Marylebone restaurant Ooty London only opened in February, but it’s already expanding its offerings – particularly those of the liquid variety – with the launch of Ooty Station, a new all-day bar and café next door to the dining establishment.
Like the restaurant, the bar focuses on the flavours of south India. At Ooty London, these are brought to life by chef Manmeet Singh-Bali, former head chef at the now-defunct two-Michelin-starred Vineet Bhatia London. At the new bar, the flavours are translated into a selection of colourful cocktails by head bartender Charlie Beale, served in a light-flooded space. It’s a more casual atmosphere than its sister restaurant, with industrial design touches and pops of colour meant to be reminiscent of the bar’s namesake, a hill station tucked away in the Nilgiri district of Tamil Nadu.
Imbibe got a first look at Ooty Station’s drinks when we paid the bar a visit prior to its soft launch last week.
‘We offer cocktails at the restaurant, but the ones at Ooty Station were developed to tell more of a story,’ Beale tells Imbibe, shaking up a few of the serves to sample. ‘We looked at the map of India and drew inspiration from a few different train journeys and regions.’
The menu’s story begins, naturally, in Ooty. Many of the drinks were developed with the landmarks and surroundings of the bar’s eponymous town in mind.
For instance, the Rose Garden, a bright-pink drink with Hendrick's Gin, Indian rose petals, goji berry liqueur, egg whites and bitters, draws its floral inspiration from India’s largest rose garden, found in Ooty.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, tea also plays an important role in several of the serves. Yes, some of the drinks utilise the flavours of British influence: there’s the Proper British, with Earl Grey syrup, lemon curd, Bombay Sapphire, lemon juice and a shortbread garnish, served in a tea cup.
But other drinks play with flavour profiles that show a heavy influence from the Ooty kitchen.
‘The chefs have been working with us, showing us what they’re using in the kitchen so we can bring in different flavours to our drinks and really tie them in with the food,’ Beale said, referencing a serve called Tiger Hill.
He describes the drink as a theatrical smoked cocktail which marries whisky, ginger, Darjeeling (that so-called ‘champagne of teas’) and a beautifully aromatic syrup made with black cardamom – an ingredient that one of the chefs turned him on to.
But Imbibe’s favourite serve of the bunch is the Lotus, with its unexpected combination of jasmine tea, Ocho Tequila and a homemade vermouth made from mango wine. It cleverly plays on the grassy, vegetal notes shared by both the tequila and the tea for a drink that’s light, delicate and refreshing.
In addition to these signature cocktails, Ooty Station’s menu also boasts a G&T section, with pairings including the lassi-flavoured Crazy Gin and a rhubarb and hibiscus tonic.
Meanwhile, the kitchen serves a selection of dishes and bar snacks inspired by Indian street food. There are also plans to roll out a breakfast menu, as well as a full tea list from Rare Tea Company, to step up the bar-café’s daytime offering – though we imagine that, for many customers, a cheeky morning Lotus cocktail won't go amiss.
66 Baker St (entrance on Dorset Street), Marylebone, London W1U 7DJ