“Louis, this looks like the beginning of a beautiful friendship”.
That’s of course Rick Blaine from the immortal Casablanca (1942). The film, made at the height of World War II and beloved ever since, was and remains the inspiration for Rick’s at Taj Mahal Hotel, Delhi. An extensive refurbishment later, perhaps there are few better places to encounter him (in spirit), emulate his enviable, pleasurable lifestyle, maybe meet his companions and just have the best evening ever.
Opened in 2002, Rick’s has reopened after a six-month upgrade. The new look – at once sensuous, stunning and sophisticated, is the epitome of an urban Delhi most aspires too. The hotel has been undergoing an extensive, multi-year renovation, and this is part of the larger overhaul of the hotel.
“The bar needed a face lift and as we had to rejuvenate the bar a decision was taken on refurbishing the same,” points out chef Arun Sundararaj, Director of Culinary Operations, Taj Mahal, New Delhi. “The theme taken was if Ricks was to open in 2023 what would be doing. The inspiration still remains the lead character in the movie Casablanca but with a twist, new age cocktails, classics of Ricks served with a lot of personalisation. The project took five months from dismantling to changing the air conditioning systems, adding leading edge air purification, and all the interiors – new art/ photography, and the bar and bar concepts across all elements.”
The interiors are reminiscent of an opera theatre setting – a high dome with sparkling chandeliers, charming soft lighting that ensures at least a romantic ambience if not romance itself, long sofas and round tables, black and white wall visuals (not from the film, sadly), a grand piano, servers in hushed voices ready to serve.
F&B is perhaps the most altered, with bar manager Anushka pointing out the centrality of gin-based cocktails in the new set up, including seven signature gin cocktails. The stunning looking bar – note the bar stools that resemble the ones in Casablanca – has a section dedicated to gin. For fans of other beverages, they get their due too, but do sample the gin drinks.
The food menu is apt, small plates, lots of sharing platters and finger food, some of the best, assures chef. Yes, expect modern names on the menu – Japanese yuzu, Scandinavian sumac or even cascara from Coorg. The operating hours remain 400pm to 100 am. “Service is lot more personal, the music of the bar changes with the hour and is a lot more evolved retro. We have a live pianist to add a lot of character to the bar in the evenings followed by us increasing the tempo of the bar as the evening progresses.”
The new menu features classic gin cocktails with a modern twist, crafted with meticulous attention to detail and served with unique service rituals. From chilled glasses, a crushed ice bath, to bottled cocktails served tableside and aged negronis
Classic drinks are enhanced with layers of rituals that take the experience to the next level.
Ricks would continue to remain a market leader in the space of being one of the best bars in the country, asserts the chef, “We would offer premium beverages and cocktails inspired from various parts of the world. Our signature series is specially crafted to give the guest a new age experience with a lot of class.” Incidentally, a selection of small-batch spirits from lesser known distilleries around the world, including craft gins India and tequilas from boutique distilleries in Mexico, are also on offer.
Rick’s has been a very popular venue for drinking trysts in the middle of Delhi. For those who have been missing it, try Rick’s modern, suave avatar. Maybe it will be the start of a beautiful new friendship.