Bogotá’s Little Indian bar is gin, lights, ‘superstar’

Interior of the Little Indian in Bogota.
Interior of the Little Indian in Bogota.

On the lower eastside of Manhattan is a cozy Indian restaurant known as Milon. Climbing the stairs above a supermarket specializing in Indian products, and with an enviable assortment of 99 cent papadams, one enters through a glass door into a small dining room. The roof sparkles with thousands of red light bulbs. Its décor is over-the-top, jarred by Christmas illumination and the restaurant is trustworthy Bangladeshi featuring a masala of Bollywood bizarreness. The food is honest, with not too much fire, and the staff extremely friendly. Once you’ve done Milon, it’s a place you’ll always go back to.

So while Milon in New York exceeds in authenticity, ethnicity and fluffy naam, a relatively new addition to Bogota’s restaurant scene — the Little Indian Superstar Gin Club — flat lines in originality, pulling-off a Milonesque dining room, decked with lots of red Christmas lights.

Although a kaleidoscopic assortment of chili lights, fairy lights and flashing Christmas lights evoke Bollywood glamour, Little Indian Superstar caters to gin fanatics, serving cocktails in tall, bulb-like glasses almost as big as the glitzy disco balls that hang from the ceiling.

Right now, Little Indian is so “in,” business seems almost secondary. Prepare to receive a slap in the face when calling to make a reservation: “Our reservations are full; just come down and put your name on the waiting list,” remarked one hostess.

Due to the restaurant’s small size, walk-in patrons can expect a two-hour wait on a Friday or Saturday night. Those with reservations will get seated when the majority of their party has arrived. As it goes by the name of a club, a cover of $15.000 pesos for men and $10.000 pesos for women will be collected. One can expect some elbowing to English pop, rock and Indie during peak rumba hours.

The snazzy wonderland mystifies with a heritage and an exoticism of an obscure old world—Britain, from which gin originated in the 17th century. One may put up with substandard service just to experience a wine connoisseur’s meticulous approach to gin. Each gin on the menu is classified with its botanicals and flavors. Here, your Gordon’s and Bulldog tonics are served with carefully selected accompaniments according to their religiously observed peculiarities. The “Beefeater” is described as “smooth and balanced” and served with lime. The “dedicate and sweet” rare French Blue Ribbon is served with anise star and cinnamon, and Hendrick’s comes with a rose petal in addition to the recognizable cucumber slice.

The second element from Little India is obviously its Indian-inspired menu, which has increasingly healthy competition in Bogotá. While the overbearingly sweet Jalfrezi or Korma, perhaps tweaked to suit local taste buds, may not be the best Indian food ever and cooked to introduce newcomers to the marvelous world of curry, Little Indian pushes theme dining with its glass elephants, iconic Indian portraits and psychedelic neon red walls.

Although gin and curry are exotic companions, Little Indian would do well to boost its friendliness meter, because this is what makes Indian restaurants and clubs around the world have staying power.

 Calle 82 No.12A-23


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