled all three. A lounge is typically a place with dim lighting and solid tones (not so with the different shades of brown on the ceiling and the bar), a Bar is mostly mahogany and brown to give you that solid and soft feeling of wood to give the appearance of being old (which is betrayed by the seating and dim lighting away from the bar) and a night-club has.. you get my point ...
2 Cutty Sark doubles OTR, 1 Royal salute 21 OTR and a Corona later, the tab was 2500 approx with tips. Expected Damage. Not overboard.
3 stars. tops.The drink and the polite bartender (Richard) and DJ (Savio) notwithstanding.Did not appeal to me.Or maybe my expectations were too big about the place.. Came away with very "mixed reactions" to the place. Hence the Dr. Jackyll/Mr. Hyde breakup :)