Could you tell me where PCO is?" I enquire of a paanwallah at Vasant Vihar’s D block market. He looks at me incredulously. I explain, "Not phone wala PCO but a secret pub type place." He laughs heartily and points to a glass door. I realise I’d walked past it several times but missed it. There was no signboard!
Inside is a small cubicle with a solitary phone box. I dial the code I’d received on Whatsapp, a door slides open and quite like magic, I am transported to Prohibition era America. This is one of Delhi NCR’s three secret watering holes.
You need a passcode to enter Cocktails and Dreams in Gurgaon, one of the three secret pubs in Delhi-NCR.
During Prohibition in the US that lasted from 1920 to 1933, the sale, production, and transportation of alcoholic beverages was banned. As a consequence, establishments called speakeasies came into existence – hidden saloons or nightclubs that illegally sold alcohol; these had disguised entrances, a secret password could get you access and patrons had to "speak easy", lest they attracted the attention of law enforcers.
PCO in Vasant Vihar borrows from the speakeasy concept and is fashionably fashioned after a 1920s’ jazz bar. It looks straight out of a Great Gatsby set with bookshelves, cigar lounges, high back chairs et al. The food menu is simple but you can find some old treasures among the cocktails. The Sector 15 community shopping complex in Gurgaon is deserted by the time we reach around 8pm. That’s why we could spot the simple sign of Cocktails and Dreams and the nondescript building it’s housed in.
Cocktails are specialties at speakeasies.
I knock on the door three times (the entry code), and am welcomed by a uniformed guard into a dingy, vacant room – ah the deception of a speakeasy! Soft jazz emanates from the basement and sure enough, there it is down a flight of stairs – a cosy, neighbourhood bar modelled after the typical speakeasies of the Prohibition era.
"The idea was to have a small local, which not many people would know about, where we’d make friends with our customers and they’d make new friends with each other," says Minakshi Singh, the owner.
The highlight of this speakeasy are definitely the cocktails – from old classics to new age straights – that Yangdup Lama, co-owner and star bartender, rustles up. The excitement of visiting this obscure little place, other than the speakeasy concept, is the customised cocktails.
"Whisky for me, please," I tell Lama when he asks for my preferred base drink. He flashes me a twinkly-eyed smile and serves me a surprise: a Twisted Old Fashioned, that is, an Old Fashioned (bourbon, sugar and bitters) with Lama’s secret twist, custom-made for me!
We’ve found two of the three secret speakeasies in Delhi NCR for you. Let’s see if you can find the third! Hint: It’s in Mehrauli and it’s named after a cocktail.
From HT Brunch, January 11, 2015
Follow us on twitter.com/HTBrunch
Connect with us on facebook.com/hindustantimesbrunch