Last week I attended a few tastings at Cubana London at their Smithfield branch. I had found out about the events through Facebook. Having never been to Cuba before, I have always had an interest in visiting the island, especially as US citizens were allowed to enter the country once more. Definitely wanted to get there before it was overrun by tourists. Yes, I know that I would be one, myself!
But my desire to go to the country was increased after going to this London restaurant. I had never had Cuban food before, so was certainly excited to try out what was on offer! The first tasting that I went to was “Cuban Street Food”. What I first noticed about the restaurant was how bright and colourful it was, with a large mural of a smiling lady and a Cuban flag. Always a good sign!
Walking through to where the tasting would take place, I was hit with the smell of delicious food. My favourite kind of food. The place was decked out in brightly coloured chairs, that were surprisingly comfortable compared to some others I’ve sat on. As someone with back issues, this is definitely a plus. The waiters came by with drinks and different courses, to the delight of all of us there.
The general manager came through and talked about how Cuban street food is still slow cooked. So it is a lot healthier than one would expect, and as more time and care is taken to prepare the food, it tastes even better. We were walked through the different dishes, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that plantain also made a feature. Being a a Nigerian woman, this is definitely a sure fire way to my heart. And my arteries, unfortunately. But I shall not blame plantain for being so dangerously delicious.
One of the dishes was called, Picadillo. This was minced beef with tomatoes, spices and raisins. I wasn’t expecting to like this dish as I absolutely detest raisins and knew I’d have to spend time picking them out. But to my surprise, it actually enhanced the flavour. For once, raisins were not the worst. My favourite dish had to be the Pollo Criollo. The chicken was cooked in a slightly sweet sauce using citrus and was very flavourful.
Between the plantain, meats, and side dishes of rice and beans, I was ready to book a ticket to Cuba and just eat my way through the country. While I have always had a big love of food, another reason that I want to visit Cuba is because of the black population there. Many of the black Cubans can trace their heritage back to Nigeria, specifically the Yoruba people. As I am a Yoruba woman, it would be amazing to see how they live.
The music that plays in the restaurant also reminds me of home. Every Saturday and Sunday morning, there would always be Nigerian music playing in the house to start off the day. We are known for our love of music, dancing and generally having a good time, and this was reflected in the music on the PA system.
The following tasting was for the mojito and Cuban cocktails. This was a much smaller tasting and there a few of us stood by the smaller side of the partition where we learned how to make the perfect mojito. I learned a lot during this tasting, as I had no idea that a daiquiri was also invented in Cuba. The more you know, eh? Unfortunately, I was a little too busy enjoying myself so I couldn’t get any photos. But I did manage to capture a snap of this gorgeous fruit basket!
The final tasting I went to was a pastry and coffee tasting. My sweet tooth was most excited for this tasting. This was the most intimate one, which just meant more sugar for me. Plate after plate of delicious desserts rolled through. And while I tried to just take small bites out of each one, they was barely any left by the time I was done. The doughnuts were just sublime, and so soft. As Cubana has a bakery, they make everything fresh on site. Fresh doughnuts are the best doughnuts. My favourite had to be the banoffee one, hands down. But the best pastry there was the buñuelo, in all it’s caramel layered goodness. This was all topped off with a piping hot mocha, as I can’t do straight coffee like that.
The layout of the restaurant is great, especially as you can see your food being made right in front of you. It also has a large disabled bathroom that is easily accessed and not a million miles away from everything. The staff were very helpful and the restaurant is ideally located, opposite the famous Smithfield Market, a short walk from Farringdon station. Which also has lifts in the station, which is always a blessing.
All the food and drink that I had at Cubana brought me that little bit closer to fulfilling my desire to visit the Caribbean island. But until I can gather up enough pennies to buy my ticket, this is a very tasty alternative in my city! Be sure to save me a seat at their Smithfield branch or their Waterloo branch.