Autumn is officially arrived so the nights are longer and the temperatures are dropping. With winter fast approaching, wouldn’t it be lovely to jet off to warmer climes… in somewhere like Cuba for example? Well, if you can’t afford the time or airfare, this autumn and winter, a slice of Cuba is coming to London.
The distinctive tastes, sound and spirit of pre-revolution Cuba will be popping up at Tobacco Dock for a limited period. Launching at the re-imaginated Quayside Bar, Last Nights Of Havana will be an evening of tropical rum, food, jazz and dance. Running from 19 October 2018 until May 2019, this new experience will evoke memories of Cuba’s opulent heyday in the 1940s and 1950s. Imagine the glamour, Cadillacs, cigars and rum cocktails.
Upon arrival, guests will be toasted with a complimentary rum cocktail before entering the warm palm-filled tropical bar. Inside, the mixologists will create Cuba’s iconic drinks, such as Mojitos, Daiquiris and Cuba Libre at the large island bar. Andy Mil and Elliot Ball from the Cocktail Trading Company have devised the cocktail menu featuring contemporary twists on the Cuban classics featuring the full Bacardi portfolio. There will also be a full bar for those who fancy a drink other than rum. Meanwhile, when you’re feeling peckish, you can feast on Cuban street food and snacks.
Throughout the evening, you’ll be entertained with Cuban music and dancing with Cuban-born Musical Director Oreste ‘Sambroso’ Noda leading the nightly band. Expect sounds inspired by Cuban music combined with a contemporary London soundtrack. The band will play homage to the iconic melody of the Buena Vista Social Club. At the night progresses, the DJs take over with Latin-influenced beats and dancefloor classics.
Last Nights Of Havana aims to offer an alternative night out for Londoners, combining food, drink, music and dance. It’s suitable for couples’ date nights to birthday celebrations to work socials. There will also be rum-tasting masterclasses available every Saturday for those who want to expand their knowledge into the sugar cane spirit. Last Nights Of Havana will also be hosting a New Year’s Party for those who want to kick off 2019 with some Latin flavour.
- Last Nights Of Havana, Quayside Bar, Tobacco Dock, Wapping Lane (Gate Entrance), Wapping, E1W 2SF. Nearest station: Shadwell or Wapping. Runs from 8 October 2018 – May 2019. Open 5pm-12am. Tickets: £20 in 2018, £25 in 2019 (inc complimentary arrival cocktail). Masterclass: £60pp (include rum flight, special cocktail and discount towards evening event). For more information and tickets, visit lastnightsofhavana.com.
For a guide to what’s on in London in March, click here.
Asia de Cuba has been on my dining wish-list for some time. The London branch of the Asian-Cuban fusion eaterie was originally opened at St Martin’s Lane Hotel in 1999, following the success of the New York original. However, last year, the restaurant was given a warmer makeover with retro furniture, drapes and plant pots replacing the previous more contemporary space. The menu has also been reinterpreted with some new additions alongside old favourites by Cuban-born executive chef Luis Pous.
Recently, a group of five of us booked a Sunday evening table for a birthday dinner. Being a Sunday, the restaurant was inevitably a bit quieter compared to the rest of the week, but there was an atmospheric buzz thanks to the other diners, but good acoustics made it possible to hear other members of your party. The restaurant is located on the ground floor of the hotel and is easy to see upon entering. Immediately upon arrival, I was struck by how friendly the staff were, with the warmth from the hostess setting the tone for her colleagues’ behaviour for the remainder of our evening.
We had booked a set menu – three courses and a Mini Mojito for £30 which was very good value. Our Mojito was indeed small as the name ‘Mini’ would suggest, but it certainly packed a punch and was sweet and refreshing. When it came to the food, the choices all looked fabulous, so instead of ordering our own individual dishes, we opted to order many to share, sort of Tapas-style. For starters we had Crispy Calamari Salad with banana, chayote, cashews, hearts of palm and orange-sesame vinaigrette; Roasted Duck Salad with almonds, mandarin orange, napa cabbage, radicchio, baby sorrel and spicy miso vinaigrette; Shrimp Ceviche with Shiso, aji amarillo and wasabi; and Black Bean and Plantain Empanadas with Rocoto sweet and sour. The fusion of the Asian and Cuban ingredients really turned the dishes on their head, with some giving unexpected (but delectable nonetheless) tastes. Amongst our party, the general consensus when it came to our favourites was the Shrimp Ceviche and the Crispy Calamari Salad – both an explosion of flavours which made for quite the culinary treats.
