Cubana, Smithfield

It’s always nice to discover something new in London. Especially when it seems that every market has been tapped into already (several times over). And this evening, I discovered another of the capital’s hidden gems – nestled in a quiet corner, just a short walk from Farringdon station. Offering a cuisine I’d never until now sampled, is Cubana.

Danielle and I haven’t seen each other since January, so with months worth of gossip to catch up on, we booked an early table for dinner and arrived with high expectations for the food feast that lay ahead. We were greeted by a colourful exterior, a theme which continued throughout – complimented by ‘street food market style’ bunting, festoon lighting and umbrellas. Despite the pretty-much-hurricane-weather outside, when you stepped inside – it was like you were in a tropical destination. Which for me, was very much a welcome change!

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Right from the get go, the staff were incredibly friendly – offering to take us through the menu (which is always helpful when it comes to my various dietary requirements) and even give us a bit of background on Cuban food, since it wasn’t one either of us had come across before. We were advised that the cuisine wasn’t spicy (thank goodness, as I am the biggest wimp when it comes to spice) but by no means does this assume a lack of flavour.

We thought we’d start with a cocktail – which we chose from the very extensive menu. Of course, it offered the Cuban speciality ‘the Mojito’ as their signature – which can be whipped up in an assortment of flavours, including passion fruit, mango or strawberry. However we decided to begin with a different rum concoction – a rather refreshing frozen strawberry daiquiri. We were informed that the daiquiri flavours could be mixed and matched (and you could even have passion fruit, mango and strawberry in one – if that floats your boat), which sounded rather tempting. With such a variety on offer, I’m positive it would be a fantastic place for after-work drinks.

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With our thirst quenched, we got to work analysing the menu – which is something Danielle and I are particularly good at when we’re together. When I’m with anyone else, I usually tend to pick and choose my own options – however we both have similar tastes and it’s always a great talking point when you share things, so we opted to do this again. Luckily, Cubana’s menu lends itself to doing just this – as there are an assortment of tapas offerings and sharing plates, each of which sounded rather delicious.

I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the majority of options were both dairy and egg free, which is something of a rarity for me – especially when dining out. Every dish contained a small amount of fresh, natural ingredients with a focus on flavour, rather than adding in unnecessary components. Since I changed up my way of eating, I’m a strong believer that you don’t need dairy or eggs to make a dish delicious – and so it was great to see that Cubana have taken this in their stride too.

After what seemed like no time at all, our first few dishes arrived – which is probably when Danielle and I took our first breath, as we hadn’t stopped talking since we arrived.

We’d chosen the ‘Pollo frito al escabeche con sésamo y salsa’ – marinated chicken breast in a panko sesame batter and served with the most incredible tomato salsa.

Followed by the ‘Croquetas de boniato y chorizo con salsa’ – sweet potato croquettes, again served with their signature salsa.

And, a mammoth plate of Artisan breads and dipping oil.

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Everything was incredibly flavoursome and tasted so fresh. So much so, that you could devour a whole plate without that horrible greasy aftertaste that you’re often left with. I am a big fan of tomatoes but not so much salsa, usually – so I was delighted to discover that Cubana’s version was a little bit sweeter and more garlic-y. Delicious for dipping!

Despite being warned that we’d ordered quite a bit of food, we still had plenty of room for our mains – luckily – which arrived at our table steaming hot and incredibly appetising.

We had both opted from the ‘Cuban barbacoa’ part of the menu, which essentially refers to the items that have been marinated in honey, lime juice and guava and barbecued on the open grill – maintaining a smokey, authentic cuban flavour. Danielle had the ‘Pincho de gambas’ – skewers of deliciously fresh prawns, while I chose the ‘Pincho de pollo, chorizo y guayaba’ – which were chicken and chorizo skewers, with peppers and onions. Only, I opted for no chorizo (yes, you can count on me to ruin a dish, but with food intolerances galore, I can’t very often just ‘go’ with a dish in its entirety – which often provides a point of hilarity for my fellow diners).

Anyway, both followed suit from our starters – and were incredibly tasty. Since the skewer portions were technically ‘starters’, we decided to bump it up to a main meal with a side of plantain and black bean rice. Now I may have been hiding under a rock in the foodie world, because I know it’s super popular now – but I’d never previously tried plantain and so I was intrigued to discover what the fuss was all about. Apparently it’s very widely enjoyed in Cuban cuisine because of their versality – since you can barbecue them – and include them in rice dishes. Essentially, it’s a savoury banana – which sounds odd from the outset, but it’s actually rather tasty. And a filling accompaniment to any meal.

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We teamed our main courses with a side offering of sweet potato and plantain crisps and… yet more Cubana salsa. Honestly, we couldn’t get enough of this stuff. *send me the recipe pls*

I think the waiter was slightly surprised when we polished off both dishes and asked to see the dessert menu, however he helpfully obliged and proceeded to advise on what would be the tastiest of options based on our preferences. After much deliberation, we opted for two signature Strawberry Mojito’s (well, I suppose it would have been rude not to), a bowl of lime sorbet and a serving of their marshmallow pie. Yep, you did hear that right, MARSHMALLOW PIE.

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It arrived every bit as spectacular as we expected. And Danielle confirmed that it tasted just as incredible as it appeared.

If you’re on the lookout for a place to eat, that offers something a little bit different – this is the place for you. It has a really relaxed, chilled out feel – with quirky colourful chairs and friendly, attentive service. There’s no London formalities or waiters who roll their eyes when you start reeling off your dietary requirements (yes, this does happen), it’s just incredible food in a fuss-free environment.

Cubana, Smithfield | link 

59 Charterhouse St,
London EC1M 6HA

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  • Pam Scalfi

    the waiter was probably thinking how you could have possibly eaten that amount of food lol
    Pam xo/ Pam Scalfi♥

    • Scarlett London

      Haha, I know right? We surprised ourselves! x

  • Strawberry mojitos and marshmallow pie!! Yummy!

    • Scarlett London

      I know, who knew marshmallow pies existed? x

  • This all looks divineeeeee.

    Sophie x

    • Scarlett London

      It was so incredibly good! x

  • Oooh this looks tasty!

    Chichi
    chichi-writes.blogspot.co.uk

    • Scarlett London

      It was so good! And refreshing to try things I hadn’t sampled before! x

  • DippyWrites

    This place looks great!

    Definitely need to pay it a visit soon 🙂

    http://www.dippywrites.com

    • Scarlett London

      It was amazing! Definitely worth a visit 🙂