From moros y cristianos (rice and beans) to garlicky grilled lobster tails, the Cuban menu is full of tasty treats. Gastronomic innovation is sweeping Havana, while regional restaurants have upped their game thanks to an enterprising crop of paladares (private eateries). Don’t miss these must-eats.
t People buying fruit and vegetables at a lively market in Havana
There’s no more quintessential Cuban dish than ropa vieja. Ignore its unappealing name (“old clothes”) and savour strips of braised beef or lamb, simmered with sweet peppers and onions, and served with rice, black beans and fried plantains. You’ll also find plenty of seafood on the Cuban menu. Lobster and shrimp are usually prepared with a garlic and tomato sauce (enchilada). To finish, Cubans nourish their sweet tooth with such desserts as flan, natilla (chocolate custard) and tres leches(a sponge cake made with three milks).
Forget the antiquated tales you may have heard about the capital’s unappetising food scene. Talented chefs – many returning to their homeland after stints abroad – serve up inventive menus that fuse Cuban field-to-fork ingredients with global cuisine. Our pick of these fine-dining restaurants is La Guarida, which boasts a sensational setting.
Every city has a branch of Coppelia, the state-run heladería (ice cream store) created following the revolution to guarantee an egalitarian indulgence. The iconic Coppelia parlour in Havana’s Vedado serves up to 30,000 customers every day and is nicknamed La Catedral de Helado (The Cathedral of Ice Cream). Don’t sit in the tourist section – dine with the locals instead.
For a fascinating inside-the-kitchen insight into Cuba’s foodie scene, sign up for an eight-day culinary tour with Access Culinary Trips (www.accesstrips.com).
Cuba for Foodies
Savour this Cuban classic at La Bodeguita del Medio.
El Floridita serves Hemingway’s preferred drink, the “papa doble”.
Sample craft beer at La Factoria Plaza Vieja.
Cool down with an iced fruit shake from one of the street stalls found throughout the island.
Compare aged rums at the Museo del Ron.