El Carruaje (The Carriage) is tucked away in the leafy Siboney suburbs. Having found the house, you are amazed that you have never heard of it before. This is better described as a mansion, which comes with an elegant pool and large ranchón attached. There is a beautiful restored carriage outside the house waiting to be hitched up to your white horse if you have one to spare.
The owner/managers of this place are Mirka and Raul. He used to work with Eusebio Leal, the City Historian. He seems solid, dependable, and decent. He is a fixer, a mender and a builder, who has supervised and managed the necessary construction. Whilst talking, he eyes up a wall here to paint, a light fitting to mend there. Mirka trained as a chemical engineer but found her way into tourism, working for 16 years at the Habana Libre Hotel. The restaurant is her dream, her ideas, her decoration, and her menu design. Raul facilitates, executes; she manages. Professional, courteous, diligent–the place hums with their qualities.
The lighting on the terrace is a little bright for me, the landscape pictures a little kitsch and the inside area too pink. On the other hand, there is no need to try and catch the eye of a waiter in the gloom of an Old Havana rabbit warren; the staffs is young, attentive and quick.
Mirka describes the food as Cuban with international fusion. The starters are especially good, ‘pica, pica’ food. Normally, I hate tamal–ground maize–but the Tamal en hoja grille relleno de tomate confitado y envuelto en jamón serrano (grilled tamal filled with candied tomato wrapped in raw cured ham) is great. The jamón serrano is good quality. For main courses, there is a lot which is good; the lamb with red wine was excellent. Giving in to popular demand, there is a line of pizzas provided as well.
The quality of the place is shown in its popularity. There is a bell as you leave which you are asked to ring if you liked your dinner. It goes regularly. As we finish chatting, Mirka goes upstairs to spend some time with her young children before they go to sleep. This place is her obsession but it seems a good one, well done, and balanced with nice family vibes.