Boasting the authentic taste of Cuba, Cubana restaurants and cocktail bars really do deliver on their promise. With a branch in Smithfield and one next to Waterloo station, Cubana serves delightful Cuban and Latin American food (and cocktails) for really reasonable prices, at least by a Londoner’s standard.
I had wanted to try the food in Cubana for a long time, since having a cocktail at the Waterloo branch in what must have been 2014. The music alone is enough to get me inside, providing endless beats to shake your Latin spirit to.
I got to sample their food recently quite by chance that I was in the area due to a closed London Underground station, forcing me to take a route via foot, instead of getting the train.
Suddenly Cubana, with their music gently pumping, was an option for a spontaneous lunch. People were sitting outside, perhaps enjoying the blue skies, since there was little warmth now left in the sunshine, even here in the capital. On our approach, I hastily explained to Farhan why we simply had to go in here, even if it was for just a drink.
Needing little convincing, in we went. It was about 2pm on a weekday afternoon so the atmosphere was very relaxed. One of the great things about this place is like many a London restaurant, they have street food stalls in front of the building to serve quick, bite size lunches to city workers, which I always think is a great idea.
Inside, they handed us some menus. Picking out some non-alcoholic drinks for a change, we selected a Mango Tango; a smoothie consisting of fresh mango, mixed tropical fruits and citrus juices, and a Pasion which features fresh, blended passion fruit, lime juice, fresh pineapple and a handful of tropical fruits. The latter, being the one with the seeds, in the picture above.
Cubana’s dishes offer a sassy mix of African, Spanish, French and of course Caribbean influences, merging together to form fresh, (reasonably) healthy plates of food. With vegan options also available, they take pride in using marine council certified seafood, free range pork, chicken and eggs as well as organic chorizo imported from Spain.
Ranging from slow cooked Cuban dishes and Latin specialties to tapas and barbecued bites, they proudly boast that their sirloin steaks are second to none. I will simply have to return one day to see if this is true.
Wanting something more substantial than a salad or even tapas, but not wanting something grilled or as heavy as a steak, I picked something slow cooked from the Cuban kitchen. I opted for Ropa Vieja – a Cuban style, shredded beef dish served with black beans, chili rice and plantain for my main course.
I honestly did not think I would enjoy plantain this much. Tasting much too sweet in the past, these ones were less sweet and actually resembled potato in texture and tasted quite peppery with a hint of garlic. The shredded beef was juicy and succulent with the accompanying beans, very fragrant with a subtle tang of herbs.
Farhan opted for the Pollo Criollo. This was a chicken dish where the meat had been casseroled in fresh orange juice, sherry, onions and garlic and that too was served with plantain and black bean rice on the side.
With the lunch time offers being too good to pass up, we greedily picked a dessert. My Mr ordered the Cuban espresso and chocolate profiteroles which was essentially a gigantic profiterole rammed with espresso cream and topped with chocolate sauce, served with salted caramel gelato.
I on the other hand picked my own dessert, which is very rare for me as I do not have a sweet tooth. I ordered the Chocolate Commandante, which was listed on the menu as their ‘famous Belgian chocolate style mousse’ with orange zest and a dollop of mango coulis at the base. This was also served with a chocolate gelato, which evidently was much better that the super sweet caramel one. The chocolate one being quite bitter, was much better suited to my dessert but was a bit of a chocolate overload considering the main dish was chocolate mousse. I really loved the rich flavours of the dark chocolate in contrast to the much sweeter mousse.
Needless to say, neither of us finished our enormous desserts, but they were definitely worth trying. I think the gelato alone would have been ample dessert for me given how filling the main courses were. At such amazing prices though, it was really hard to pass it up on a warm afternoon at the end of summer.
They also do a great ‘Pre-Theatre Menu’ like many of London’s eateries and have various lunch offers throughout that change with the seasons, which was what we went for. Served from midday until 3:30pm Monday to Thursday, one main course is a mere £7, two courses for £10 and three courses for a scrumptious £12. They do actually note that the dishes part of this offer are made slightly smaller, so I can only imagine just how much food you would get when ordering from the main menu.
Cubana is definitely fantastic value for money and somewhere I would love to return to when around Waterloo in the future. It is super conveniently located, has great music, delicious cocktails and fantastic food – what more could you ask for?
Have you ever been to Cubana or something similar? Do you like the sound of this place? Let me know in the comments below.