La Fontana is quite simply one of the very best places to eat in Havana. Great food, a good atmosphere, efficient and unobtrusive service for a reasonable price make this a real Havana institution, the place that you go back again and again. If you can’t think of somewhere else, La Fontana becomes the default option since it can be relied upon to deliver with no fuss or pretension.
Food wise, this is where Havana really discovers the charcoal grill. Huge portions of meat and fish make even the most ardent carnivore smile with satisfaction. A pork chop may sound unimaginative but it tastes great from this grill. Other main dishes include everything from chicken teriyaki (recommended) to lasagne and a great chateaubriand. Starters include a great mixed platter of cheeses and cold cuts as well as eggplant and chickpeas–what more could you want?
There are a number of eating areas. A large outdoors terrace alongside a sensitively done series of fountains and rectangular ponds, an air-conditioned salon and a new outdoor lounge (see below). Invariably, the outdoor terrace has a good buzz but has enough space for them to generally find you a table. They regularly have bands playing or some live music, which adds to the ambience but does not get in your face!
Until recently there was a basement bar, which offered a comfortable (albeit invariably smoky) place to drink the night away. Some months ago this bar was closed and a major renovation undertaken, which has recently been completed. The result is an outside Miami style, contemporary lounge bar that is about as stylish as Havana gets if you like it modern. The in crowd are all here although don’t make the mistake of coming too early and careful on the way out if you have had too many red bulls and vodka that you don’t join the fishes in one of the many fashionable fish ponds scattered through the place.
Cover charge at La Fontana
La Fontana is a great restaurant with consistently good food, great service and a nice ambience. Recently they have introduced jazz nights inviting top class Cuban jazz musicians to play while you eat. So far, so good. The only issue is with a cover charge of CUC 5 per person, which they add to the final bill without necessarily saying up front (or charging at the door). If you love jazz (and know about the charge), I am sure that no one will mind. For some of us, however, this can be a real annoyance, especially if you prefer rock and roll.
While I like the Fontana for the excellent food and service, the live music is simply too loud even if it is actually quite good. I want to talk at dinner not listen to a concert. Maybe I am simply getting old or near to deal with my compulsive talking but this is definitely a down for me. Please turn the volume down or at least give longer breaks to the musicians.