Bar Review: Razzberry Rhinoceros, Juhu

Razzberry Rhinoceros.The month-old revamped and reopened Razzberry Rhinoceros brought to mind the recent Archie comics TV reboot Riverdale. The names might be the same but there’s little resemblance to the original form in these updates for millenials. When we called to check if we needed to reserve a table, we were told that we could walk in but that they have a “smart casuals” dress code, that is, slippers and shorts aren’t allowed. Which means that most of the bar’s erstwhile patrons and performers wouldn’t be able to enter the Razz of today.

Back in the 1990s and early 2000s, Razz was where the city’s cash-strapped college kids would headbang and mosh to the sounds of rock and metal bands that played the pub during its weekly ‘live’ nights. The new dress code doesn’t fit with the image of a watering hole that has returned as a gig venue, albeit one that mainly hosts electronic music sets. (Even Blue Frog, its fancier successor, didn’t mind if you sauntered in Hawaiis and half-pants.)

Razz v2.0 is a sign of how times have changed. If ten years ago, the proprietors of Juhu Hotel felt it was more profitable to use the space for wedding banquets, today they figured it makes better business sense to capitalise on nostalgia and rebrand multiple areas of the hotel under the Razz umbrella. Far more people go out to eat and drink these days than a decade ago, and Juhu Hotel aims to offer multiple experiences in the same venue. There’s a split-level lounge that occupies the same space as the original pub, the mezzanine of which is now a members’ only floor. The cafe inside the hotel is now an air-conditioned ‘bistro’; there’s an al fresco dining area with fairy lights and a wood-fire pizza oven; and a seaside VIP section that requires a minimum spend.

For the purpose of this review, we got a seat in the lounge. The entrance is where the stage used to be and the stage is where the entrance used be. The lounge bears no trace of its previous avatar, but there is a nod to the past in a series of black and white photos of Juhu fixed on a wall that also bears the silver sculpture of a rhino head. These are the most distinctive elements of an otherwise unimaginative decor, with black couches and a black marble-topped bar, which were bathed in a pink-purple hue at 11pm.

Around us were groups and couples who were probably in middle school during Razz’s heydays. When we asked our friendly bartender if he had visited the original, he said he wasn’t “born” when it was around. In truth, the 26 year old was too young to enter the old Razz throughout its two-decade run. We wished, over the course of the evening, that he was as skilled at making cocktails as he was at making conversation. Here, they offer three menus, which include two sets of house cocktails. From the lounge menu’s list of Tomorrow’s Tales or classics with a twist, we picked the Razz Sour and Kairi Collins and from the root-to-shoot selections on the bistro menu, the Sweet Lime and Sage and the Pomegranate and Curry Leaves.

There was only a hint of sourness in the Kairi Collins (Rs600), a Tom Collins with a splash of raw mango puree. The Razz Sour (Rs600), made with whisky, lime, raspberry puree and aquafaba, had a strangely bitter aftertaste. This was also the case with the marginally strong Sweet Lime and Sage (Rs600), prepared, according to the menu, with gin, sugar and salt. The Pomegranate and Curry Leaves (Rs600), the other ingredients of which are tequila, lime and ice, had a slightly sambar-like taste that was quickly diluted by the excessive crushed ice. Drinking cocktails here was a novel experience as we don’t recall ever ordering anything apart from beer during our visits to the Razz of yore.

Somewhat overwhelmed by the three food menus, we decided to stick to ordering bar bites from the lounge’s concise two-page menu. The mini kulcha basket (Rs325) comprised eight identical crescents and it took a fair bit of effort to find out each of their thinly-stuffed contents. After three rounds of the waiter going back and forth from the kitchen to ascertain the fillings, we found upon tasting them that the mutton kheema variety was strictly average; that the cheese mentioned on the menu was boring paneer; that the aloo was the only one worth repeating and that the garlic-flecked bread was too chewy, probably because we could only get to it several minutes after it had been made.

We had better luck with the rest of our snacks. We were surprised by the French-style portion and plating of the wasabi beetroot hummus (Rs375) but that’s because we forgot that the food menus have been crafted by celebrity chef Ranveer Brar. The curled knobs of the rose-coloured hummus were impressively smooth and creamy and went well with the shards of bajra chips served alongside, as well as the measly scattering of pomegranate and pine nuts atop the dip. The grilled kasundi prawns (Rs575) – they serve four to a plate – were perfectly cooked and tasted just as good by themselves as with the accompanying slices of orange and smears of mustard sauce. By this point, we could barely see what we were eating or hear what we were saying because the lights had been dimmed to almost cinema-level darkness and the volume of the music had been increased to nightclub-level loudness.

As we were leaving, making our way through couples dancing in the gap between the stage and the tables we realised that there was something retro about Razz v2.0 after all. It was the way the DJ’s playlist had progressed from old-school hip-hop to current pop hits to Bollywood remix territory. This used to be the routine at bars such as Arabian Sea Lounge and Hawaiian Shack in Bandra but not, at least when we last visited, at Razz. If we return, it won’t be to the lounge but for events such as Tapped, Movies and Chill or an outdoor gig, the biggest draws of which are the seaside location. At Razz, you’re free to roam the patch of lawn in front of the lounge and stand and drink by the partition overlooking the beach. The five minutes we spent there were the best part of our evening. They would have been even better had we done what we used to in the old days and stuck to beers instead of cocktails.

Prices exclude taxes. They do not levy a service charge.

This review was conducted anonymously. It is our policy to wait a week after an establishment has opened before we review it.

Razzberry Rhinoceros, Juhu Hotel, near Mahesh Lunch Home, Juhu. Tel: 74004 02604. Open daily, from noon to 1am. Get directions here.

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