Blinking after the blinding sunlight outside, we enter Barrels assuming this is a kind of heat mirage. The new Vasant Vihar pub is dimly lit, but the profusion of colours that are visible are eye-watering. There is dark wooden bar furniture, a small stage area, a long counter but it is the neon graffiti incorporating rock icons, Dali’s surrealism (melting clocks and the like), racing motifs and other pop culture clutter that immediately draw and hold the eye. The music, however, is stale generic pop rather at odds with the individualistic decor.
The food menu is the usual pub mash-up, ranging from desi daruwalla khaana of tikkas and kebabs to Oriental fare as well as Continental cuisine in the form of steaks, pizza, stromboli and pasta. The dishes do field interesting names though, some too explicit to be printed while others conjure up amusing macabre mental images, such as the mixed seafood platter called Aquarium on a Plate. The rates are a la South Delhi, averaging Rs 300 per starter and Rs 450 for a main course. We order the Stuffed Cigar Rolls and the African Chicken Drums. The crispy, wonton rolls are stuffed with an oozing melange of cheese and corn kernels and make for substantial stomach lining without getting too heavy. The drumsticks, adapted we suspect from a Nigella recipe, are tender and spicy with more than a hint of sweet, again easy-to-eat fare in this weather.
The drinks menu is long and emphatic on cocktails that range from classics such as Sidecar and Tom Collins to the contemporary and a range of signature and beer cocktails. While the cocktails are between Rs 249 and Rs 420, the individual spirits, beer and wine are even more reasonably priced, with the cheapest beer at Rs 150 a bottle. We decide to disregard mother and mix it up, ordering an Akki Mashed Up from the Signature selection, largely due to its contents, and the Vesper Martini from the Classic collection because we have just finished the last Ian Fleming.
The former comprises vodka, tequila, rum, gin, ginger ale, grenadine and lemon in a combination designed to make you see double. The Vesper Martini isn’t absolutely textbook — we mean, the pages of Casino Royale — which instructs: “Three measures of Gordon’s, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it very well until it is ice cold, then add a large thin slice of lemon peel. Got it?” The Barrels version has gin, vodka, rosso and lemon and, while it may not inspire a long chase on multiple vehicles around cities in Europe or the Near East, it does have a licence to bamboozle. By this time, the restaurant’s walls are slightly more kaleidoscopic and the Monty Norman-composed Bond theme is playing in our heads; we end up having more fun than a barrel full of monkeys.