O+: A Bar Review

By Shaun Tan

By Shaun Tan

Founder, Editor-in-Chief, and Staff Writer

27/10/2021

As the world starts to open up again, there’s no better time to explore new bars!

 

One up-and-coming place is O+, a speakeasy that’s just opened in the central business district. Though it’s located right in the heart of the city, like many speakeasies, it’s hard to find unless you know what you’re looking for; it’s kept super exclusive, and knowledge of its location is passed only through word of mouth. Yet, if you happen to be in the area one night and spy a sign with a single red teardrop sticking out of a passageway, proceed down the dark corridor until you come to this door.

Knock on it, and it will open, and you’ll find yourself in a bar unlike any other.

O+ is dark and shadowy, the dominant colors here are blacks and crimsons. The bar is plush and luxurious, evoking an Old-World glamor that makes it super Instagrammable!

 

The proprietor and bartender is Andrei, who hails from Romania.

What drink would he recommend? I notice that all the other patrons here seem to be drinking red wine. Andrei smiles. “That’s actually a special drink, for our regulars,” he says. “For a first-timer, I recommend you try one of our cocktails.”

 

He hands me a menu to peruse. Strangely enough, there seem to be no prices on it, but I don’t want to be gauche by enquiring about the cost. The closest thing to it are the words at the bottom of the menu, “A DRINK FOR A DRINK,” which I take to mean buy-one-get-one-free, which seems like a pretty good deal to me!

 

I tell Andrei my favorite alcohol is gin, and so my first drink is a mushroom-infused gin, garnished with rosemary and shiso, sweet and earthy.

Next, Andrei recommends a cocktail of gin, roasted tea, and salty plum, garnished with rosemary and Himalayan salt, deep, yet tart.

It’s a joy watching Andrei work: his movements are spare, graceful, almost preternaturally quick. As I sip my cocktails, I ask him about the concept of the place.

 

Andrei tells me that the concept comes from the history of his people. His people were once quite numerous, he says, living not just in Romania, but across much of Central and Eastern Europe, what he calls the “Old Country.” Later, though, they were driven out and forced to flee to other parts of the world. Even then, they found they weren’t always welcome in their new homes. When they gathered together, to drink, for instance, it often had to be in secret, in hidden establishments like this. “But we never forgot our roots,” he says, “and our rich heritage.” Andrei means for O+ to be a place for kindred spirits to enjoy a private drink, along with a taste of Old-Country allure.

 

I don’t really know who he means by “his people,” but sadly history is filled with such stories of persecution. I honestly don’t know why some people are so close-minded and intolerant of difference. And I think we can all drink to the idea of everyone being able to live in peace. #EqualityForAll

 

Whatever the case, I suppose the Old Country’s loss is our gain, as we’re lucky to have Andrei and his people in our city to class-up our bar scene.

 

I try another cocktail. This one’s especially interesting – made with gin, bamboo shoot bitters, apple syrup, lemon juice, lemon balm, and gardenia water. It’s served in a bag in a glass and decorated with soil and pebbles, like a miniature garden!

Anyway, as I said, this bar is super Instagrammable (though it’s hard to check your appearance, since there are no mirrors in the bathrooms). The décor here is fantastic and full of Old-World charm. Take this for instance.

Cool, right?

 

The paintings on the walls are nice too, though some, like this one, are a bit creepy.

Many of the paintings are of distinguished-looking European people. One of them strikes me in particular.

“Who is this?” I ask.

 

“This?” asks Andrei. He smiles, as if at a private joke. “This is our venerable ancestor.”

 

“Our venerable ancestor,” agrees another patron, a slender gentleman in a smoking jacket, who is sitting nearby, sipping a glass of red. “He was a great ruler, back in the day.”

 

“He fought back the Turks,” adds another, a pale lady with eyes like blue stars.

 

They proceed to give me a brief history lesson. Most of it goes over my head, but this is something else that’s special about this place: how friendly the clientele is. To be honest, in most bars in this city the patrons are usually rather aloof and tend to keep to themselves. Here, though, the exclusivity seems to engender a rare sense of community. The other patrons seem to be really friendly and open to strangers, and they are always smiling.

 

I could use another drink, so Andrei whips me up a sidecar with Cointreau, refreshing and tart. Like a sorbet, it cleanses the palate.

“How about you?” asks the lady, arching an elegant eyebrow. “I haven’t seen you around here before.”

 

I reply that I’m a native, born and bred; this is my first time here, but I’ll definitely be back!

 

I drain the last of my sidecar and rise to leave. “I hope to see you guys here again soon!”

 

“Wait,” says Andrei, staying me with a look.

 

“Aren’t you forgetting something?” asks the pale lady, laughter dancing in her eyes and a smile playing on her red, red lips.

 

The bar goes silent. I glance around and suddenly all the other patrons are looking at me.

 

I flush. How silly of me, I forgot to pay! I turn to Andrei. “I’m sorry,” I say, shaking my head at my faux pas. “How much is it?”

 

“It is as stated,” Andrei replies simply. “A drink for a drink.”

 

I glance at the other patrons, and a chill runs down my spine when I realize they’re all staring at me expectantly, eagerly, their eyes glowing in the dim light.

 

I look at the slender gentleman, who has put his glass aside, his teeth set in a razor grin, at the pale lady, whose hungry smile reveals her fangs.

 

And then they all come, to drink.

***

Come to O+, a new speakeasy in the heart of the city! The space is luxurious, the clientele friendly, and the drinks are, frankly, to die for! Though it’s super exclusive and its location known only to a select few, you might find it if you know what to look for.

 

So, if you happen to be in the central business district one night and spy a sign with a single red teardrop sticking out of a passageway, proceed down the dark corridor and knock on the door.

 

We’ll be expecting you!

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