Asia de Cuba was recommended to me as a potential lunch venue after I revealed that I’m currently on a health kick but still keen to eat well and enjoy tasty food.
Hopefully you’ll have no trouble finding Asia de Cuba, which is located within the 5-star St Martins Lane Hotel, a three-minute walk from Leicester Square Underground Station. Look for the hotel’s glass facade and revolving door. Unfortunately there’s no name sign above the hotel foyer and, like some lost tourist, I walked past the entrance a couple of times before eventually doubling back and heading inside.
central London bar and restaurant
Many Londoners will know Asia de Cuba as this restaurant opened in 1999 and is a popular venue for drinks. The restaurant’s Rum Bar has the broadest selection of rums in the country, with more than 150 available. Normally I’d have had no hesitation in trying the Mojito Deluxe, Asia de Cuba’s signature cocktail, made with Appleton V/X rum, but, currently on a fitness training programme, I decided to stick to sparkling mineral water.
“Are you sure?” asked my waitress, Magda, looking distinctly unconvinced and offering the wine menu, which I resolutely declined. Her chatty, informal approach to service worked well.
A Chino-Latino dining experience
On asking what style of cuisine is served in Asia de Cuba I was told “Chino-Latino,” which was new to me. I learned that this style of cooking had its origins in Cuba, fusing Cuban style cooking with Asian and Caribbean ingredients.
The resulting dishes are a success, noteworthy for their fresh, zingy flavours and occasional twists of spice. Juice from lime and orange was used to good effect in a couple of the dishes that I tried, notably the succulent prawn ceviche with a chilli-orange-sesame sauce.
Seafood and salad dishes
Look out for the calamari salad, one of the signature dishes of Asia de Cuba. Squid is served with slices of banana, chayote, hearts of palm, cashew nuts, endive and roquette with sesame orange dressing.
Dishes are brought out as and when they are ready rather than all together, meaning that ordering a selection of dishes to share can work well. A choice of eight starters and eight main courses are available on the lunchtime menu. Fourteen are available over each at dinner. I found the innovative combinations of ingredients thought provoking; perhaps not easy to recreate but the kind of cuisine that inspires inventiveness back home in the kitchen.
Philippe Starck interior design
Philippe Starck designed the restaurant’s striking, quirky interior. Small, retro-style television sets flicker on broad columns stacked with books or hung with black and white portrait photos. Uncovered lightbulbs hang above the tables from black wires. Jazz music provides the background sound to conversations.
After a good, healthy meal Magda insisted that I try “just one” of the chef’s freshly cooked doughnuts served with butterscotch. I duly obliged.
Asia de Cuba is a good spot for chic, informal dining over exotic, fresh food.
Asia de Cuba restaurant is at 45 St. Martin’s Lane, London, WC2N 4HX, tel. +44 (0) 20 7300 5588.
Try the Sunday Roast if you are looking to meet with friends over food on a weekend. Pre- and post- theatre menus are available.
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