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Rumba at the new InterContinental -- ick

I stopped by to look at the menu and space at Miel, the Provençale restaurant at this new hotel on the Boston waterfront. Miel's menu looks pretty interesting, though the space is very dull, like a breakfast room in a mid-level business traveler's hotel. Yet another wine list where 90% of the bottles start at $50 or higher: crazy.

The real reason for the post is that Miel wasn't yet open, so we sat down for a cocktail at Rumba, the adjacent rum-themed bar. The short version: really bad vibes. This is easily the ugliest, most mismatched assortment of dissonant design ideas since Strega opened in the North End. It's so hideous that I found it uncomfortable to linger there. Two bored-looking bartenders ignored us for a good ten minutes, at which point I helped myself to a cocktail menu another patron had left behind. They took the hint, finally coming over to take a drink order. This turned out not to be such a good thing.

The cocktail menu features a Papa Hemingway Daiquiri, which I figured would be an exemplary drink in a rum-centric bar. Instead of a bracing cocktail of rum and fresh lime and grapefruit juices with a hint of Maraschino, we got something syrupy and oversweetened with too much Maraschino and probably simple syrup. And it was garnished with a huge, ungainly slice of ruby grapefruit topped with mint, something better suited to a Mai Tai in a Tiki mug than an elegant cocktail glass. Terrible, and $12.

(This place also features a $275 "deluxe" version of a Champagne cocktail made with vintage bubbly, some Napoleon-level Cognac, and a sprinkling of 23K gold flakes. This would be an eye-roller in an attractive bar with great service; here, it's a sick joke.)

We retreated to the bar at No. 9, a place that justifies its high cocktail prices with serious artisanry underpinned by a scholarly immersion in cocktail history. Oh, and great service. That washed Rumba's stench of artlessness and incompetence from our nostrils.

I'll still give Miel a shot at some point, having had a cocktail elsewhere first.

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  1. After that scathing review, I expect Rumba will be closed by New Year's. OUCH! Thanks for the traffic cone, MC. I will definitely avoid.

    1. MC,

      As always, an entertaining and informative read. Too bad about Miel, I like the sound of the menu, and would have liked to hear youir opinion. Keep us posted.


      1. I've eaten at Miel twice in the past two weeks and both times I've had very good meals. I added a comment to a previous review on CH.

        We took clients to the Rumba last Monday and had some good cocktails. They have one of the finest selections of rums I've seen. Sushi Teq is planned to open next year, I'm also interested in trying that. Both times I've eaten there the valet let me leave my car out the front for a $5 tip. Service inside is very good. That area is in dire need of some decent restaurants. Other than Luckys and Blue Wave there are few options in walking distance from the South Boston side of Congress Street. It's willl also be great to eat outside in the summer, assuming the stench of the channel isn't too oppressive.

        Before writing this place off go and try the restaurant.

        1. I went to Rumba last weekend and was not very impressed. The service was similar to what MC experienced. The wait staff was extremely attentive when unnecessary (asking three times if we needed anything while we were eating) yet to get a refill on a drink was near impossible. Add to that, they were out of some of the ingredients to make drinks from their cocktail list (there was a martini with tomolives I was going to order but they were out of tomolives). I had a basic cobb salad which was fine but I certainly wouldn't consider this a destination.

          1. We went to Rumba the first week they opened and wrote off the bad service and confusion to everything being new. That should no longer be an excuse. I was extremely shocked by the price of the cocktails.

            Rather drink at Eastern Standard.

            1. Limster, didn't you also have a favorable opinion of Miel?

              1 Reply
              1. re: tatamagouche

                I thought it wasn't bad and worth exploring more, based on one meal: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/340903

              2. Can't help wondering if that 24/7 policy's going to stick though. Boston just doesn't seem to be able to support all-nighters. Maybe in a student-dominated area it would fly, especially if it were a cheapie; but as a relatively pricey place on the waterfront...?

                1 Reply
                1. re: tatamagouche

                  I was thinking that too. It'll be a LONG time before that place sees any regular foot traffic.

                2. I love my rum, and I finally got a chance to visit Rumba at the Intercontinental.

                  In quick summary, the rum list is excellent even though it had only a few that I would consider rare. Notable rums included Pyrat 1623 ($40), Mount Gay Tricentennial ($75), Clément Cuvee Homere ($20), Clément XO ($28) and British Royal Navy Imperial ($120). More "typical" rums included Pyrat XO, Ron Zacapa (15 & 23), Zaya, Mount Gay Extra Old, Ron Pampero, Ron Matusalem Gran Reserva, Appleton 21, many Plantations, and several others of the very good and excellent rums. All in all a very good selection, and I thought the prices were pretty decent really, between 200% and maybe 300% markup considering the healthy 2 ounce pours that I received.

                  The place wasn't perfect - I watched one young bartender muddling the bejeezus out of a Mojito, and I wish they knew more about the rums. But it's a nice place, which is expected for a hotel bar in an upscale hotel, the rum list is excellent.

                  I posted a full review on my blog.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Scottes

                    I don't think most people do this, but I took a bartending course, and there is a school of people who say the sugar and mint should pretty much be a paste when you're done muddling. Personally, I think this is acceptable if you only do this to a portion of the mint leaves and then scrunch up a couple more for the visual aspect. Then again, maybe he had no idea what he was doing, and considering that the place is a rum themed bar, there's NO excuse for not having a strong knowledge of every one they serve.

                  2. I've had a mixed bag there, but for me it comes down to expectations. The time I went with a group of friends for the purposes of drinks, nibbles, and desserts, we sat at the low lounge-y tables around the outer edge of the bar space. Mistake. The servers NEVER came over. We had to hunt them down, literally, multiple times. Everything took forever. Orders came out wrong. Terrible, maddening experience.

                    BUT -- the few other times I've been there, I've ordered directly from the bar, looking primarily for the bartender to guide me towards a choice for a rum, straight, that would fit within price and taste preferences. In this regard, I've had great luck: good suggestions, reasonable prices, generous pours. Then usually MrLit and I head out to the back patio and sit on the ledge with our rum, or if it's cold we just relocate to a nicer area of the space. This is the only way we RumBa. I won't do the sit-down thing there ever again.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: litchick

                      I've only been there once, sitting at those tables and our server was very attentive. We were there early, though, and it was a very cold, fairly slow night, so maybe that was a factor.