El Cocinero Bar and Paladar

Opened back in February 2013, El Cocinero is a trendy, rooftop bar-restaurant situated beneath the towering brick chimney of a former cooking oil factory. This privately owned paladar on the Almendares River represents an upmarket nightlife scene emerging in Havana, bringing a modern face to a city still rooted in the past.

El Cocinero has a sense of style and glamour that feels a million miles away from the traditional family-run paladars famous throughout Havana. More like a hip nightspot in Berlin than a downtown bar in Havana, drop by El Cocinero if you want to see what 21st century Cuba looks like.

The venue has two separate floors. The first is a chic, indoor dining area filled with moody black and white photos and low lighting, while a chilled out soundtrack of rippling jazz beats keeps the atmosphere laidback. Upstairs, you’ll find a spacious outdoor terrace with exposed brickwork and supporting steel beams that gives off a stripped back, industrial vibe.

The terrace has become a popular spot to catch the cool night air while enjoying alfresco dining and it’s also a great place to come and make the most of those oh-so-spectacular Havanan sunsets. Evening drinks on the terrace are a major draw and there’s a good selection of wines and beers on offer, as well as an inviting choice of cocktails that get stylishly thrown together by the bar’s expert mixologists.

As for the cuisine? The style definitely feels in keeping with El Cocinero’s modern approach. While local Cuban fare is available, innovative European and international cooking finds itself at the heart of the menu. Savour rich lamb curries with warm, freshly-baked naans. Tuck into melt-in-the-mouth beef tenderloin, or go for the magret de canard (duck breast) served in a sweet Caribbean orange sauce. If you want to make the most of the local seafood, you’ll be equally impressed by the locally-caught red snapper and grilled tuna with sesame seeds.

You’ll also be won over by the first-class service. Every dish and drink gets served up with a smile from the faultlessly attentive staff. Sure, your pesos might be stretched a little further here than by the more traditional establishments, but don’t let that put you off. Spend an evening at El Cocinero and you’ll be blown away by the cutting-edge cuisine and superb drinks. Since opening, this hip Havana hangout continues to pull in the crowds, so it’s best to book ahead if you want to guarantee yourself a table.


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