There’s a new speakeasy in town!
Getting inside Vancouver’s newest bar involves placing a wager on “King Louie.”
The team behind the hidden Chinatown bar Laowai is opening another underground watering hole, this time inside the (faux) Happy Valley Turf Club off-track betting shop (518 Main St).
Bagheera is an homage to India and the cultural crossroads of Three Kingdoms Hospitality co-founders Lewis Hart and Brij Rathi. While Laowai is modelled after Prohibition-era Shanghai, Bagheera is named for the black panther in Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book and was inspired by India at the turn of the 20th century.
“We wanted to continue our partnership and to create another exceptional experience for our guests,” says Rathi in a recent press release. “So, when we were brainstorming ideas, I said: ‘Why don’t we go where our own family histories intersect?’”
“Both our families have roots in India, so we looked for an intersection and realized we both appreciated Rudyard Kipling and his storytelling ability,” explains Hart. “Everything flowed from there.”
The “King Louie” password (also a Jungle Book reference) grants guests access to the 60-seat cocktail lounge through a vestibule papered in original period postcards.
London, U.K.-based firm, Bergman Interiors, who also designed Laowai, took their cues from opulent antique train cars and the space glitters with over 1,000 coins and bangles sourced directly from bazaars in Delhi and Jaipur.
The bar menu, curated by Alex Black, is comprised of era-inspired cocktails after Kipling’s works with a separate Gin and Tonic section. Expect ingredients like saffron-infused gin, smoked paprika, and cinnamon tincture to set the mood beneath a 45-foot, hand-painted jungle mural.
There’s a semi-private Drawing Room that houses a bronze and brass “Cabinet of Curiosities” filled with the house’s harder-to-find whiskeys.
Laowai chef Phong Vo has created a pakora and sharing plate menus to compliment the beverage list with a variety of meat, seafood, vegetarian, and vegan fillings and dishes like Carrot Daal, Saag Aloo Pave, Goan Tamarind Fish Curry, and Coconut Lamb Koftas.
Bagheera will be open Tuesday to Sunday, with service beginning at 5 p.m. but doesn’t take reservations. Guests who place a bet on “King Louie” will be welcomed on a first-come-first-served basis.