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Bar Designer Shruti Jaipuria on designing the Award Winning ZLB23, Bengaluru

April 22, 2024

ZLB23 at the Leela Palace, Bengaluru, designed by Maia Design, recently won the 30BestBarsIndia Patron Best Bar Design Award  for 2023. Our  3-person jury of  design experts had this to say about the bar: An unexpected find inside a luxury hotel, ZLB23 is an unforgettable experience layered with mystery and intrigue. A Kyoto-inspired speakeasy in the truest sense – every touch point from the entrance experience, to the mysterious elevator ride, even a visit to the washroom surprises and delights guests. Dressed in maroon and embellished with plush textiles and beautifully detailed furniture, the main bar space exudes warmth and sophistication. With prohibition-era-inspired cocktails, paired with a menu of eastern flavours and soulful music, ZLB 23 truly offers a multisensory experience that lingers long after the last sip!


The Bar


We  caught up with Shruti Jaipuria, founder of Maia Design, on her design philosophy.


30BestBarsIndia: What was the initial brief shared by The Leela Palace Bengaluru for ZLB23. Was this always intended to be a Speakeasy bar or did that emerge as you were developing the concept?
Shruti Jaipuria: Yes, when we were approached, the Leela team already had the concept of a Kyoto inspired Speakeasy in mind. There was initial discussion on where the bar should be accessed from, but the concept was in place. It was a bold concept for a brand like The Leela Palace to pull off, particularly having the entrance through the working kitchen and bringing traditional back-of-house areas of the hotel, into the front of the house. All credit to Madhav (Madhav Sehgal, the Area Vice President – South India, The Leela Palaces Hotels & Resorts) for pulling it off.


Vault access from the service elevator


30BB: Did you travel to other Speakeasies in particular to research for this project?
SJ: No, I did not travel to other Speakeasies to research for this project. Having lived in NYC where the Speakeasy concept originated during the Prohibition Era in the 1920s, and having travelled extensively to cities like Hong Kong where they have become quite a trend, I was very familiar with the concept. Most of our research was around what design used to be like in the 1920’s era, and we drew our inspiration from there. There are many speakeasies that have a very contemporary design aesthetic. We had to ensure this particular one was relevant to the overall Leela Palace brand, yet ensure it had contemporary touches in its aesthetic to make it relevant today.

30BB: Can you share some more insights around the concept and how it reflects in the design elements at ZLB23, especially in relation to Zia, a mythical warrior from Kyoto who is a guardian of ZLB?
SJ: The brief was to design a Speakeasy that was Kyoto-inspired. Our research involved exploring the aesthetics of the 1920s period and really bringing that to life with a hint of Japan. There was a debate about how literal the Kyoto inspiration should be, and the conclusion was that it needed to be very subtly Japanese and focus more on the 1920s aesthetic to ensure it was not too contrived.   Bold burgundy red from the 1920s, heavy woodwork, velvet fabrics, chesterfield furniture, custom hand embroidery, chandeliers, and minute detailing like tassels, cording, etc in the upholstery are elements used. The “Kyoto” inspiration is subtly juxtaposed against this, in the form of a graphic samurai & geisha wallpaper, the artwork, and branding on the menus.




30BB: Does ZLB23 disrupt the traditional five-star luxury hotel segment bars today?
SJ: Yes, absolutely. I think the vibe of ZLB 23 is unexpected in the five-star luxury hotel segment. The entire experience, right from the hidden entry access through an operating kitchen, the restroom hidden behind a cold freezer door, and the use of neon pink lighting to showcase the back-of-house operating areas is chic and trendy. The overall product is artistic and soulful and caters to a wider and younger audience as well. We strongly believe that through spatial design, you are curating an emotional experience for the guest. It goes well beyond aesthetics. And this is what we have tried to do.


Access to the Main Bar


30BB: What is that one thing as per you at ZLB23, that one should absolutely not miss?
SJ: I truly believe ZLB is best experienced in person. It is an experience that caters to all your senses.

There is tremendous detail that has gone into this concept on every front. The interior design, the food, the music curation, and even just the little things like the dinnerware and glassware. There is a lot of attention and care that makes this a world-class product.

From a cocktail perspective,  my favourite is the Shiso negroni, and the dish is the teriyaki Mushroom.  From a design perspective, my favorite feature is the accent wall we have created by layering wallpaper and mirrors. Apart from that all the hidden details in embroidery. I also love the edge that the neon pink lighting offers to the back of the house smoking area.

You have to visit ZLB23 in person to get a true sense of the vibe.

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