For mains, we shared again, splitting the Chipotle Glazed Tofu with Asian green, green papaya salad and calabaza chips; Mojo Duck Confit with Brown rice, orange, Thai basil, Thai chili and poached egg; and a couple of Green and Papaya Marinated Palomilla – an 8oz flat iron steak, tatsoi, pickled vegetables and Thai chili mojo. The Tofu was cooked well (a dish I often find places end up leaving rather bland) and really had quite a kick to it thanks to the Chipotle glaze. The Palomilla was particularly popular with my carnivore pals and they were quickly demolished with glee.
Finally, for dessert, we went off piste and ordered our own dishes. I decided on the Mexican Doughnuts with caramel sauce, which was light, sweet and delicious. Another one of my party opted for something lighter – the Thai Coconut and Lemongrass Flan, served with honeydew and caramel, which was presented quite dramatically and was a good choice for someone who doesn’t like their desserts too sweet. The Chef was to be particularly commended on the Guava Whipped Cheesecake with Coconut tuile and dehydrated tropical fruit. I have never seen a cheesecake in such a physical form before and tasted amazing, according to the diner in question.
Overall, the whole evening was just divine. The staff were absolutely brilliant, with the chef even popping out to say hello. The menu was varied and exciting and really took us on a culinary journey. For me, 10 out of 10. A great choice for a special occasion or a romantic meal.
- Asia De Cuba, St Martin’s Lane Hotel, 45 St Martin’s Lane, WC2N 4HX. Nearest station: Leicester Square, Covent Garden or Charing Cross. For more information, visit the website.
For more of Metro Girl’s bar and restaurant reviews, click here.
Opening in Brixton this month is the latest branch of Latin-themed bar and restaurant Barrio. Following on from their venues in Soho, Shoreditch and Islington, this is Barrio’s first venture south of the river. I’ve previously visited the central and northern branches and was fortunate enough to be invited to the launch of the Brixton outpost last week.
Barrio is a late-night drinking and dining destination offering Latin American food and drinks. Any Spanish-speakers may be familiar with the word ‘barrio’, which means an urban community or district. With this in mind, the Barrio bars give a flavour of South America with lots of colours, the rich flavours and a friendly, inclusive atmosphere. Like its sister venues, Barrio is a vivacious venue with its multi-coloured interior luring you in. A popular place to sit will no doubt be the converted caravan with its incorporated seats and tables, while there will be an outdoor patio during the warmer summer months.
Upon arrival, we grabbed one of the tables by the bar and perused the cocktail menu, with tequila, pisco and rum some of the dominant ingredients. We started off with the Che Guava (Santa Teresa Rum, Vida Mezcal, Guava, Passion Fruit and Lime), a sharp, refreshing and fruity concoction. I then switched things up and tried a gin cocktail – the South Sea Sour (Beefeater Gin, Cointreau, Pineapple, Grenadine, Lemon and Bitters). Despite the multiple alcohol ingredients, it didn’t actually taste half as boozy as I expected with the different flavours really complementing each other.
The food menu features highlights from Latin American cuisine, including Peruvian and Mexican, among others. My friend really enjoyed the Lima Lickin’ Chicken with Sweet Potato Fries (marinated fried chicken with lemon popcorn and panca chili dip). I ordered one of my favourite Latin dishes from Peru – the Ceviche Amarillo (Cobia white fish, Aji Amarillo Tigers Milk, Avocado, Red Onion, Coriander and Chifles Plantain Chips), which tasted delicious, incredibly fresh and was a perfect sized portion to accompany cocktails.
