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The World's First Gin & Tea Bar

An exclusive look at the world’s first gin and tea bar - Memsahib

Gin, tea and flavoursome food served in Anglo-Indian splendour? Yes please. Toast.Life chats to Litu Mohiuddin, co-owner of the brand-new Memsahib Gin & Tea Bar to hear how he is transporting guests back to the 19th century, and just how he went about creating this exciting world first.



Gin and tea may sound like an unlikely combination, but when speaking to Litu Mohiuddin, co-owner of the brand-new Memsahib Gin & Tea Bar and his already established East India Cafe, both in the heart of the regency town of Cheltenham, it starts to make perfect sense.

“Gin and tea were highly popular offerings during the time of the British Raj, so we really wanted to focus on this. The combination proved very popular amongst our guests at East India Cafe, and it was this, in addition to our own love of gin, that inspired us to open a bar exclusively for gin and tea!” he explains brightly. 

“We’ve taken a lot of inspiration from Indian spices and herbs, so our Aromatic London Dry Gin ignites the palette, with a mix of twelve different spices and a sprinkle of ginger. Chai, one of our most central spices, has also been incorporated into one of our gins - paired with cinnamon, cardamom, bay leaf and Assam tea, this gin is the ultimate interpretation of chai tea!”

If you’re after something sweeter then there’s Memsahib’s very own Old Tom Gin, or if you’re feeling fruity then you can opt for their mouth-watering Rhubarb and Lemongrass creation. There are, in fact, over a staggering 55 gins and chai-inspired teas to choose from at the Memsahib Gin & Tea bar – the world’s first venue to offer the unique combination of gin and tea. Litu, his wife Rina and business partner Rasel Mahmud already own the award-winning restaurant East India Cafe, and Memsahib  is proving to be yet another success.

Memsahib Gin Cocktails

Memsahib GT Garnishes

Gin Cocktails Memsahib

“I always knew I wanted to create a sophisticated, high-end bar for everyone to enjoy creative drinks” explains Litu. 

“When we first arrived in England we lived in London and have always worked in the hospitality industry. When we began exploring all that the beautiful Cotswolds had to offer, we knew we had to make the move here and set up our own restaurant, and now our own bar too!”

Their Memsahib Gin and Tea bar, which opened its doors at the beginning on November, is inspired by the British Raj period – from the décor and the food to the beautifully presented cocktails and teas, and for good reason too.

“During the British Raj period many Anglo-Indian women settled in Cheltenham” explains Litu.  “And the word ‘Memsahib’ is used to describe a European woman in India during the 19th century - these Anglo-Indian women are repeatedly mentioned in history books and are recognised for empowering women in India, whilst introducing Cheltenham to the Anglo-Indian culture, so where better to open a Memsahib?”

Immortalised on each of the menus the story of a remarkable memsahib – such as Lillias Hamilton, who went to Cheltenham Ladies College and then trained as a nurse before studying medicine. She elected to work in Calcutta and then in Kabul. Choosing not to marry, Lillias dedicated her life to improving health. Litu tells me that whilst in India, the hospitable memsahib would host regular feasts at their homes for family and friends, and it was this sense of occasion that Litu, Rasel and Rina wanted to recreate in their unique bar, with its stylish and welcoming ambience, creative cocktails and carefully crafted platters of tempting food.

Interiors Memsahib

“We want the bar to be a reflection of the memsahib lifestyle - we want to re-ignite the passion that the memsahib felt for her cooking and hospitality” Litu explains.

And speaking of cooking, the menu echoes the concept of a ‘Memsahib Picnic’, meaning guests can enjoy beautifully prepared nibbles in a taste bud tickling ‘mix and match’ style. whilst sipping on gin and tea, of course. Several delicious Anglo-Indian-inspired dishes float of menu, such as papadum and chaat masala chips, lamb and rosemary seekh kebab served with red onion salad and chutney, Indian koliwada prawn served with pickle salad and sweet chilli mayo and malai dal with paratha bread and salad, and much more.

“With our food we transform dishes from the British Raj period between 1858 and 1947 to create recipes with contemporary twists, combining the freshest produce from local suppliers and farmers in the Cotswolds with home-grown herbs, freshly-ground spices and ingredients from far-flung places” beams Litu.

“The contrast of traditions and flavours comes together to create something really wonderful, and tasty!”

