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Claire Jeffers

Claire Jeffers is a freelance writer living in Portland, Maine. Follow her on Twitter: @claireeats

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Posted: April 20, 2016

A trip to the tropics awaits you at Rhum in Portland

Written by: Claire Jeffers
RHUM

Rhum’s Banana Hammock frozen cocktail in a scorpion bowl serves 2-3 people. Photo by Claire Jeffers

Portland’s newest underground bar, Rhum, opened in February as a place to “escape the everyday.” Appropriately hard to find, Rhum’s dark entrance (adjacent to the back door of Arabica Coffee on Free Street) leads down an increasingly sloping, chilly hallway that opens up to an expansive, subterranean tiki lounge that usually prompts a bit of a jaw drop.

RHUM

Rhum, a spacious subterranean bar, features plush lounge furniture and TVs that show episodes of “The Blue Planet” on loop. Photo by Claire Jeffers

The bar is a big rectangle that’s situated in the center of the room, fit with tiki fringe and 30-plus retro bar stools bolted to the floor. On the far side of the restaurant is a plush lounge seating area divided in three sections to allow for intimate group gatherings or friendly communal seating. Other than the bright lights from under the tiki fortress (the bar), Rhum is like a giant deep sea submarine that has the power to make you forget the charming city of Portland is just on the other side of the wall.

Two big flat-screen TVs sit side-by-side toward the front the bar and on a recent night, the documentary series “The Blue Planet” played on loop (no sound) with images of bizarre creatures found only at the lowest depths of the ocean. As you sip your Jungle Bird, Suffering Bastard or Banana Hammock in a custom tiki glass or scorpion bowl, it will be hard not to be mesmerized by Rhum’s mysterious tropical aesthetic.

Owned by Fifth Food Group, which includes Jason Loring of Nosh and Slab, Mike Fraser of Bramhall and Nat Towl, a builder and designer, Rhum’s website states that this place is a “tribute to the classic tiki bars of yesterday, as well as to the craft and romance of rum and its long tradition.”

Indeed, there’s a wide-ranging rum list and a generous list of cocktails ($12) that are served in Hawaiian-style ceramic mugs, or antique Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum tin cups. Cocktail umbrellas, colorful straws and fake tropical flowers adorn every drink. There are nightly happy hour drink and food specials that include $5 cocktail options and $4 small plate options.

Expect a crowd on weekend nights and potentially a wait at the door if there’s a special event. Otherwise, weeknights can be rather tame at Rhum, and you’ll likely have an entire lounge section for your private group. Pace yourself with the rum-heavy cocktails and enjoy.


RHUM

WHERE: 4 Free St. (Enter near the intersection of Cross and Spring streets)
PHONE: 536-1774
WEBSITE: rhumportland.com
HOURS: Open 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. everyday
AMENITIES: Tiki décor, lounge furniture, sturdy bar stools, “The Blue Planet” documentary series playing on a loop, communal bathroom sinks, dark hallways, colorful orb lighting, gaudy mirrors, octopus door handles, windowless hideaways, deliciously fresh food from the sea, tapas-style plates, tiki drinks and scorpion bowls, extensive rum list, excellent service.
BOTTOM LINE: There’s really no place else like Rhum in Portland – or in Maine, even. A subterranean escape lounge fit with tiki décor, plush furniture and a robust rum and tiki cocktail list, as well as seafood and tapas plates, Rhum is the kind of place you’ll be all night, whether you plan to or not.
WHEELCHAIR ACCESSIBLE: Yes


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