Thursday, January 31, 2008

Food & Wine

Nearly 40 years after Fidel Castro “nationalised” all privately-owned restaurants as part of his deranged scheme to turn Cuba into a tropical version of the Soviet Union, a new restaurant has opened in Havana.

And according to this article by Gavin McOwan in The Guardian, it’s quickly become the must-go destination for tourists and “cool habaneros”, serving fresh seafood by the bay at Avenida del Puerto, in Old Havana.

Known as El Templete, the restaurant is run by Alejandro Esnal, a Basque who used to cook at a number of upmarket eateries in San Sebastian before moving to Cuba a couple of years ago, for reasons that are not fully explained.

It seems he has somehow managed to “side step” the Castro regime’s strict bureacratic regulations and buy his fish fresh from local fishermen.

The adventurous Mr Esnal is introducing what are described as “nueva cocina vasca twists” to the menu, such as cod mousse with tomato confit and even fried lettuce, to the delight of his customers.

As for the ambiance, McOwan says El Templete has “the buzz of a stylish Mediterranean restaurant in full summer swing”, adding: “This is perhaps the first restaurant of real quality to open since the Revolution”.

Sadly, there is no mention of how much the various dishes cost but it’d be fair to assume not many ordinary Cubans would be able to afford the place, given the average monthly wage is about USD15.00.


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