Overall, Barrio Brixton is good addition to the area’s nightlife. The bar is fresh, energetic and warm with a variety of flavoursome food and drink to keep revellers interested. After being a frequent visitor to the Soho branch in recent years, I’m thrilled there’s one closer to my home.
- Barrio, 30 Acre Lane, Brixton, SW2 5SG. Nearest station: Brixton. For more information, visit the Barrio website.
For more of Metro Girl’s bar and restaurant reviews, click here.
In 2012, SushiSamba finally made its long-awaited arrival in London. Situated towards the top of the Heron Tower in the City of London, the restaurant is a welcome and unique addition to the city’s dining scene, with its fusion of Brazilian, Japanese and Peruvian cuisine. Like many women of my age, I first heard of SushiSamba on an episode of seminal TV show Sex And The City when the New York venue featured in a scene. I remember admiring the venue and hoping to visit one day. While I’ve never got round to visiting SushiSamba on my New York trips, I did enjoy a meal at the Las Vegas branch at the Palazzo last October and was enthralled (read Metro Girl’s review of Vegas and its SushiSamba here.
This month, I finally got round to booking a table at SushiSamba London. Over a year after it opened, SushiSamba is still hugely popular so you need to book far in advance for peak times. I booked a table for five (four weeks in advance) to celebrate my mother’s birthday, opting for a Sunday lunchtime slot. One thing that sets the London branch apart from its international ‘sisters’ are the stunning views from the 38th and 39th floors from the Heron Tower on Bishopsgate.
Upon arrival at the entrance to the Heron Tower, we were shown to the lift, where we were whizzed up in moments to the 38th floor – be ready for your ears to pop! Before reaching the restaurant, we passed through the bar area, featuring one of SushiSamba’s three kitchens, seats and tables on both the 38th and 39th floor atrium with views looking over the City of London looking west over the capital. Upon entering the dining room, we were shown to a semi-booth facing outwards with views over East London, including the Olympic Stadium.
To start, we spent ages perusing the extensive cocktail, wine and sake list. There are some imaginative cocktails, averaging around £12-£13 each, with bottles on the wine list starting from £26. We opted for a bottle of El Muro Macabeo, a really lovely, fruity Spanish white featuring peach, apple and citrus.
SushiSamba’s food menu is quite unique – there are three separate kitchens, with many of the dishes being served in smaller ‘tapas’ style servings, or some large plates for those who want to keep their meal to themselves. Fortunately, my party were up for a culinary adventure and decided to order a variety of dishes from the ‘Small Plates’, ‘Robata’ and ‘Aperitivos’ sections of the menu. One of my particular favourites was the Rock Shrimp Tempura served with snap pea julienne, spicy mayonnaise, black truffle vinaigrette. SushiSamba’s version of Calamari – Chicarron De Calamar – was totally sumptuous. The batter was thinner than usual, with less oil, leaving the flavour of the squid coming through, fusing nicely with the fried plantain, tomatoes, onion, mint and tamarind.
The Peruvian kebabs were also very popular amongst my party. The salmon, in particular, was cooked in a way I had never had before, with orange miso and peruvian dark chocolate giving a unique flavour sensation from the fusion of savoury and sweet. Despite the volume of food we had, we weren’t left with that horrible ‘stuffed’ feeling, but rather content. Our party was unanimous in our praise of the unique combinations of dishes, each rich in flavour in their own individual way. Despite the variety of plates, they all complemented each other well. I’ve eaten in some of London’s best restaurants over the years, but personally, I would consider SushiSamba one of my new favourites.
Finally to finish, we ended up sharing Chocolate Banana Cake, served with maple butter, plantain chip and vanilla rum ice cream – a delicious, but light pudding providing a perfect end to an amazing lunch. Overall, my party were unanimous that it was one of the best dining experiences we had had in London. The combination of views, food and service made it an enjoyable and relaxing culinary adventure. While admittedly it cost a bit more than a usual meal out, it’s the perfect location for a special occasion.
- SushiSamba London, Heron Tower, 110 Bishopsgate, EC2N 4AY. Tel: 0203 640 7330. Nearest station: Liverpool Street. For more information and booking, visit the SushiSamba London website.
