Food and Drink

Un­der ground in Jakarta's Mega Kuningan lies a mod­ern take on the 1920s speak-easy bar, where dan­ger­ous cock­tails and a vin­tage charm await.


The Bee's Knees of Speak- Easies: Bau Haus

Be­tween 1920–1933, Amer­ica en­coun­tered the pro­hi­bi­tion era, a time when the man­u­fac­ture, sale and trans­porta­tion of al­co­hol was il­le­gal. Dur­ing this pe­riod, boot­leg bars ex­isted, of­ten run by or­ga­nized crim­i­nals, where the sale of al­co­hol took place – and th­ese were known as ‘speakeasies'. The term was born through the prac­tise of speak­ing softly in such es­tab­lish­ments, so as not to alert the au­thor­i­ties of the il­le­gal ac­tiv­i­ties tak­ing place within. The al­lure of out­lawed liquor in­spired waves of colour­ful con­coc­tions in the form of cock­tails that of­fered glam­our and, above all, good taste.

Speak-easy themed es­tab­lish­ments that glo­rify the pro­hi­bi­tion days are elu­sive in In­done­sia, but in Jakarta's busi­ness hub of Mega Kuningan, such a place does ex­ist, and it goes by the name of Bau Haus.

Bau Haus' lo­ca­tion is pretty covert; its non­de­script wrought iron en­trance is the only thing that gives it away. The stairs lead you down into an un­der­ground lair only about 140 me­tres squared in size, where a vin­tage and Euro­pean-feel­ing speak-easy bar awaits, to while away your evening hours (opens daily at 4pm).

The pro­hi­bi­tion-styled bar is owned and op­er­ated by Syah Es­tab­lish­ments, a group who owns var­i­ous other food and bev­er­age and en­ter­tain­ment out­lets in­clud­ing SCBD's Lucy in the Sky and Fukuro. Above Bau Haus, and also in the East Build­ing in Mega Kuningan, is Ling Ling, a ca­sual con­tem­po­rary Chi­nese restau­rant, too with a vin­tage twist.

Opened in 2014, Bau Haus is Ger­man for ‘con­struc­tion house'. One of the own­ers is a Ger­manophile and, fond of the club­bing cul­ture of Ber­lin, dec­o­rated this gem of a bar with an­tique and vin­tage trin­kets from Ger­many. Orig­i­nal church pews cre­ate a more pri­vate din­ing-cum-meet­ing cor­ner; wrought iron stools lined up at the bar cre­ate a per­fect spot for peo­ple-watch­ing; worn brown leather so­fas dot the floor for the laid-back types; and all is lit by gold art­deco styled chan­de­liers from Ber­lin. Home­grown is the teak wood bar from Jepara, dec­o­rated with Euro­pean-style en­grav­ings. The en­tire place is dimly lit, and if we were ever to en­counter a lo­cal pro­hi­bi­tion era, Bau Haus would cer­tainly be the least con­spic­u­ous place to drink in Jakarta.

Al­though the speak-easy bar may feel quite mas­cu­line, be­hind the bar lives a fem­i­nine touch. Trisna Al­bona, also known as Miss Bona, is the res­i­dent mixol­o­gist, and is re­spon­si­ble for the es­tab­lish­ment's cock­tail cre­ations. Hav­ing worked as a bar­tender since 2006, Miss Bona's flair is cer­tainly ap­par­ent in her pas­sion and ded­i­ca­tion to­wards her craft.

Haus No. 1 is the most sought-af­ter cock­tail at Bau Haus. A con­coc­tion of ume choya, choco­late bit­ters and cherry brandy, this sim­ple yet unique drink cer­tainly caught our at­ten­tion. The colour rep­re­sents Bau Haus it­self – brown, woody, earthy, manly – how­ever, the sweet­ness adds a fem­i­nine touch, as Miss Bona does be­hind the bar. Served with a large square ice cube and an or­ange rind sit­ting on top, this un­der­stated drink is a must-try, es­pe­cially if you have a sweet tooth.

An­other de­lec­ta­ble cre­ation of Miss Bona's is the Moscow Mule. This vodka-based cock­tail is a mix of home­made ginger beer, a lime twist, and toasted rose­mary leaves. Served in an iced metal mug, this drink is cer­tainly worth com­ing back for, and is guar­an­teed to keep you warm dur­ing this dreary rainy sea­son we're in the midst of.

A stronger drink is the Gib­son, a clas­sic gin cock­tail sim­i­lar to a dry mar­tini, but gar­nished with pick­led onions in­stead. A blend of dry ver­mouth and gin served in a mar­tini glass, any work wor­ries you may have are sure to dis­ap­pear when sip­ping on this bad boy. If you're not into cock­tails, Bau Haus serves a vast ar­ray of spir­its, and Heineken on tap – not to men­tion Corona, Stella Ar­tois and Erdinger in bot­tles. If you con­sider your­self a Scotch whiskey afi­cionado, their list boasts an ar­ray of sin­gle malts from Scot­land's high and low­lands. Ja­panese sin­gle malts, Ya­mazaki, Hakushu and Hakashi are also on the menu.

Above ground, at Ling Ling, the drinks list was also cre­ated by Miss Bona. The most cre­ative of the cock­tails are Cha Cha Moon and Le Ping Pong Club. Cha Cha Moon takes the bis­cuit. This vodka-based cock­tail takes on a form of its own, made of green tea liquor, lemon juice and matcha green tea syrup, topped with ginger­bread foam.

Food back down below at Bau Haus is mainly aimed at snack­ing, how­ever they do serve some Asian mains: duck con­fit bee-hoon, nasi Bau Haus ( nasi cam­pur), laksa, and bul­gogi fried rice. Western mains in­clude mac­a­roni and cheese, tacos, fil­let mignon, and salmon – all of which are small por­tions. Bar snacks in­clude grilled cheese on toast, chips and dips, cala­mari and crab cakes.

If Mon­days get you down, swing by Bau Haus for ‘F My Mon­day' ev­ery week. Live soul and Rn' B mu­sic per­formed by Teddy Ad­hitya and a few cock­tails are sure to give you a dif­fer­ent out­look on life. Week­ends see a younger crowd at Bau Haus. On Fri­day nights, pa­trons can en­joy the sounds of deep house mu­sic, while on Satur­days, fe­male DJ CNM spins hip hop and r n' b.

If you work in the Kuningan area, come by af­ter hours and de-stress while soak­ing up the speak-easy vibe. If you hap­pen to live in Kuningan or Men­teng, you're en­ti­tled to a neigh­bour dis­count, which is also ap­pli­ca­ble at Ling Ling's for lunch. Ex­change your name card for a fur­ther 10 per­cent dis­count, Mon­day to Fri­days from 5–10pm.

From left to right. Gib­son, Haus No. 1 and Moscow Mule

Trisna Al­bona aka Miss Bona is the mixol­o­gist of Bauhaus 1933 & Mai­son Ling

Soul singer Teddy Ad­hitya per­forms on Mon­day nights

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