The Elephant Room
Indian flavours and spirits shine at this Keong Saik cocktail bar
In Singapore’s competitive cocktail scene where bars are standing out by using the fanciest craft spirits and the shiniest new toys (we’re looking at you, rotovap), The Elephant Room is a welcome breath of fresh air.
The brainchild of Yugnes Susela (most formerly at Smoke & Mirrors), this modern cocktail bar is dedicated to the things he holds dear—mixology, his heritage and the places he grew up in. With that, he set about opening The Elephant Room, carrying only spirits originating from India (Amrut, Hapusa etc.), and crafting his own liquors and infusions using only South Asian spices. You won’t find any vermouths or Angostura on the shelves here, and even the beers and wines on the menu are from India.
Yugnes Susela (far left) and crew of The Elephant Room
For his debut menu, a pure tribute to Singapore’s own Little India, find seven cocktails (all $22) and four dishes—a succinct and focused offering we are thoroughly captivated by. There is no chaff; every item has a story and rationale behind it.
Take the Tekka, a drink Susela proclaims is his current favourite (also our favourite), and which is named eponymously after the famed Tekka Centre in Serangoon. It is made using Old Monk rum, a dark rum commonly drank in Little India yet unheard of within the mainstream cocktail scene. Its deliciously fleshy mango notes complement the spiced palm sugar and charred banana skin garnish used in the concoction well, resulting in a bodied, starchy yet quaffable drink.
Try the Jasmine flower bomb of a drink that is the Jothi’s Flower Shop too. Named after the actual shop in Little India, feel immediately transported there thanks to the pronounced fragrance that whiffs blissfully in the air. Sip on this one slowly, and let the aromas linger on. Meanwhile, the Buffalo Road, essentially a pink guava G&T, is the easy go-to if you’re not feeling adventurous. We’ll let you discover the other drinks, like the cheekily-named Kamasutra and the ghee-infused Moghul’s Sweets for yourself.
Jothi's Flower Shop
The only four food items on the menu are finely-tuned creations that are equally on point. Get the Desker Road ($13) for pani puris filled with libido-enhancing moringa (thus the name of the dish), or the Butcher’s Lamb Broth ($18) for an elevated soup kambing served with a side of sourdough for dipping. It’s the Tamarind Curry Prawns ($24) that is the clear winner though. You’ll find yourself slicking off every bit of sauce with the naan, and not minding getting your hands dirty digging into the plump tiger prawns (they’ll kindly provide you wet towels too).
The Elephant Room’s singular focus may seem limiting, but it is within these confines that something never-before-seen is birthed, and that is worth celebrating. Its concept and daring alone makes it stand out in a sea of well-established cocktail bars all found a stone’s throw away from its address right above Michelin-starred Burnt Ends. We can’t wait to see what else Susela has up his sleeves.
And in case you’re wondering, yes, we’re aware we haven’t addressed the elephant in the room in this article, so it’s up to you to find out the answer for yourself by heading down to the bar and getting the answers from the man himself.