Drink Well Like a Neo-Victorian
Here we thought steampunk was a subculture that had disappeared into the shambles of forgotten internet culture, but no, the steampunk dream is still alive in PJ. Hugo Steampunk Premium Lounge, as it is known now, was given a tasteful facelift from its seedy history very recently – just over a month ago or so. The story goes that Director Mr. Kelvin was searching for a novel idea for a hangout spot that caters to the working class of all ages. He then discovered the steam-powered tech of the Victorian era has become something of a subculture and had decided to incorporate its aesthetic into the interior design of the lounge, figuring that not only it would be all the more attractive but also have the added luxury of being the first venue to be decorated as such.
The aesthetics of steampunk could easily be the makings of a Warehouse 13 episode, or the characteristics of a H.G. Wells novel and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen comics – just imagine a confluence of Victorian garb with gadgetry. The copper-toned gizmos with exposed gears, pipes, lightbulbs, and other industrial mechanics are heavily present in the dimly lit venue. The walls are painted a cool navy, the floors are appended with vintage honeycomb or hexagonal tiles of Western saloons, and the bar area has the best decoration as it features hand-painted caricatures of creatures donning top hats and goggles. Having the bar as the main attraction is something that mixologist and consultant Joe had hoped for (though he wished for a narrower space with a long bar extending across the room). The steampunk gimmick is a clever tactic to have fascinated and curious people to patronise the premises, but it really is the cocktails that will have people truly impressed.
Joe — incredibly experienced and passionate — concocted the cocktail menu, with ten signature drinks he had especially created for the lounge. After spending much of his life in the F&B business in Singapore, he developed the desire of elevating the variety and quality of cocktails expected in local businesses. Therefore, it is a given that he uses only fresh fruits and juices, infuses the spirits himself, and even makes the red bean soup dessert from scratch for the red bean cocktail he made for us, which had the regular ingredients of the dish such as pandan, winter melon sugar, along with the addition of hazelnut liqueur; there’s also the choice of santan if you like your drink thickened and sweetened.
It might be a weird contrast to have Asian-style cocktails in such a Victorian setting, but introducing Asian flavourings in drinks is also one aspect that Joe strives to do in order to dispel the standard notion of what a cocktail should be. For instance, Paddy Field has lemongrass in it, there’s a martini that’s made with gin-infused chrysanthemum tea, there’s also one variation where the gin is steeped with red dates — if you can think of a taste you’re looking for, in any drink, we’re sure Joe will try his best to create one for you, and that’s the sort of practice that he wants to be carried out at the lounge; chatting to customers, figuring out what they like, and customising a cocktail from their individual preferences. Alternatively, you can choose from a variety of fruits from the basket at the bar to form the basis of your drink. You’d probably end up with a few off-menu cocktails such as Earl Grey tea-infused gin with cucumber juice, and a grape and apple concoction with melon liquor, vodka, and sake that tastes like makgeolli. While you’re at it, give the Sour Punk and Cocoa Punk shooters a try too. The latter is quite self-explanatory, whereas the former is made with assam boi and sugared mandarin orange peel.
Come check out the lounge because firstly, it’s a steampunk-themed bar – sure, it may be just a novelty, but where else are you going to get that here in Kuala Lumpur? And secondly, if the above detailing is not enough to convince you, well, the cocktails are simply the bomb.
NO.16, JALAN 19/1,
SELANGOR DARUL EHSAN,
46300 KUALA LUMPUR.
T: 012 651 6877
OPEN: 4PM — 1AM (MON — SAT) (OPEN ON PUBLIC HOLIDAYS EXCEPT SUNDAYS)