El Buganvil is a solid, reliable place owned by the indomitable Margarita with the help from her family. This has been open since 1996 (apart from a brief two-year period from 2008-2010). What are valued here above all else are consistency and the personalized touch which many places claim but few really attain. El Buganvil has a client list of regulars who include tourists and expatriates who come back again and again to this pleasant, relaxed and familiar place. The cerdo asado (roast pork) is done to the same home recipe that it was 15 years after it opened as it was on that first day back in 1996. People’s preferences are remembered: a little more salt here, less onion there and so on. You are made to feel at home.
The food is uncomplicated in general; the Lomo ahumado (smoked pork loin) is excellent as is the Cordero al vino (lamb cooked with wine) and Pescado a la plancha (grilled fish). If there are six carnivores at the table you have to try the roast pig (Cerdo asado), which is good value at CUC 10 each. Desserts depend on the time of year but can usually be relied upon to include Flan de leche, made in house (custard), and a range of natural ice creams, such as pineapple, mamey (marmalade tree) and cocoa.
The place underwent something of a renovation in late 2011 with the small thatched roof being expanded to cover a much larger area. Personally, I am not sure that I do not prefer the older version, which was smaller and cuter; perhaps I am simply being conservative. Clients do not seem to mind since their clientele remains consistent. This is a good place for a work party or informal gathering.
I don’t really think that this is a destination restaurant in Havana nowadays especially with the competition being much stronger than in the past, but if you are staying nearby or visiting Siboney, it is well worth checking out.