Nana's new secret bar offers a portal to pre-revolution Cuba.
The buzz: Soho Hospitality, the firm behind Nana nightlife haunts Above Eleven and Charcoal, has upped its conceptual game with this secret bar offering a portal to pre-revolution Cuba. The finely-concocted story goes that Havana Social was once a hip hangout back in the Cuban capital's 1950s heyday, before falling into ruin after Fidel Castro seized power. Now it's back. Only it's in Bangkok. But all you really need to know is that the entrance is down a small soi opposite Soho stronghold Fraser Suites, past a couple dubious massage parlors. Find the telephone booth labeled "Telefono," then call the place (on your modern-day smartphone) for the night’s unique entry code.
The decor: Soho spent seven months renovating an old four-story shop-house to resemble something even older. The adventure starts with the carefully graffiti'd phone booth. Inside is Cuban pastiche done right, with shuttered windows, spare lighting and crumbling walls giving off a convincingly clandestine feel. They sourced all the furniture and mid-century bric-a-brac from vintage markets around town, with thematic details in the form of colorful cement tiles, a faded mural and even a dangling clothes wire. This is no shady den of iniquity, though; the overall vibe is more party-minded, like a shut-in Gramercy Park, Above Eleven’s upstairs cousin. The second floor will eventually become a whiskey and cigar lounge (open by January), while the two top floors are still a work in progress.
The food and drinks: Rum, and lots of it, with Bacardi as the main booze sponsor. The cocktail list split into two sections: classic and experimental, dubbed Pre- and Post-Revolution. Only the former is currently available, featuring the occasional creative flourish courtesy of Joseph Boroski. The Cuba Libre (Bacardi black, angostura bitters, cola and kaffir lime, B260) is served with chunky Coca-Cola ice cubes, while Between Two Sheets (Bacardi Black, Hennessy VS, Grand Marnier, lime, pomegranate grenadine, B300) comes in two mismatched cocktail glasses, one sweet and one sour, and requires you to rather daintily sip at both for the full effect. Off theme, the Sazerac (Rittenhouse Rye, Absinthe, Creole bitters, sugar, B310) is served with an extra thimble of Absinthe to add at your discretion. A couple Beervana beers, and a shelf of gins and vodkas complete the booze, while they're promising street-style food in the form of empanadas (spinach and pulled pork) and Cuban sandwiches.
The music: Sticking to an Afro-Cuban theme, the bar will welcome live bands three nights a week joined by a coterie of dancing girls. Nightly DJs will broaden the sound, without straying too far from theme.
The crowd: Early days on our visit, but we spotted familiar faces from the city's DJ and dining circles. We’re expecting a young, clued-in crowd, with the whole “secret bar” thing doing just enough to keep out the real Nana riff-raff. Carl Dixon