The Halal: Chicken only (The beef no longer is!) Alcohol and pork are served here as well.
The Place: Asia de Cuba can be found discreetly hidden within the St Martin’s Lane hotel (part of the Morgans Group which also own the Sanderson in London and several others in New York, Los Angeles and South Beach).
I enjoy visiting these London hotels for their wacky (if slightly outlandish) decor, exuberant colours and magical atmosphere. You may even see a celeb or two- the last time I ate here I was practically rubbing shoulders with the Game of Thrones cast sat on the table next to me! On this occasion we committed a cardinal sin- turning up on a Saturday night without a reservation. Luckily, the hostess was very accomodating and managed to arrange a table. I love the interior of the restaurant: cluttered bookshelves, old black and white cuban photographs and potted plants on walls. As expected the restaurant was packed.
The Food: As you may have guessed from the name, the food is inspired by a fusion of Asian and Cuban cuisine. I was disappointed to hear that the beef was no longer halal as the Thai beef salad was a real favourite. We ordered our drinks which were very slow to arrive but were pleasant when they did eventually come.
Starters were skipped as we were not that hungry. Though, had we known that our mains would take so long to arrive, we may have been happy if we had been nibbling on something. I ordered the coconut Chilean sea bass which came with a chimichurri of vegetables and a crab and corn flan. The portion was pretty sizeable. I’m partial to a good Chilean sea bass and although the fish was cooked very well, I felt underwhelmed. The sea bass lacked spice and the corn and crab flan was sickly sweet. I felt the flavours did not mesh together very well at all.
My friend ordered the Cuban barbeque chicken which came with sticky coconut rice, avocado and fruit salsa and a tamarind sauce. I have had this before and when I ordered it last time, the chicken was quite dry. On this occasion, the chicken was cooked well and still moist. It was felt that there was too much tamarind sauce, though some people like extra sauce (I’m one of those people!). Perhaps, it would have been better for the sauce to have been served in a jug so the customer could decide? There was also not enough green- more salsa please!
Our other friends are vegetarian and chose to have the marinated crispy tofu (on reflection, there isn’t a lot of vegetarian options here). However, all was redeemed when she reported that it was the most flavoursome tofu she had ever eaten. I suspect making tofu taste of anything is fairly challenging so that is pretty impressive!
There was no space for pud- luckily they were pretty quick with the bill!
I thought it may be worth mentioning that I’ve also been to Asia de Cuba for their Cafecito Afternoon Tea. Again, the chicken is halal and they can substitute other meats for vegetarian options. I was really impressed with the presentation of the tea which started with a kiwi, mango and strawberry layered mini-smoothie. There were a selection of rolls, pastries and sandwiches as well as savoury scones. They had a lovely range of chinese teas to accompany the savouries. Then out came the sweets: mini pies, doughnuts and pastries were all fun and full of interesting flavours. You can then choose another tea to accompany the sweets. It was a lovely afternoon and put a real twist on the traditional high-tea.
The Price: For dinner expect to pay between £50-70 per person for 3 courses. Afternoon tea is very good value for money at £25 per person.
The Verdict: I was disappointed in the evening meal at Asia de Cuba and remembered the food being much tastier when the restaurant was new. The fusion combinations lack lustre and imagination. We all felt quite disappointed for the amount we paid and the food was inconsistent from previous visits. Saying that, the afternoon tea was a fun meal and I would definitely go back for this again!