After Hours: Havana good night in London
January 2, 2008
LONDON — When you walk through the entrance of this nightlife spot hidden in Camden’s Stables Market, it’s like stepping into a country thousands of miles away.
Its atmosphere reflects its inspiration — the lively Caribbean country of Cuba. Hence, the place’s name, The Cuban, a themed bar and restaurant.
Red-white-and-blue flags of Cuba, as well as lamps adorned with colorful strands, hang on the bar’s worn-out walls and ceiling. The aging building with its colorful setting has an authentic Cuban flair popularized by the media.
Images of Cuban icons, including a 6-foot painting of the revolutionary Che Guevara, also can be seen in the bar. On a recent weeknight, documentaries on the country were being played on the bar’s big-screen TVs, showing video clips of Cuban leader Fidel Castro.
The key ingredient to the bar’s locale is the quick beats of Cuban music resonating through the place. It’s difficult to stay still since feet-tapping or some hip-shaking comes naturally to the vibrant music.
On Friday and Saturday nights, the place is jam-packed with partygoers dancing the night away, said general manager Otis Turner.
“It’s sort of a home away from home — but in Cuba,” Turner said.
A small makeshift stage in one corner of the bar plays host to live bands on selected dates, such as a Cuban band on Sunday nights, he added.
Those who are thirsty can head up to the venue’s long bar where an impressive collection of liquor bottles is on display.
The assortment of liquor comes in handy when bartenders are whipping up one of their specialty cocktails.
“We pride ourselves on our cocktails,” Turner said, adding that his place has won national competitions for its concoctions.
A few of the delights created by the bar’s so-called “mixologists” are Avocado Exclusif (Courvoisier Exclusif cognac with fresh avocado, Taylor’s Port wine, pomegranate juice, thyme, fresh lemon juice, sugar syrup and aniseed) and The Canchanchara (a mixture of honey, fresh lime and Havana Club Especial rum served under crushed ice).
Before or after the bar, take a stroll through Stables Market. The market is a maze of narrow footpaths littered with unusual and strange shops.
See previous After Hours reviews here.
Location: The bar is found in the middle of Stables Market in London’s Camden Town, near Chalk Farm Road (NW1 8AH).
Drinks: Bartenders whip up numerous kinds of cocktails that start at 6.95 pounds.
Food: A variety of dishes from tapas, grilled items, salads and paellas.
Entertainment: Live music Fridays and Saturdays, live DJ on Saturdays and salsa lessons on Tuesdays and Thursdays. No cover charge, except to those taking salsa lessons.
Hours: 10 a.m. to 1 a.m. Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to midnight Sunday.