Havana Trip, Nov 2015: Food and Drinks In Cuba…

Well, although this is much delayed, I’m still having fond memories of that week, which only seems like a weekend or two ago.

Some of the more memorable…

Café Laurent.  Although others have had a few issues there in the last year or two, all my visits lately have been great.  Classic mojitos, and epically good and fresh seafood.

2.  The back terrace at the Hotel Nacional.  This place is a must-do, always, forever and ever, amen.

3.  Azucar.  Rob Ayala and a couple of the Aussies found this spot during the 2014 trip.  A fairly new and hip little spot, it all has a “sugar”-themed zeal to it.  Drink garnishes are made to look like lollypops and candy, with an amazing décor style, and a wickedly awesome view of Plaza Vieja and Café Bohemios (the “beer market”).  And…EXCELLENT flan to be found here.

4.  The courtyard at the Conde de Villanueva hostel.  Such a nice, out of the way spot.  Pretty much right in between Plaza de Armas and Plaza Vieja.  The peacocks there LOVE the mint from mojitos.  Find your way upstairs to the LCDH and get something good from Reynaldo, then go into the courtyard, order cappucinos and mojitos from the bar staff there, and just relax in a tranquil setting.  A little slice of heaven.

5.  La Terraza / Prado 309.  This spot is always a must-do.  That said, prices are skyrocketing there in recent years.  The first year I hit this restaurant, in 2011 or so, it was $11 CUC for the leg of lamb dinner, and $12 CUC for the mixed grill.  I noticed that the prices were creeping up before (it was $18 / $22 CUC for both as above, when I visited in Nov 2014), but this time it was $26 / $36 CUC for both as above, or right around that mark.  Also, the portions appear to be shrinking slightly – gone are the days when that leg of lamb was damn near as big as my own calf, and came on a giant butcher’s block.

That said – it’s still some of the best food around, and damn savoury.  The flan here is amazing, as is the grilled octopus appetizer – which was OUT and unavailable during this visit (a TRAVESTY!!!)  The mojitos and fresh blended daiquiris here are awesome as well.

6.  El Cocinero.  This spot is quickly becoming the en-vogue destination in the city.  Tourists with quality guides, foreigners in the know, and Cubans with financial means are all finding this unique restaurant / bar / art gallery.

Housed in an old peanut-oil factory, this twin-feature spot is a sure hit.  El Cocinero is the multi-level restaurant and bar, with the rooftop sporting the best views and atmosphere, and it being an appetite-inducing walk up the spiralled-staircase old chimney to get there.  Next door is the Fabrica de Arte, the old warehouse and further factory portion of the old peanut-oil factory, and it houses a jazz bar, art gallery, performance studio, nightclub, and is very chic and all-in-one.

But, El Cocinero – there was a chill 80’s smooth-jazz vibe, extremely inexpensive food and drinks (which were very good quality), and an amazing setting.  We indulged in round after round of perfectly delicious blended daiquiris, crocetas de pescado for appetizers, grilled shrimp dinners, and more daiquiris paired with AMAZING coconut flan for dessert.

And for those interested in El Cocinero’s menu offerings and pricing…

7.  Anywhere.  You wouldn’t be experiencing the food and drinks of Havana if you didn’t somewhat stray-off somewhere along your travels.  Be it churros from a street vendor along Obispo and wherever, from super-fuerte pina coladas while at a market, to local rums and coffees at a friend’s casa, there’s always more that this island has to offer without looking too hard.  Yum.

Cheers all.