A stuffy evening turned into my personal ‘Midnight in Paris’ at this otherworldly bar in Kala Ghoda. A good time was had. Read on…
Mumbai is a city that has a lot to offer at every turn. It has many secrets; some good, some bad. But whether you are one of the sleepless elite of the city or not, you cannot deny that there’s nothing else quite like Mumbai. Wait, did I say Mumbai? I meant South Mumbai.
I stumbled upon one such secret last Sunday in the peaceful by-lanes of Kala Ghoda. I was there for an arty gig that turned out to be an open mic for people who had never been handed the mic before for a reason. We left as soon as it was polite and did a quick search on where we could grab a drink. Usual names like Gokul and BSE came up, but we decided to try Havana Café & Bar. Being seven minutes away on foot, we naturally cabbed it. Havana is the in-house pub at The Gordon House hotel, bang opposite BSE Colaba.
At Gordon House, the moment we stepped out of the elevator, it was as if we had stepped through some time warp. The modern-day hotel lobby far behind us, we were welcomed by a dimply lit tavern with all the adornments of a very different Mumbai – one that perhaps Anurag Kashyap would like to go back to and never return.
There were various seating options and a monologue in progress (clearly the open mic had traveled through time too). But the vibe was so old school that it called for us to sit at the bar, something I usually detest. Everything about Havana was like what you see and hear of the old classics. The friendly bartenders talked to us as they mixed our drinks, the many (MANY) bottles placed at the back-lit bar twinkled and seemed strangely alluring. I wondered how many sat there before me, staring at those bottles and drinking their bourbons…
The prices too seem to belong to another generation. You aren’t going to believe this but it is true – 72 bucks a pop. No, really. Food and drinks for 72 bucks. No, not just vegetarian fare and mocktails, the whole deal. Well, to be entirely truthful, not the ‘whole’ deal but a special menu that they have from 6 PM to 8 PM every day, except for Mondays.
So naturally, my friends went into an ordering frenzy (sigh) but I didn’t really blame them. We were like people from a harsh land, who paid through their teeth for the most minimal of mortal pleasures, that had suddenly been transported to an easy-going, glamorous time at their generous best. Because face it, that’s exactly what was happening.
We called for the Old Fashioned (INR 72), Cubanista (INR 72), Collins Lavender (INR 72), a Whisky Sour (INR 72), and The Dictator (INR 72). The drinks were on point, with the whisky and rum based ones being the clear winners. Stay away from the more flowery sounding ones, like Collins Lavender, if you don’t like your drinks smelling like your perfume.
The food menu didn’t disappoint either. We ordered 2 Nachos with Salsa (veg and chicken, INR 72), Chili Sausages (INR 72), and a Veg Sharing Platter (INR 72). Though they easily could have, the good people at Havana did not scrimp on the quantity or quality of anything they served us. The chicken was juicy, the Salsa fresh, and the platter overflowing.
The best part, you ask? The smoking room. Complete with vintage frames, tables and lamps, it had an end to end couch and a vibe of being in an old Bombay home. If you’re an old soul like me, it won’t be easy to leave.
After 8 PM, we were handed the modern-day menus and turns out, they have quite the extensive collection of alcohol! The menu was very Cuban and boasted of serving the original Cuban Mojito, which I was by now too tipsy to try. Did I mention we had two rounds of shots? Yes, The Rebel (INR 72!)
The only downside were the washrooms which were clinical, airplane style loos that brought me crashing back to reality. The magic started to dwindle after 11 PM when the performances ended and to my horror, commercial music started blasting through the speakers. Don’t worry, we left post haste after that; I cherished my evening at Havana too much to ruin it with today-ness.
Havana is everything you expect from a themed bar but never really get. Maybe because for them, this isn’t a theme. Do yourself a favour and make the trek to Colaba this Sunday to experience the whole thing.
Cuisine: Multi cuisine
Food you must try: Chili Sausages, Chicken Nachos
Cocktails you must try: Old Fashioned, Whisky Sour
Kind of music played here: Commercial.
Is there a dance floor? Enough space to dance
Avg price per head: INR 500 approx.