La Esperanza

Style of food: International
Cost: Expensive
Type of place: Paladar (private)
Best for: Beautiful intimate ambience. Gorgeous décor and charismatic owners.
Worst for: Slightly formulaic after a couple of visits. Expensive and lack of menu is irritating.
Calle 16 No. 105 entre 1ra y 3ra, Miramar
(+53)7202 - 4361
Open 6:30-11pm, closed Thu
  • La Esperanza is one of those places which gives out its own microclimate so far removed it is from your typical Havana dining experience. Set in the Miramar suburbs, the exterior of the house is notable mainly for the impeccably manicured shrubbery. Inside, the décor is a riot of a quaint English drawing room somehow mixed up with an art deco-gone-baroque style. What really makes the atmosphere are the owners who have their own sophisticated camp style which adds that layer of polish and intrigue.

    There are relatively few tables so booking is essential. The food, which is produced in a standard-sized family kitchen, includes Pollo luna de miel (chicken flambéed in rum); fish marinated in white wine, lemon and garlic; and a great curried chicken. How good is it? Over the years it seems to have become less special to me, this is no rice and beans or overcooked cheap steak place, but equally the food is not spectacular, merely good.

    There is no menu; instead the owners will recite everything on the menu as they take your order. This irritates me for two reasons: firstly I can never remember what there is and secondly you never know how much anything costs. For many people this is a personal added touch, which they like, it forces more engagement. For me, show me a printed menu and come over for a chat instead. My final gripe is that sometimes you feel less of a valued client and more of an imposition especially if you want something special (sauce on the side, a slice of cucumber in your martini, another coffee at midnight, etc).

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