A Restaurant For Rum-Lovers And Ceviche Connoisseurs
It's not always easy to make a hotel restaurant feel lived-in, to banish that transient, characterless foyer-lobby vibe. But Asia de Cuba has filled its corner of St. Martin's Lane Hotel with a colourful clutter of Fifties-ish posters, printed upholstery and bright bric-a-brac. Spare walls and pillar surfaces are lined with bookshelves and hanging plants.
It's not just the decor that's bright and punchy. Cocktails are sharp with lime and summery-warm with rum, and the ceviche menu's peppered with ingredients from the fiercer side of both Latin and Asian traditions: ginger and chimichurris, citruses and aji amarillo all feature. The new menu takes the two so seriously, it includes a ceviche-and-cocktail-matching subsection to make sure you're choosing complementary flavours.
It's worth letting them guide you. Every time we follow our waiter's advice, he's proved right. Our grouper ceviche is zingily hot with radish and amarillo chilli, a small portion that's the perfect size for something this fiercely flavoured. The 'Tunapica Tartare' starter (actually a row of crunchy wonton skins crammed with generous chunks of tuna and an odd, more-ish mash-up of textures: toasted coconut, currants, olives, avocado...) totally earns the fervent recommendation it comes with.
Main courses, where we abandon the steer from our waiter, suggest we would've done better to leave ourselves in his hands. The tuna, dusted with cumin and served on garlicky, chorizo-speckled white beans is nice enough, a gastropub-luxe dish but without the surprising, deep flavours of our starters.
Still, though. Between the cocktails, the ceviches, and those spots on the menu where they make improbable-sounding fusions sing together in a lovely, off-beat chorus (coconut-tuna-wontons, we're looking at you), they're defying the hotel restaurant stereotype. There's plenty of character crammed into Asia de Cuba.
Asia de Cuba, 45 St Martin's Lane, WC2N 4HX.
Last Updated 18 March 2018