Literally on the level. ♦
Many, many New Delhi bars have tried to bring New York home. (Bombay is – of course – worse: an ‘It Happened In New York’ was rampant in Bandra until very recently.) But Piso 16’s vibe is, no jokes, somewhere between a posh Midtown hotel bar and a Harlem cocktail club. Wood, velvet, leather and a touch of jungle print combine to make a fairly spacious area feel intimate, conducive to both cosy chats and mingling with strangers. The twinkling landscape framed in its large windows reveals a sprawling city Delhi from one of its rare vertical vantage points (if you’ve been to Royal China next door, a familiar sight).
Jeeves, We’re Oiled
In the “den” bar area for starter cocktails, head of bar Pravin Singh comes over to help us with the menu- when we ask him a few questions, it’s obvious he’s weighing how much mixologist geekery he should unleash on us. A bartender who knows his stuff and who’s sensitive to his customer’s egos? Repeat, please.
So squarely do our drinks hit that sweet spot between complex and unfussy that we blow past our reviewing budget very quickly. We’ve been to a couple of bars where watered-down drinks are masked by the smoke and mirrors of artisanal cocktail trends. Not so at Piso.
Everything we order is stiff, expertly concocted, and embellished with consideration: in most cases just a single block of ice moulded with the restaurant logo (we’ll forgive it) and a literally branded fruit peel. Saints Gone Wild is an Old-Fashioned inspired bourbon drink with coffee bitters and marshmallow liqueur: we have to stretch our imagination to taste this, but the drink is pillowy on the tongue, with a hint of vanilla.
Piso 16 is experimenting with fat-washing, a process that involves infusing liquor with various kinds of grease, including bacon and butter. The fruity, refreshing Cornucopia has coconut-oil washed Scotch, Islay malt and pineapple ginger cordial. An order of maple-glazed peanuts with crispy bacon and plates of popcorn on the house take us to the second round. The Claro, a tequila negroni; and Ilusion, a gorgeous, grown-up girly drink with blue gin, vermouth, violet liqueur, citrus, bitter and egg white. Put me in a jalopy and call me Daisy.
Piso’ My Heart
In the dining room, we tear apart baked brie studded with garlic chips and garnished with roasted beets and poached plum, greens and orange segments; then toss back a salad with salty pulled pork, compressed mango slices and other deliciousness. We also manage to dispose of two bread plates, served with tomato marmalade.
The restrained whimsy works well for this menu, and extends to the mains: sea bass fillet with creamy, seared polenta; and tenderloin medallions with the tastiest parsnip and radish slices on the side. The only off-note is an overly sweet and creamy pineapple gateau, but we’re on our third drink at this point and don’t care too much. Clumsy -a drunk Smurf in a glass- is dessert enough, with blue gin and citrus. The Revolver, one of two whiskeys aged in small oak barrels from France, has enough of a hint of coffee to work as a digestif.
The bartender brings over a house highball to try: its heady mix of 16 whiskeys is a nod to the restaurant’s name, which means ‘level 16’ in Spanish. It’s a little tough to descend again to the ground floor from this cloud nine. We’re starting to tire of the music, however, which during our visit is an incongruous and slightly loud pop playlist. We’ll be back to work our way through the rest of the drinks list soon – Piso is pricey, but not half as pricey as bars half as good elsewhere in town – and might just bring them some Gershwin to go with.
Getting there: Piso 16, 16th Floor, Eros Corporate Tower, Nehru Place. Call 95999-51724. Dinner for two from Rs 3,000 (two starters, two mains, one dessert); signature cocktails Rs 549-629.
This story was originally published on Brown Paper Bag.