Memsahib Food

Memsahib Gin Tea Bar Food

Memsahib Sharers

Memsahib Sharing Tapas

Whether you’re after a filling meal or just a few tasty nibbles to go with your cocktail, the menu caters for it all. Also on offer is the rather tempting ‘Afternoon Chai’ – a beautifully presented combination of their fragrant and comforting house Chai (masala chai, ginger and garam masala with milk and honey) served with a selection of Anglo-Indian inspired snacks, such as baby potato and vegetable singhara and sweet treats such as jilabi, pears chaat and cinnamon butter. Truly mouth-watering stuff.

Their vast selection of quality, artisan teas are all fair trade; ethically transported from leaf to cup, and there’s an extensive range to choose from, from intoxicating oolong and fragrant green to warming chai and sophisticated Earl Grey. And then of course, there is the gin…

“Of the 55 different gins that we have on offer, five of them are our own. Distilled by us, we take every care to ensure that they satisfy a range of tastes. From sweeter to slightly drier gins; we offer something for everybody” Litu explains proudly. 

“And we also infuse 15 varieties of gin, which are then paired with tea”

Memsahib Bowl

Litu and his talented team craft their London Dry style gin with tea and natural botanicals – they call this ‘Gin Infusion’. Choose from the likes of Indian Masala Gin (London dry gin infused with whole garam masala), Cha Cha Oolong Chai (ginger, cinnamon, cardamom seed and chocolate chips) or Green Green Rose (green tea with white rose, sunflower and pears), and it will be expertly served with a carefully chosen tonic, mixed herbs and ice, and presented with the canapé of the day.

For an even fuller experience, there’s also a 6-course Gin & Tea Tasting Menu which allows guests to experience a delectable journey through Memsahib’s unique marriage of gin and tea, with some authentic nibbles along the way. 

“I love getting to know our guests and describing the history behind each dish or drink served. Sharing our passion and educating everyone is fantastic” Litu enthuses. 

“And gin is so versatile! The many spice combinations, with various tonics, flavours and garnishes...the list is endless and that’s why we love it” he adds. 

“Personally, I love gin – and I enjoy it on all the days ending in ‘y’!” 

Having considered this for a moment, I decide that it is a splendid idea and a new routine that I too shall adopt.

Memsahib Gin Tea

Memsahib

Having only just recently opened, Memsahib has hit the ground running and is proving incredibly popular, and one can only imagine how many more revellers will visit in the run up to the festive season, in search of their gin and tea fix. A perfect retreat for the chillier months that lie ahead, Litu, Rasel and Rina have created undeniably welcoming, stylish and atmospheric space, enhanced by rich colours, sumptuous seating, and portraits of influential women who have a connection with Cheltenham and India.

Memsahib Bar

Memsahib Bar

Memsahib Interiors

“The homes of the memsahib had a distinct Anglo-Indian vibe and it’s this we want to convey in the bar’s décor and ambience. We want our guests to be transported back to the 19th century!” Litu explains.  

“We went with a dark blue colour scheme and luxurious sofa seating that you can just sink in to. Our bar stands proudly in a semi-circle shape with lots of table seating around it. We also have hints of gold and lots of wood panelling - it’s a very sophisticated look” he adds.

“With the people of Cheltenham being such stylish residents, we really wanted to reflect this. We worked with Deke Rivers, a local contractor and interior designer, and he helped us to create our dream!”

And there is yet more to come…a hidden ‘Juniper Vault’, soon to be revealed, will be available for private hire for meetings during the day, and by night will be transformed into a private poker-themed games room – perfect for all manner of special occasions, particularly – dare I say it – Christmas parties…

“Yes, we’re expecting a very busy few weeks in the build-up to the festive season! And in the New Year we’re just going to keep doing what we do best and see where it takes us!” Litu smiles.

“We’re really enjoying the journey so far. We love what we do, and we love making our guests happy!”

Memsahib Founders

Behind the scenes, Litu, Rasel and Rina are already planning their next venture - a second site in Oxford in 2019, followed by a third site in London. Their goal is world domination, quite literally, by eventually opening their unique style of gin and tea bars across the world, replicating the East India Trade route in the 19th Century. And why not? Better grab a tea-infused gin cocktail, and watch this space...


Memsahib Gin & Tea Bar is open now at 47-49 Promenade, Cheltenham, GL50 1PJ, take a look at their website for opening times and details: www.memsahibginandteabar.com

 

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