Cuban food gets a pretty bad press if you ask me. It’s often described as bland, starchy and unexciting. So I was intrigued to see how The Cuban bar and restaurant fared with their island cuisine.
I was tying in my trip with a long over-due catch up with some friends who work in Camden. So a hop over to the cobbles of Stables Market was very handy for them – and an excuse for me to travel further north of the river than the West End, which I don’t do often enough.
A bit of swotting up on this venue’s restaurant tells me Cuban food falls into two style of cooking a) the classic style, which is based on their traditional centuries-old methods and b) the ‘Nuevo Cubano’ or new cuisine, which is more rich in herbs and spices and influenced by other cultures.
But back to the food in a bit. Here are first impressions of this venue.
Like I said, The Cuban is built into the arches of Camden’s famous Stables market, so it’s all bare brick walls and cosy little nooks.
Plenty of Che Guevara images and Cuban flags make sure you know exactly which nation you’re in. But I personally liked the traditional Cuban paintings of ladies smoking on those famous cigars…
A very long bar spans across one side of the room and waiters sashay about the place in a bit of a frantic manner. It was only a Wednesday night. I can’t imagine what this place is like when it’s filled with the Friday night crowd.
Ok so back to the food.
At the Cuban, there seems to be a bit of everything.
Some of the Cuban influences seem a little tenuous – the Original Cuban burger comes with a spicy mayo and the Cuban breakfast sounds exactly like a full English.
However, there are some really promising flavours here: spicy Cuban mussels cooked with chorizo, tilapia with rice and black peas and their Latin-Barbecued baby back ribs sounded rather enticing.
There’s a great selection of sides too – peri peri fries, Cuban slaw, sautéed spinach and sweet potato fries with mango dip all sound incredibly satisfying.
But that night, instinct told us to try their tapas. We could share between three of us, try various different flavours and perhaps it would give some insight into the ‘Nuevo Cubana’ fare.
Here’s what we ordered: Padron peppers, Calamari de Cuba, Three Bean Salad, Nachos Rancheros, Deep Fried Cassava, Arancini and beef quesadillas. Oh, and a bottle of their Pinot Grigio (I know, I know, not very Cuban at all).
The spicy take on Arancini – an otherwise Italian delicacy – was a nice surprise. The deep fried cassava weren’t an overly life-changing dish but something I hadn’t tried before. The beef quesadillas were great. And the calamari didn’t fall into the tough-as-an-old-tyre category. So all in all it was a pleasant evening.
As a venue I loved it. It’s a bit unpolished in some areas (the toilets were rather off-putting) but the general vibe is up-beat, cool and refreshing. It was quite amusing that we had to take a lift and then dodge our way through a salsa class to get to the ladies room. But it was equally entertaining.
Our experience didn’t feel as ‘Cuban’ as it could have – and we should perhaps order some of the more promising mains dishes I mentioned, next time. Plus, my friend was a little disappointed that the waitress was so busy, she forgot to come and take our dessert order. But hey. Go back, on a Friday night, grab some mojitos and get yer dance on. It’s a cool venue and good place to let your hair down.
Until next time x
The Cuban Camden, The Stables Market, Chalk Farm Road, Camden, London, NW1 8AH
Oh So London was a guest of the Cuban – all views are my own. Have you been to the Cuban? If so, what did you think? Leave a comment and let me know.