Girl in Bristol reviews The Cuban on 11th June 2015 …
“Never been to Cuba? Then don’t despair! Visit us for a true Cuban experience!” declared The Cuban’s website.
But how can this be possible when Cuban cuisine ultimately compromises of beans, rice and pork? By featuring American, Spanish and Franco-Suisse cuisine on the menu. So, not a true Cuban experience then?
Yes, this is a venue where working professionals come and drink the likes of a Cubanita or a Zombie for around £8 a pop, seated beside bright pink flamingoes and Southern American murals as a mixture of upbeat tunes blast through the speakers.
Located close to Millennium Square with outdoor seating, the busyness of The Cuban’s bar is unsurprising. Inside, there is a large dining hall with an events space tucked away at the back which is frequently used for comedy nights. Although on this occasion, it was only us, another table and 100 empty seats with a handful of waiters waiting nearby.
To kick off our evening we ordered a virgin mojito before settling on the Fried Plantain and Sweet Potato Crisps (£4.95) for a starter which arrived swiftly via our attentive waiter.
Seasoned with cayenne pepper, paprika and sea salt the generous portion of crisps were spilling over the wooden board when they arrived served with a side of mayonnaise and a piece of cucumber and tomato. Undeterred by the bewildering vegetable garnish, we dove straight in. Though my consumption of the food was quickly stunted after I noticed a hair on one of my sweet potato crisps. I placed the solitary crisp to the side and continued, although by the end of the starter, it was joined by a multitude of soggy compadres.
When choosing a main course, the Mojo Kebabs (£13.95) promised chicken and lamb, seasonal vegetables and pineapple served on skewers with peri-peri chips and Cuban slaw, all cooked in the ‘Nuevo Cubano’ way using a variety of fresh herbs and spices from other worldly cuisines.
What I got was a step up from a kebab which I would expect to get from my local greasy spoon. Five minutes in, I was still chewing on the same piece of lamb which refused to go down whilst I toyed with a piece of chicken, considering whether it’s pink tint was too pronounced to risk eating. And the seasonal vegetables? There weren’t really any, except for a wilting piece of green pepper skewered on the end.
The Chorizo Chilli Beef (£12.95) my companion ordered sadly wasn’t much better. The chilli was so overwhelmingly spicy, my companion could lather on the guacamole and scarcely taste it and the Cuban Slaw was really just coleslaw with Cuban put in front of it on the menu. The slice of cucumber and tomato made another appearance.
The most Cuban-sounding Rum cake and Mango & Rum Brûlée desserts were not available on the evening we came so we chose the Hot Chocolate Fudge Brownie (£4.50) and The Cuban Mess.
The brownie served with ice cream, chocolate sauce and jam was tasty and well presented though it was clearly a shove-in-the-microwave-and-count-to-sixty jobbie judging from its inconsistent temperature. However the Cuban Mess was the bigger disappointment, consisting of three scoops of (what could easily have been supermarket-bought) ice cream atop a pool of toffee sauce with pieces of chopped banana and meringue floating in it. This would have been acceptable if it was purchased from Maccy D’s but not a restaurant dessert!
If the prices were cheaper and the venue wasn’t described as serving authentic Cuban cuisine the outcome of this review, I believe, would be very different. The food, though generously portioned, was pretty average and the atmosphere at the Cuban was stagnant.
For one of their live music events and two-for-one cocktails, The Cuban could be worth a look in but based on their food, I don’t think I would return to dine.
Unit 2, Building 11, Harbourside, Bristol BS1 5SZ
(Whilst the food was complimentary as part of the review, all opinions are my own)