The Stamford, the newest addition to the Cinnamon Gardens watering hole scene (Love Bar, 41 Sugar, Floor by O!), unfortunately seems to have kicked things off on the wrong foot. With a disjointed and fluorescent take on its interior, there is not much here presently to foster your enjoyment of their priced-above-their-punching-weight drinks.
That said, their management (who were unaware of our reviewing of them) seemed well-intentioned and customer oriented - there was a welcome pair of B52s on the house. So here’s hoping that with some strong-armed editing of the setting and more focus on mixology and pricing the Stamford can rise towards the calibre of its more established neighbours.
I would sum it up as a theme of neon Oz meets a low end strip club (don't ask me why I know that). The stairway to the 25 seater floor space was red carpeted, the ceiling mirrored and chandelier-endowed, and the lighting a compilation of your favourite shades of beach rave. A potentially misguided Bowie tribute (or Harry Potter tribute) in the form of a smattering of paper lightning bolts on the ceiling, completed the look.
Credit: The Stamford Facebook page
An opportunity for people-watching may have distracted us from it all, but this particular Wednesday night we found ourselves alone save from a gathering of 5 uncles (who we later discovered to be friends of the owner).
We arrived determined to make the most of their Facebook advertised one-for-one happy hour from 7 PM – 9 PM (after that you get 10% off). While there’s no cocktail menu beyond a list of spirits on a tatty piece of paper, the waiter - bartenders were willing to make anything we could devise based on bottles displayed. So we started off with a Whiskey Sour (a YAMU favourite), and a Mojito (priced at Rs. 950 and 900 respectively). While the setting had lowered our expectation, we were happily surprised to be asked if an egg white was desired in the whiskey sour. This is an ingredient usually missed, so points for cocktail knowledge.
With regards to taste - the Whiskey Sour was silky, and sweetened with enough restraint as to allow the citrus a chance to come through against the liquor. What could have elevated it was the use of rye whiskey rather than scotch. Presentation was slapdash at best, serving it with lime (pips and all) rather than orange, and without a napkin. At the price, though, these smaller details should be part of the package.
Meanwhile, the Mojito, despite being served in a short glass, provided the hoped for a minty - limey hit and was refreshing despite the soda being a little flat. It had a healthy pouring of rum which, depending on how you judge these things, could be a plus or a minus. And again, some precision on the presentation front wouldn’t have gone amiss.
After we had the 2nd of our happy hour drinks, we opted for something a little different. Without a menu to restrict us we upped our requests to Sidecars, Godfathers, Manhattans and Old Fashioneds. We never saw these served up, however, as the manager opted to hold back on serving them due to the lack of the correct liquor or ingredients. While this limited liquor reserve isn’t ideal, we laud their willingness to own up to their limitations, rather than attempting to deliver a compromised reproduction.
We finally settled on a Gin Martini and a Tom Collins after these negotiations (priced Rs. 855 and Rs. 810 respectively after the aforementioned 10% discount). The gin martini didn’t go down as smoothly as expected, we wanted it to be clean and dry, but the gin was overpowering, drowning out the vermouth and the tang from the olives. I love my gin, but this was bit much, even for me.
The Tom Collins, a simple but satisfying favourite of mine resulted in a respectable attempt. It was fresh, well balanced between the gin, sugar, and soda, and overall the best executed drink of the night.
In all honesty, they just aren’t there yet. Service was fine, but not worth talking about, and the whole establishment requires some thinking through and pulling together. On a positive note, management seem keen for constructive criticism - let’s hope they see this as such. The feeling we got was that the opening was rushed and corners had been cut in the process. We’d say unless you want to see for yourself, or have a special likening for lightning bolts, you could give this a miss until they sort out their teething problems.