Guilt plated ♦
Judging by the tremors Pangaea has caused in the lifestyle media with the news of its opening, the nightclub at the Hotel Ashok promises a seismic shift in the after dark life of the capital. The club aims to “redefine high-end entertainment”, said Spice Global chairman and owner BK Modi in Blouin ArtInfo. Reservations will cost up to Rs 4 lakh a table, reported Forbes India. The Pangaea club in Singapore, reportedly serves a $26,000 cocktail. Collaborator Michael van Cleef Ault – an international nightlife baron who created the Pangaea brand (yes, he’s one of those van Cleefs) – said the Delhi club is “a sensuous and brilliant journey into the decadence of the Renaissance”. Is Pangaea all it’s cracked up to be? To find out, we headed to the Ashok one Friday night. A velvet rope and a small army of bouncers and hosts in black uniform stood outside where F-Bar used to be, bowing us in without a peep about cover charge or table price. We suppose the generosity and the warm welcome was bestowed upon us due to the relatively early hour (about 10pm), and our gender. Milling about inside were more waiters and two European women in red dresses. Around us: walls padded with red velvet – somewhere between bordello and loony bin, chandeliers and thick curtains, drawn apart to reveal some startling wall décor looming above the leather sofas. Front and centre is Eugène Delacroix’s “The Death of Sardanapalus”, which depicts an Assyrian king overseeing the murder of his harem to protect it from his enemies. Is the figure of a naked woman, bent painfully backwards in the grip of a man plunging a dagger towards her throat, really the best embellishment for a Delhi drinking hole? Will the patrons Ault mentioned in a Sunday Guardian interview – “Indian jet-setters”, “Delhi’s most affluent”, “the Bollywood star, the Hollywood star, the supermodels and rock stars” – relish the opportunity to appreciate this classic of French Romanticism as an example of what Edward Said called “the Oriental genre tableau”, while nursing their bejewelled cocktails? We doubt it. Even if this were Prufrock, not Pangaea, that might be too much to ask. Anyway, neither famous people nor fancy cocktails were visible on our visit. In fact, there was no cocktail menu at all. When we asked for something interesting, we were offered the standard choices of “Cosmopolitan? Mojito?” The club plans to offer bottle service, but that night they didn’t even have Johnnie Walker. It’s been reported that the management here fires any waiter who doesn’t bring you a drink in three minutes. This wasn’t a problem as it was a relatively empty night, but getting the bill took longer than expected (and we had to ask for our change). Of the party-goers who did show up, some looked barely out of school and the rest were garden-variety scruffy south and west Delhi punters. The men were moussed-up, the women epilated and nervous as they swayed on their high heels to overloud EDM. A group congregated near the bathroom so they could gab. People seemed to be coming and going from the cordoned VIP section fairly freely. We lingered past 1am, but after a wallet-busting G&T and dirty martini (Rs 570 and Rs 700, sans tax), it was time for us to go too. Casting a look back at the not-so-sensuous decadence of a city’s youth adrift, we slipped under Jan van Eyck’s disapproving “Portrait of a Man in a Turban” and out the door. That we then sat for half an hour in the Ashok’s lobby, watching businessmen and NRI families from the late international flights checking in, tells you all you need to know.
Originally published in Time Out Delhi, December 6, 2013.