Bangalore’s newest speakeasy ZLB 23 channels Prohibition-era enigma through carefully curated cocktails and breezy music. Here fluted red wall panels and soft lighting are complemented by velvet curtains, leather details, hardwood floors, crystal chandeliers, and intricate upholstery work by Sabyasachi for Nilaaya. The menu, meanwhile, is a seafood celebration – spotlighting Kyoto’s best-kept flavour secrets. And at the heart of it all – an all-women team leading the service, the constant chatter of easy-flowing conversations, and gasps of delight at each bite and sip. This experience, however, is reserved for a select few – at the discretion of the keeper of the space, Zia. In an exclusive preview, Lifestyle Asia India got a taste of the good life.
A Review of ZLB 23, Leela Palace Bengaluru
ZLB 23 offers oriental bites with a focus on Japanese sensibilities. These are paired with both unique and classic cocktails that harken back to the days of Prohibition in the United States. These feature the finest spirits and tell tales that are worth an addition to your dining archives.
Finger foods have always been a speakeasy go-to. This space stays true to this tradition, offering indulgent quick bites that are a homage to its distinctive Japanese roots. A vegetarian delight, the Burrata and Broccoli Toast (INR 650) with hazelnuts and edamame shines. The textural delight fuses creamy and crunchy, with the freshness of the green vegetables cutting through the indulgence of the cheese.
The Sea Bass Ceviche (INR 1,800) is delicate and fresh, with each bite melting in the mouth. Those who enjoy a good lobster creation will appreciate the innovative kataifi-wrapped bites with laksa (INR 900), paired with the Japanese-favourite yuzu gel.
The Hickory Smoked Duck (INR 900), meanwhile, is for those who enjoy bold flavours – with the red meat intensity being elevated by tart goji berries and umami-packed truffle passion fruit emulsion.
The libations here are the true stars of the show – each with its own story to tell. The Pale Man (INR 1,400) for instance, is a circo-rambutan-galangal ode to an eponymous monster with eyes on his hands – a remnant of Prohibition-era Halloween. The tequila, absinthe, and satsuma orange creation Monkey Gland (INR 1,600), meanwhile, tells the eerie tale of Dr. Voronoff who grafted monkey tissue on humans with the promise of it reactivating their youth – only to be discredited in 1935 when testosterone was discovered.
Those who enjoy their whisky will appreciate the classic Sazerac (INR 1,600) with Templeton rye, absinthe, and peychaud bitters. However, it’s the Japanese Old Fashioned (INR 1,600) – a play on the only recognisable whisky cocktail until the 19th century – that will take your breath away. Underlined by Tenjaku Japanese whisky, angostura, and homemade fennel syrup – this creation is smoked at the table, the theatrics prompting collective gasps and curious conversations. For the purists, the space houses the most exquisite set of bottles – gin, tequila, or whisky. In particular, their selection of smooth and mellow Japanese whiskies – Hibiki, Komagatake, The Yamazaki Distiller’s Reserve, Akashi Red Blended – is quite impressive and ideal for an on-the-rocks connoisseur.
The space remains hidden within the expansive Leela Palace Bangalore – demanding a little trek across verdant spaces, past the clank of kitchen tools, and through a dimly-lit vault. Inside, the luxe décor plays host to innovation, with the musical performances switching every day. The low hum of free-flowing chatter and the clink of cocktail glasses are at times interrupted by impromptu jive performances, courtesy of drunken stupor. And for pauses in between, there are stunning postcards and engaging tales of Zia’s escapades to discover in the menu. These factors combined make the experience of this space quite coveted and unique from other similar spaces in the country. Truly, a taste of the luxe life. The only way to get here, however, is to reach out to the gatekeeper and the curator – Zia – at the space’s official Instagram page.
Price for two: INR 5,500 approx.
Timings: 6:30 pm – 1:00 am (Monday – Sunday)
Address: Leela Palace Bengaluru
All Images: Courtesy ZLB 23, The Leela Palace Bengaluru