Thursday, July 27, 2017

The ‘mature’ Blind Tiger has a new hunting ground

After spending five months lurking in the undergrowth The Blind Tiger emerged from the jungle at a new downtown location. Its exile has resulted in a leaner, more modern and “more mature” speakeasy-style bar that maintains all of its best characteristics whilst offering some new delights.

The new entrance is much more conspicuous than the last. Photo: Ashok ManandharThe new entrance is much more conspicuous than the last. Photo: Ashok Manandhar

The low-key re-opening on Friday, March 18, was attended by many of the speakeasy’s loyal customers who had been eagerly anticipating the return of one of Yangon’s most stylish watering holes.

The previous iteration of the cocktail bar had been chased away by a mob of condominium committee members armed with metaphorical sticks and anti-alcohol attitudes.

One of the owners, Sophie Barry, told The Myanmar Times all about it.

“We had a few issues,” she said, referring to the dispute with the building’s committee.

“They kind of had it in for us,” said Darren Conway, another co-owner.

Previously located at the back of a large residential and office condominium on Nawaday Street, The Blind Tiger had drawn the ire of local residents who were resistant to the idea of an alcohol-serving restaurant being located so close to a school and their homes.

The argument was hard to win; it was purely ideological. The 9-inch (23-centimetre) cement walls and heavy wooden door prevented any noise disturbance – at least they never received any complaints about noise – and they adhered to the correct closing time.

After a lengthy battle to maintain their presence on Nawaday Street The Blind Tiger’s management chose not to extend their contract which ran out in October 2015. The Tiger had been forced out.

“We tried everything to fight them [and stay there] but we lost,” Sophie Barry said.

After one failed move – which ran into the same resistance from local residents – the owners hesitated.

“We couldn’t get any assurances that we wouldn’t be shut down again.” she said, “knowing that anything can happen when you are actually putting more money in to set up a place, and still you have no idea.”

However, The Blind Tiger survived because of the persistence and dedication of its owners (who also have proper day jobs), manager and staff. The new location on Seik Kan Thar Road underwent a two-and-a-half-month renovation, with most of the interior simply transplanted from the original.

The décor and atmosphere are the result of the owner’s discerning tastes.

“I know what I like and what I want,” Barry said. “I want it to be a place where you can sit at the bar and the barman can chat to you; where you can feel at home.”

She has a track record of frequenting, as well as running, bars. She opened a Mexican bar in Afghanistan, and soon recognised the need for a similar haven for the expat community here in Yangon. Twenty years ago she met friend, and eventual co-owner, Darren Conway whilst filming in Yangon and discussed the idea of opening a bar. That dream became a reality, and together with Stephen Pettifore, a British art curator based in Bangkok, the first Blind Tiger was born.

Now Penny, the Tiger’s capable manager, will take the reins of The Blind Tiger 2.0 alongside half the old staff – who have been retained for good reason.

“The best thing about The Blind Tiger was that it was always like a family,” Barry told The Myanmar Times. “It’s difficult to get good staff, and keep them. There are so many things opening up and more opportunities that you might lose them.”

Also returning is The Blind Tiger’s signature collection of home-made infused alcohols and cocktails sprouting from the uninhibited imagination of the resident cocktail master. The selection of tapas and other nibbles remain, but will soon be joined by a variety of seasonal salads and sandwiches when The Blind Tiger begins serving lunch after Thingyan.

Aesthetically, not too much has changed. The maroon and gold wallpaper has been replaced by a new black and gold motif which complements the exposed brickwork and steel beams of the 1920s building the Tiger inhabits. The mezzanine level offers an extra level of intrigue, but the biggest addition is a secluded and intimate eight-person private dining area.

Offering pure escapism with its chic and easy going ambiance, all amid rotating pan-Asian art exhibitions, The Blind Tiger is sure to provide an experience that will make you want to return to the den.

For the moment the opening times are 3pm until 11pm, but the upcoming lunch service will soon see The Blind Tiger’s door open at 11am.

The Blind Tiger
93/95 Seik Kan Thar Road (lower block)
Kyauktada township,
Phone: 09-786833847