The opening night at Havana Mumbai felt a lot like sliding into a warm, comforting familiar bath. It doesn't feel new at all, not in a discouraging kinda way, but where things belong in their place and the vibe is that of a well-heeled Cuban's house. Loads of ombre shade followed by hints of turquoise, grid like bar wall back illuminating and contouring the liquor bottles, fedora like lamp shades and a fountain, perhaps a tribute to Havana's back dated romance with sculpted architecture.
The place is an congruous mix of a lavish lounge and an upbeat restaurant that easily echoes cool, casual and certainly not a 'cafe' while it draws a decent caricature of the Cuban ambiance. Surely, it won't attract the Mick Jagger kinds, but easily the Beatniks puffing some cigars by the corner sofa.
Cuba Libre, El Presidente, Havana sunrise, Lola Lambada, plus cocktails with lesser South American accent like Freedom Fighter and Zombie and also classics like Manhattan, LIIT & Bloody Mary were ordered over the course of the evening while music swayed wide between modern chart busters and retro classics; Perhaps a few congo-drum based sounds from 'Chef' movie would have sealed the night. The vast spread of cocktails like the hallucinating fairy induced 'Zombie' is a blessing for the regular tippler; or the deeply sinister looking, Curacao intoxicated 'Freedom Fighter' or the vermouth infused 'Presidente'. Options to get intoxicated are one too many and generally affable. The domain where Havana felt a bit short was the food.
Eatables here are more like bar munchies and easily quantifiable. Cubanos, Skewers, Bruschetta, Fritters, Quesadillas and Paella make up this compact back page of the menu. I guess a simple juicy Chicken variation and a Paneer Zuchini variation of the Cuban sandwich would have been perfect since none of ordered Cubano (Chicken in Multigrain, Chicken Nuggets, Grilled Fish or Paneer) could satiate the taste-buds. The sandwiches were generally lightly stuffed as opposed to a typically stuffed cheesy Cuban Sandwich that wouldn't even leave space for the stuffing to sweat under the griller. Chicken Skewers with Aoili and Pan seared Prawns were definitely a notch above the rest of the plates. The Empanadas and Fish Fritters are easily skippable and so are the Quesadillas which have been labelled 'Main Meals', lack the portion size of a main dish.
Adding a little theater to the end of the evening was a plate of flaming Flambeed Bananas with Rum & Orange reduction. The Tres Leches is not up to par, lucklustre in taste and visualization. It will require a lot of hardwork to beat the kind of Tres Leches that Sanchos in Bandra offers; moist cake retained with milk, more heavenly mix of different milks around the cake and that gorgeous vanilla cream on top - the making of a perfumed brittle dessert that scream 'eat me up and drink me down'
With a reputed backend hospitality, it's expected that Havana should be nothing less than a copybook case of an all-round bar or lounge, which is not exactly the case here. It's more like a premature baby that popped a week or three earlier. Few days of pre-launch feedback sessions would have definitely opened their eyes to the ho-hum food. For now, one thing for sure is in their pocket - Cocktails; Fascinating names and mixes of reputed alcohol and interesting ingredients make them a definite winner. Perhaps, it will be best to say that only time will tell the tale of this lavish Cuban affair. For now, Havana can be easily pigeonholed as a great bar that works late into the night.
Location : Gordon House Hotel, 5 Battery Street, Apollo Bunder, Colaba