A Taste of Cuba comes to London

Peter Morrell and his wife get into the Latin Rhythm at Little Havana, a new Cuban restaurant in Camden

Little Havana has recently opened and brings with it the excitement and vibrancy of Cuban culture and cuisine. My wife and I recently dined there and thoroughly enjoyed the food. The restaurant is on buzzy Inverness Street just a few steps away from Camden Town tube station. The décor has been well crafted to bring the atmosphere of Havana to London, it has a bright, lively tropical theme.

Although there was a dazzling array of cocktails on offer featuring daiquiris, margaritas and of course rum we decided to start with Cuba’s leading beer, Palma Cristal. This had a good malty aroma and was dry on the palate with a hoppy finish.

The menu had some very interesting dishes, in the starter section the chicharrones de cerdo, traditional Cuban pork scratchings looking appealing as did the tamales Cubanos, ground corn tamale wrapped in the husk with onion and garlic sauce. Our final choices to start were croquetas de bacalao, salt cod fritters and cubanito de camarones, potted shrimps with avocado and garlic crostini.

My wife’s cod cakes were delicious and adding a few shakes of chilli sauce made them even better as it brought out the flavour of the fish. My potted shrimps came as a complete surprise, a beautifully presented sundae glass with puréed avocado at the bottom it was filled with a spicy bloody mary mix and plump prawns. This worked really well together and was a highly inventive combination, one of my best starters in 2017.

Our mains had been selected from a list that included casuala de marisco don cangrejo. mixed seafood cooked with tomato sauce, white wine, chilli and garlic, casuela chillindron de chivo, Cuban style goat stew with moros and cristianos and the famous Cuban sandwich. My wife chose a Creole chicken dish, el pollo criollo del pio pio and I had gone for Creole pork, the plato criollo de la casa.

My wife’s dish was half a free range chicken cooked Cuban style and served with an avocado salad, steamed rice, sautéed onions and black beans. The chicken was well seasoned and the sides were good complements to the meat. My main was a showcase of Cuban cuisine, there were slices of marinated roasted pork cooked to a traditional recipe and served with steamed rice, black beans, fried cassava and plantain. There was a good mix of tastes, flavours and textures. Both mains were very hearty so when you do dine at Little Havana don’t eat a lot during the day.

There was a short but impressive wine list, red would have matched the food well and there were three good examples from Spain but my wife prefers white. In keeping with the Latin theme we paired the meal with the Errazuriz 1870 Penuelas Block Sauvignon Blanc from the Casablanca Valley in Chile. This had good tropical aromas in the bouquet with herbal notes of cut grass on the palate and a lively acidity which worked well with the richness of the food. The finish was fruity and persistent.

It was dessert time, there are only two on the menu, arroz con leche con pulpa de mango, rice pudding with mango pulp and turrones de coco, chocolate nougats coated in coconut with rum ‘n’ raisin ice cream and chocolate sauce. Although we had already eaten a lot of food the puddings were so good that we both quickly cleared our plates.

Little Havana really comes alive at the weekend, there is a selection of Cuban style paellas on the menu, on Friday and Saturday the restaurant is open until 2:00am and there are salsa classes and Cuban music.

If you want a real taste of Cuba then Little Havana is the place to find it, the staff are all charming, the food is authentic and the atmosphere has that Ritmo Latino, the Latin Rhythm.

Little Havana
20 Inverness St
London NW1 7HJ