DINNER & DECOR: CUBANA, SMITHFIELD
One bitterly cold lunchtime, I met with my friend Katie in Smithfields to grab a little bite that would warm both our belies and our souls... (try and tell me you could have come up with a more cheesy intro than that?!)
We met at Cubana, the second branch of the well frequented Cuban restaurant, cafe and bar. I'd been invited along to check out the munch and the interiors. Now you might be thinking, hold on a sec - interiors - in a Cuban restaurant? But this Dinner and Decor series wasn't born out of a desperation to review luxury 5 Michelin starred restaurants (I mean, of course I'm not saying no but you catch my drift). I wanted to find the most loungey to the most luxurious. The coolest to the craziest. A good interior to me is something that gives you a real sense of the place that you're in, the vibe it creates and the personalities that makes up the space.
Cubana did just that!
On entry you're met with a huge mural underneath a ceiling of dangling festoon lanterns. Brown sacks full of beans are cleverly placed around the entryway and colourful outdoor style seating is everywhere.
Oh and the plants!
Warm, sunny colours are abundant, which just made me realise how bloody cold it was outside, and that I didn't want to go back out THERE. Not for at least another hour, or until I'd had enough cocktails to take the edge off!
I loved that they had a little streetfood vibe over the lunch period as well, with authentic style trays out to serve hungry suits who wanted to grab something quick and hot.
We were shown to our seats and promptly got ordering from the cocktail menu. I say we - Katie did most of this as I was busy snapping. I have to say our waitress wasn't the most knowledgeable when it came down to helping us choose cocktails, but with a simple and easy menu of loved classics there wasn't really space to get it wrong.
You can see the various multicultural differences being played out in the decor - gilded French ornate mirrors and the caribbean influenced colour scheme.
I went for the Pina Colada and Katie went for the strawberry mojito. The Pina Colada was actually refreshing and not full of cream like some make it. Which was good as we needed space for lunch!
Cubana is a buzzy place - don't go here if you want a romantic meal or a place for your friend to cry to you about her boyfriend - this is pure good vibes. Lots of laughs, conversation and atmosphere. Ignore the empty pics, I wanted until it had cleared out after lunch to get nice arty shots!
The Dinner (ok, lunch)
We ordered a couple of starters to share and an avocado salad. The 'Camarones con gabardina y salsa de mango y chilli' (that's fried prawns with mango and chilli relish to you and me) and the chorizo and sweet potato croquettes went down easily.
In complete honesty I was expecting more of a hit of garlic from the dips but maybe that's just not how Cuban food is done... it wasn't bad at all but a little bit more salt and garlic would have made these little treats even better!
The starters warmed us up nicely for the main which we had decided to share as we felt like we had ordered too much food (looking back I'm wondering what on earth we were thinking?!), we went for the Cuban slow-roasted pulled pork wth black beans, chilli rice and plantain.
Now this was hitting the spot! Warm, cinnamon-y, barbeque type flavours were complimented with the sweet plantain. I actually don't think I appreciated this as much when I was there as I do now thinking about it!
This was a filler, as by the time it came to ordering dessert we had to ask for a few moments to relax our waistbands!
All of 3 seconds later...
Home-made zesty fresh lime cream on a pistachio-crust, topped with soft, fluffy, heavenly marshmallow-meringue – served with a scoop of home-made gelato. Their words, MY MOUTH.
So good. The sharpness of the lime and gelato made the meringue come alive. Sugar rush!
And then just like that it was over. Bellies stuffed we staggered out into the bitter cold once again! Thanks Cubana for a little slice of Cuba on one of the coldest days of the year!
Our meal was complimentary in return for this blog post, but our meal would have cost around £45 including cocktails. bargain!
You can book a table at Cubana Smithfield by clicking here.