The Other Room at Marriott Hotel is a speakeasy that you would never know its existence if you have not heard of it. You will never be a walk-in guest. There is no signage to announce its presence. And the entrance blends with the wainscoting of Marriott’s wall. Except for a discreet doorbell, there is nothing to signal that behind the wall lies a bar.
When you enter, it is dark and small, allowing maybe 40-50 people if they squeeze. You’re secretly glad you made a reservation so you get a table.
Hanging from the ceiling is a disco ball trapped in a skeletal shade like a birdcage. They play black soul disco songs of the 70s. Groovy baby. All other patrons are white and you wonder if they understand the irony of being in a black bar in Asia. You think of blaxploitation and whitewashing films and you chuckle.
There is a welcome drink (espresso martini in a dropper bottle) to whet your thrist. The waiter, who looks like a handsome version of local singer Lin Junjie, is polite, attentive, and informative that you fall in love with him… just a little bit.
He brings you an unsolicited glass of water and the extensive menu and you ask him for a recommendation. You want something sweet to start the night. He says Midnight in Paris ($21). You accept his recommendation although you don’t like the film of that title because you don’t like the egotistical director, Woody Allen, whose films are about him getting beautiful girls when he’s a hideous troll–someone buy him a mirror—and, in real life, he married his own daughter. That’s called grooming, right?
But Midnight in Paris, the cocktail not the movie, is exactly what you needed to get this party started. It is foamy throughout from the egg white; floral and sweet from St Germain elderflower liquer and peach liquer, with a sour aftertaste of lemon.
Your friends are late by 40 minutes. By now you have time to peruse the menu. And you are ready to take a stiff one, Winston Churchill ($24) it is. It is an old fashioned smoked with Wide Churchill Romeo y Julieta cigar.
You like the appearance of the cocktail, just a simple whiskey glass with a big block of ice. You take a sip and you try to decide if you like the taste of ashes in your mouth. You like the manliness of the drink but the strength of old fashioned has taken a backseat to the taste of smoke. It is smooth and easy. Huccalyly, who just returned from Hong Kong, relates a story where she drank burnt talisman water in a Michelin-starred restaurant. But she says, this cocktail is better without the sediments of ashes.
It is now three hours after your dinner and you feel peckish. The bar is starting to fill up. You ask the friendly waitress if she prefers the chilli hotdog ($14) or the Reuben ($19) and she answers without hesitation, “The Reuben.” Indeed, all along, you know you wanted the Reuben because hotdogs are lame. With your Reuben, you order The Last Supper ($21), a cocktail which they infuse bread into wine. A bar is a good place for sacramental rites.
The Reuben isn’t what you expect it to be. You like stacks of corn beef in between your bun, but this one is anorexic like a panini. When you bite into it, the sourness of the sauerkraut overtakes your mouth and, in the darkness, without seeing the sandwich, you wonder if there is more sauerkraut than beef. You think this is a Prohibition bar, times are lean, and you shouldn’t expect much beef. On the other hand, it is piquant, which is nice, and you like the bread of good quality, nicely toasted to give a crunch.
But you decidedly do not like The Last Supper. It tastes like Hakka red wine chicken your mom often cooks. In a savory dish, it is delicious but in a cocktail, it is as awkward as running into your neighbors and not knowing the proper etiquette of whether to say hi or not.
That’s it. The law of diminishing utility has set in. No more cocktails for the night. The cocktails are small and they are not potent. Even you as a near teetotaler could handle 3 without a buzz. But you decide that you will return to the bar because it is cozy and because the cocktails are well crafted. Quality over quantity. Your friends and you pay about $200 for four persons.
The Other Room
320 Orchard Road, Marriott Hotel, Singapore 238865
tel: +65 8300 6085
M-Th 6pm-3am, F-Sun 6pm-4am
Food & Drinks: 7/10
Written by A. Nathanael Ho.