Bars to Watch: Loya, Taj Palace
Amongst the splendor and magic of the Taj Palace, Loya’s majestic rose gold doorways open into a bouquet of aromas ranging from spice to grills, showing me a sight that left me with just one thought, ‘Is that a waterfall at the end of the bar?’
The rustic and chic interiors are lined with tapestry reminiscent of old-timey bazaars, illuminating and elevating the mood are large brass lanterns, and paintings on the walls depicting age-old marketplaces, further cementing the bazaar-like ambiance.
The rather beautiful space features a glass-fronted open kitchen and perhaps the liveliest bar counter in Delhi, an exorbitant display carved out of sandstone, where water flows within the counter itself into the aforementioned waterfall.
The space sets the expectations dangerously high, in any other setting I would find that scary, however at Loya, my anxious mind was quickly put to rest with a passionfruit Jal-Jeera welcome drink served in a miniature bottle, reminiscent of a fun-sized Coca-Cola bottle, a tart spicy and tangy beverage a rather wonderful way to cleanse the palate.
The bar menu, Loya Paanch, inspired by the number five and its significance across India, focuses on indigenous beverages and the North’s botanical abundance with a contemporary twist on local spirits. Divided into 5 sections Harmony, Experience, Authentic, Revered, and The Spirit all imagined into 5 Stunning cocktails.
The Masala whisky a long-term signature of Hemant’s at Junoon in NYC finds its way onto the Loya menu made with his perfected house-made masala syrup, a perfectly balanced cocktail that takes inspiration from the old-fashioned and yet surpasses it in so many ways.
The Mulethi, made with the namesake licorice-infused gin, a housemade citrus blend, and sugar is topped with a black honeycomb tuille, a visually striking cocktail that is both layered and very simple at the same time, with the gin’s botanical profile being elevated by the licorice and shining alongside it rather than overpowering it.
Mr. Pathak’s impact on Loya’s beverage program is front and center and one feels his beverage philosophy throughout the menu.
The cocktails are mostly twisted classics which might seem simple on the surface but as one digs into the ingredients used and the techniques employed in crafting them, one finds a certain sense of elegance in the simplicity of the beverages and their presentations.
Moving from glass to plate the food puts front and center the techniques of Dungaar, the art of smoking and slow-cooking; aromatics of “Baghar”, spices tempered in hot oil; and Sigdi, cooking over an open fire; and the practice of pounding masalas with a Sil-Batta, pestle, and mortar.
All of the above translates into a truly wonderful culinary experience, the Timbri Jhinga with the bhang chutney and the Multani Gobhi were stand-out appetizers that I would recommend alongside the beautiful cocktails in a heartbeat.
The service is warm and friendly and there is a distinct feeling that every small element in the restaurant has a story to tell and the team at Loya tells those stories with excitement.
However, as I stepped out of Loya and reflected on the experience, I wondered, will the highs of this experience, painstakingly curated by IHCL, sustain over time? Or like the river that inspires it, will it flow and evolve into something else entirely?
Bhavya Verma, Tulleeho
Celebrated mixologist Hemant Pathak from Junoon New York crafted the Loya Cocktail program for the Taj Palace, New Delhi. Winner of the Bacardi Legacy Cocktail Competition India in 2012 and won top honors at the 2011 Diageo World Class Global Competition in the “Classic Cocktail with a Twist” category.
A true Icon in the Indian Beverage space, Hemant is an idol for many a young bartender, and his presence is felt throughout the beverage program.