In the winter of 2015, I had an affair. In floodlit powder rooms, I rolled jasmine scent on my neck and pencilled the lips pale pink. A stiff pony tail blow-dried into soft curls and a check skirt folded like a napkin over knees weak in love. I was alone in the short-lived vanity of the evening; brokenness waited at the edge of the night. Secretly I danced on pointy heels and drank off shot glasses, to own every passing moment of my 20s. Similarly, the prohibition era was America’s love affair with its own deviance. A liquor ban resulted in basement bars, accidental cocktails and a generation swaying in jazz. The makers of Khan Market’s sushi darling Town Hall, Navneet Kalra, Randeep Bajaj and Augusto Cabrera, have brought back the era with a new speakeasy restaurant; prices 30 per cent lesser and the focus solidly on drink and vibe. The name Public Affair was plated above a tall dark door, two street lamps from the Belle Epoque flickered on either side of it. Bland walls, faintly textured for flavour, displayed potent pieces of art: a collection of metallic decanters and a skull-and-gun installation.
A neatly stencilled graffiti read ‘All I want is World Peace & Champagne’. There were pillars, each fitted with sconce lamps under which Frida Kahlos looked sombre. Male servers in suspenders were mostly seen relaying from the long bar downstairs to the terrace, carrying tray-loads of colourful cocktails. Bar man Tenzin Lhagoe and his team of young mixologists were convincingly reproducing the classics. “We use fresh homemade extracts to make our infusions,” they chimed. The vodka-based Red Carpet had tamarind jaggery syrup along with Worcestershire and Tabasco. The Lady with the Lamp was summery with soda fizz, chilled gin, cucumber juice and creamy elderflower.
I sat on the terrace in the centre of which a Roman wishing fountain had been cemented. The story started with the vegetarian sharing platter. Its grilled asparagus and honey chilly pineapple fell fiercely on the throat. The teppanyaki mushrooms starred erangi, shimeji, enoki, shitake in leading roles, first time in a Miso orange film; a strong script but individual performances could have been better. A deadly looking squid ink risotto with scallops and prawns was pleasantly pungent. I paired this with the Burrata Salad where white cream deepened itself with a tomato paste alongside leaf and flower artwork. ‘An Affair to Remember’, with baby pink marshmallows and blue Curacao caviar drew the meal to a childishly greedy close. Before leaving, I flung a coin into the fountain and wished that the affairs of the season last a lifetime and longer.