For a review of SushiSamba’s sister restaurant upstairs Duck & Waffle, click here.
For a list of all Metro Girl’s bar and restaurant reviews, click here.
The Mexican food revolution in London took years, but fortunately it’s also brought an appetite for other Latin American cuisines and opened up Londoners’ culinary options even further. Step forward Ceviche, a Peruvian kitchen and Pisco bar in the heart of Soho. The restaurant opened in Spring 2012 on the site of Cafe Emm – a restaurant I loved, but fortunately Ceviche is a good successor. It’s been nearly 10 years since I visited Peru and I remember eating very well there and was particularly fond of the choclo (corn) based dishes and Pisco Sours, so was eager to rediscover the cuisine.
Since opening last year, Ceviche has become a hotspot on the London dining scene. I only booked 24 hours ahead, but was lucky enough to get a table for an early seating at 6pm. By the time we left at 8pm, the bar area was packed to the gills with people waiting for a table. Upon arrival, we were shown to a high table and bar stools – although there is low-level seating available too. The restaurant’s exposed brick walls are decorated with Peruvian posters, giving the place some Latin American ambiance, fortunately feeling authentic rather than tacky. The plain wooden seating, high tables and low lighting gave the venue a saloon-feel.
To those who don’t know, ceviche is usually fresh raw fish, marinated in either lemon or lime and is often spiced with chili or served with red onions. The menu consists of various tapas-style portions, with recommendations of three to four per person. My party of two decided to skip a starter and went straight for the various ceviches, which arrived in various stages. Before our food arrived, we started with some Pisco (Peruvian brandy) cocktails – I chose the Passion Sour (Pisco Quebranta, passion fruit purée, lime, sugar syrup and egg white), which had quite a kick to it, but was refreshing and tasty. My sister meanwhile opted for an Amor Prohobido, which was a lot of sweeter and not as strong. Our first dishes to arrive were the ceviche ones – Don Ceviche (fresh seabass ceviche in amarillo chili tiger’s milk, limo chili and red onions), Chacalon (mushroom and sweet potato ceviche with red onion in a passion fruit amarillo tiger’s milk) and Sakura Maru (tiradito of salmon in Nikkei tiger’s milk made with satsumas, mirin, soy sauce and limo chili). The Don Ceviche was a generous portion of raw seabass, which reminded me of sushi. I’m not a huge fan of sushi, so while I did enjoy the dish, I did tire of the flavour quite quickly and was fortunate I was sharing with my sister otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to finish it. I preferred the Sakura Maru, the sweet sauce was a delicious accompaniment to the salmon and we could have easily ordered a second serving.
While we enjoyed the cold ceviche, we were eager for some hot food as it was such a cold night. All three of our hot dishes arrived at once and didn’t last long on the table before we wolfed them down. While a very simple dish in comparison to the others, the Peruvian corn cake (Choclo corn and queso fresco vegetarian cake) was my favourite. The corn cake was hearty, warm and tasty. My sister ordered the Pulpo (Braised octopus marinated in coriander with chorizo chunks served with warm quinoa) and really enjoyed the unusual fusion of seafood and sausage. As a side order, we had the Arrocitio (long, grain rice with Peruvian choclo corn).
Although the restaurant recommends 3-4 dishes per person, we were quite full after a total of six dishes. However, there is always room for dessert so we decided to share a Encanelado de Pisco (cinnamon sponge soaked in Pisco spirit syrup with dulce de leche ice cream). Although a fan of cinnamon, there was just the right amount of it so as to not overpower the dish and the dulce de leche ice cream was incredibly sumptuous and went down very easily. Our bill came to around £60, including six plates, one dessert, two cocktails and service. Overall, I enjoyed the food and atmosphere so I’m sure I’ll be back in the future.
- Ceviche, 17 Frith Street, Soho, W1D 4RG. Tel: 020 7292 2040. Nearest tube: Tottenham Court Road, Oxford Circus or Leicester Square. For booking and more information, visit the Ceviche website.
To read other MOAMG restaurant and bar reviews, click here.