Where to eat in Havana
Cuba was once famous for its bland, lacklustre cuisine when shortages and controls throttled creativity in the kitchen, and very few private restaurants were allowed to open. Since late 2010, the culinary scene has been revived – thanks to a government decree – with plenty of new, privately run restaurants, cafés and bars hatching across the capital.
These are the pick of private pop-up Havana restaurants, known as paladares: Havana’s hottest restaurant is the stylish Le Chansonnier, adorned with the works of Cuba’s contemporary artists and serving up French-inspired cuisine. Santy’s (no website) is a sushi shack on the Jaimanitas river; convivial La Corte del Principe (no website) is Havana’s star Italian restaurant; Mediterraneo serves up fresh and light dishes in its smart Vedado home; Doña Eutimia (no website) is the Old Town’s top spot serving up delicious Cuban creole cuisine in its tiny corner plot furnished with Spanish colonial accents; stalwart La Fontana’s grill and alfresco dining is a city highlight; try tiny O’Reilly (no website) in the Old Town for Havana’s zingiest ceviche and El Chanchullero (no website) for cheap and cheerful prawn skewers in its graffitied den in a scrappy street in the Old Town.
For coffee, cake and ice cream in Havana’s cafés, head for the umbrellas of Café Escorial (no website) on stunning Plaza Vieja; cutesy Bianchini close to the cathedral; beloved ice cream temple and local hotspot Coppelia (no website) for the frozen flavours of the day; and new Maimané (no website) for its rustic, arty surrounds.
If you want to go local, head for a neighborhood spot that sells rice, beans and meat in cardboard boxes known as cajitas (the place at Calles 13 and 4 in Vedado is known for its pork fricassee).
Restaurant and café details
Le Chansonnier Calle J no.257, between Calle 15 and Línea, Vedado. +53 7 832 1576.
Santy’s 3ra Calle no.240A , Jaimanitas. +53 (0) 5286 7039. Mon-Sun, noon-10pm.
La Corte del Príncipe Calle 9na corner of Calle 74, Miramar. +53 (0) 5 255 9091. Tues-Sun, noon-3pm and 7pm-11.30pm.
Mediterraneo Calle 13 no.406 between Calles F and G, Vedado. +53 7 832 4894. Mon-Sun, noon-midnight.
Doña Eutimia Callejón del Chorro no.60C, Plaza de la Catedral, La Habana Vieja. +53 7 861 1332. Mon-Sun, noon-10.30pm.
La Fontana Avenida 3raA, corner of Calle 46 no.305, Miramar. +53 7 202 8337. Mon-Sun, noon-11.50pm. Bar open until 6am.
O’ Reilly Calle O’Reilly no.304 between Calles Habana and Aguiar, La Habana Vieja. +53 (0)5 264 4725. Mon-Sun, noon-late.
El Chanchullero Calle Teniente Rey (Brasil) no.457A between Calles Bernaza and El Cristo, Plaza del Cristo, La Habana Vieja. +53 7 862 8227. Mon-Sun, 1pm-midnight.
Café Escorial Calle Mercaderes corner of Calle Muralla, La Habana Vieja. +53 7 868 3545. Mon-Sun, 9am-10pm.
Café Bianchini Callejón del Chorro no.68, Plaza de la Catedral, La Habana Vieja. +53 7 862 8477. Mon-Sun, 9am-9pm.
Coppelia Calles 23 y L, Vedado. +53 7 832 3450. Tues-Sun, 10am-9.15pm.
Maimané Calle L no.206 between Calles 15 and 17, Vedado. +53 7 832 8328. Mon-Thurs, 8am-midnight, Fri-Sun 8am-3am.