Thursday, June 30, 2011

Nubar still acts like a new bar

Nubar, you’ve got a lot to learn, but your heart is in the right place.
Traditionally, hotel bars are situated at either pole of a spectrum that runs from the lively and boisterous center of a neighborhood’s culture to a purgatory-like holdover for weary travelers.

Naturally, every hotelier strives for the former, particularly in the past few years, where the success of pace-setters like Eastern Standard have revitalized the concept of what a hotel bar is supposed to be. One suspects that’s what Nubar in the Sheraton Commander outside Harvard Square hopes to replicate, albeit on a more intimate scale.

It’s not there yet, although it is taking steps in the right direction. At the very least, it’s a huge improvement over the space’s previous tenant, the thoroughly mediocre 16 Garden, especially in aesthetics. Low-slung ottomans, lea-ther armchairs and cafe tables are arranged by a fireplace for informal lounge drinking — and there are comfortable, high-backed,  plush seats at the glowing onyx bar. Service is professional and courteous, but the staff seems split between hungry cocktailians and old hotel vets who don’t live for mixology like the new school.

The cocktail list is a little of each, alternating between new-old classics like a Jack Rose (unfortunately made with bottled grenadine), an Aviator variant and a Sazerac — as well as total bummers like a Pomegranate Martini and an Elderflower Cosmo (sad trombone noise).

There’s nothing wrong with catering to a wider crowd, but they’re already a fine choice for people staying in the hotel. And Harvard Square already has enough havens for people who take their drinking seriously. They could better situate themselves to attract a younger bar industry crowd, especially if they take a page from the regularly thriving, late-night hotel bar Noir. Here’s hoping they do. They’ve got the right ideas and a nice space.  

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