When Yugnes Susela left the rooftops of the National Gallery Singapore to pursue new interests, the former Head Bartender of Smoke & Mirrors sought to pay homage to his home and heritage. Setting up shop above the Michelin-starred Burnt Ends in the Keong Saik neighbourhood, The Elephant Room is Yugnes’ expression of his love for Little India.
Marrying the rich tapestry of Indian culture with a contemporary outlook, The Elephant Room introduces some of India’s boldest flavours and textures. Earthy aesthetics bring together nuances of tradition, like the use of celebratory colours like vermilion and gold, Jaali vent blocks used to prop up the bar, and menu covers intricately laced with sari cloth.
Snapshots of Yugnes’ memories and experiences condense into a focussed seven-cocktail menu (S$22++ each), and every tipple is a stark contrast to the next. Because Yugnes’ vision requires an immense number of unique scents and flavours, house-made extracts are the norm here, and most things are sourced from Tekka market itself.
That’s why you’ve probably never had a floral concoction quite like Jothi’s Flower Shop – on the nose, the unadulterated bouquet of sweet jasmine leads up to a surprisingly balanced mixture of jasmine-infused gin, lime and honey, with an almost umami note from a splash of davanam tincture. The Tekka is a classic tiki-style serve of Old Monk rum and spiced palm sugar that add smooth caramel flavours to the savoury edge of lacto-fermented banana and yoghurt gel.
Traditionally, the flavors of a quintessentially Indian meal is a nuanced balance of the spicy, sour, sweet and bitter, and the food here reflect this perfectly, albeit with a modern spin on things. The Butcher’s Lamb Broth (S$18++) takes on kambing soup using freshly spiced lamb shoulder, bone broth, and fennel sourdough – it’s thick, rich, and full of flavour, but best eaten with extra slices of bread (S$3++) to balance out the salt. If you’re jonesing for a little heat, the house special Tamarind Curry Prawns (S$24++) make an excellent choice, with fresh tiger prawns served in a tangy sauce.
If you grew up in Singapore, you’d remember taking heritage trips through Chinatown, Kampong Glam and Little India as school children. You could imagine The Elephant Room an adulterated, modern day version. We can almost taste the betel leaves, getting up close and personal with the legendary Beeda Man of Rowell Road. And if you’re in the market for unique spirits, the bar also stocks up on alcohols sourced from the far reaches of India. One thing on the wish list? Maybe a briyani on the menu to go with our Beer Garden.
The Elephant Room is located at 20A Teck Lim Road, Singapore 088391, p. +65 9111 5131. Opens Mon-Sat 5.30pm-12am.