ESCAPE: Our guide to Havana, Cuba
No good food in Cuba? Think again. As food writer Imogene Tondre proves, there’s many a culinary delight to be found in the capital…
WHAT TO DRINK
While the most important cocktails in Cuba are the Mojito (below) and Daiquiri, another authentic drink is the Canchánchara (rum with honey and a touch of lime), which can be found at Café Madrigal on Calle 17 in Vedado, run by a former Cuban film-maker Rafael Rosales and ensconced in an old colonial house. Of course, cocktails are always enjoyable but the city’s No 1 beverage recommendation is La Juguera del 6, a small juice stand in the Vedado neighbourhood (Calle 6 between Primera and Tercera). It serves more than 100 delicious combinations of natural fruit and vegetable juices, as well as gazpacho, fruit salads and more.
WHERE TO STAY
There are casas particulares — Cuba’s version of B&Bs — all around the city. For those who want to be close to the tourist centre, Old Havana is the place to go with its narrow streets and colourful (if somewhat crumbling, below) façades. If you are looking for a calmer, more residential feel, the neighbourhoods of Vedado, with its grand reclaimed mansions and lively Saturday night scene, or Miramar are good options. Off the beaten path you can stay in Cerro, La Víbora or Santo Suarez.
WHAT TO EAT
If you’re in Vedado, don’t miss out on the excellent, eco-friendly vegetarian food served at Camino al Sol. In Old Havana, check out San Juan Bar & Grill for authentic Cuban food. Venture out to the fishing village Cojimar and stop by Ajiaco Café for the most traditional of Cuban dishes: the thick, succulent stew known as ajiaco. And if you are in or near La Víbora municipality, you can find delicious traditional tostones (twice-fried and pounded plantain slices) at La Fondita Heredia.
WHERE TO VISIT
For food-related excursions, visit the organic farm in Alamar (organopónico Alamar), east of the city centre. If you go in the morning, you can buy some fresh produce and enjoy a refreshing guarapo (juice squeezed from sugar cane on the spot). And then there are the bustling farmers’ markets in Vedado. If you’re more than a little curious about where Cubans buy their food, go by the corners of 19 and B or 17 and K, stocked with mountains of rainbow coloured fruit and veg from local co-operatives.
WHERE TO SHOP
If you really came to Cuba to shop, check out the cookbook selection at Artechef, the Culinary Arts Federation restaurant. It is located on Tercera and A in Vedado. For interesting art and home decor made by local artists, stop by Piscolabis, next to the Plaza de la Catedral in Old Havana.