Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Cuba: Esto no es un Cafe, Havana

He chased us through the twilight of the PIaza de la Catedral wielding a Campbell's Condensed Soup can.  All he needed was a bowler hat to make the surreality complete!

It was our first night in Havana.  We had dined al fresco at 'Esto no es un Cafe' amongst foraging chickens and the odd hopeful cat.  The food was excellent, the staff welcoming and the musicians in the courtyard of the Callejon del Chorro were enthusiastic.  After the first tense night in Havana, this felt, well, like a holiday.

The name of the restaurant might be a play on the work of Belgian Surrealist Magritte - the owners have even adopted the infamous pipe as their logo - but everything is honest, straightforward and exactly what you order.  That said, they do serve their signature pork dish on an urinal shaped platter!  
Armando, Adelaida the Fortune Teller and Alexis
And most evenings and lunchtimes a fabulous woman called Adelaida or 'Senora Habana' comes round.  She is a fortune teller and so dazzling that I'm sure her predictions are full of adventure, magic and excitement.  How could they be anything else?  

I have only had my fortune told once on a coach travelling through the former East Germany to Berlin by a Taiwanese man who, unlike Adelaida, looked like a computer programmer.  That, as they say, is another story. 

Day after day we returned to the restaurant.  We ate almost everything on the menu: chicken, fish, salads. Everything was fresh and some of it was 'bio' from an organic farm in Pinar del Rio.  We couldn't get enough of the ratatouille and the black beans, humble maybe but packed with flavour. 
Lunch: Ceci est un bon plat
We had come to see as much of Havana as we could.  After a few days we had to ask ourselves the question: were we missing out by not trying a different restaurant every night?  By then though it was not just about the food.  It was about the people.  There was Armando with the beautiful baby son whose mango tree fell down one night and severed his water supply (that tree produced the juiciest mangoes ever, sweet, with no fibre).  There was Tais who sang like an angel, was a fitness instructor and who, like many apparently, is now emigrating to Ecuador.  And there was Alexis who was chomping at the bit to become a bespoke tour guide (how does 'Meet My Havana sound?)

It was Alexis who chased us across the square with his soup can but no bowler hat.  We had got muddled up and underpaid our bill, dropping 10 CUCs less than required into the pot(age)!

He is charming enough to say he simply cannot remember.

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