Los Nardos Restaurant

For those seeking great value Cuban and Spanish cuisine in large portions, be prepared to wait in line for this excellent and very popular restaurant right opposite the Capitolio, in Old Havana. The outside might seem inauspicious, but it's worth the wait to enter this highly recommended, cosy and buzzy eatery with its broad menu and long wine list.

Run by a kind of Spanish social enterprise, the Sociedad Juventud Asturiana, Los Nardos is a welcome additional to the Havana dining scene.

The food at Los Nardos consistently gets great reviews. The menu features around 60 dishes and remarkably, the Lobster Thermidor comes in at under CUC $10. There are plenty of Spanish specialities, offering a break from the Cuban norm, such as garlic prawns, paella, steak or a unique cheese soup.

Portions are large and excellent value for money (between 5 and 12 CUC per dish), which brings in a more diverse clientele than some of the more expensive restaurants and paladares (independent restaurants based in someone's home) around town.

A great atmosphere

Inside Los Nardos, the atmosphere is warm and welcoming in the style of a Spanish "bodega". In contrast to many Havana restaurants, the service is fast and efficient, if a little brisk at busy times.

The decoration is dark and cosy, featuring mahogany, leather and Spanish sporting memorabilia lit by candles and lanterns. The legendary wine list (of over 500 bottles) is displayed on a huge wine rack, which runs the length of the place. The open kitchen is at one end behind glass, giving confidence to diners as they are able to see their meal being prepared.

There is often live music from a local pianist, violinist or flautist.

A central location

Los Nardos sits directly opposite the Capitolio, but you could easily miss it, as it's on the first floor (up one flight of stairs). Don't forget to ask for "el ultimo", similar to the English expression "are you in the queue", to find the end of the line.

You'll have plenty of entertainment during queuing time with the colourful people coming and going in Prado Street. During busy times the doorman will give you all the clues you need.

The queue has become part of Los Nardos' reputation, but if you want to avoid it, try going at off-peak times such as early evenings mid-week or when the weather is bad enough to keep everyone else indoors! It is not possible to make a booking.

The Sociedad Juventud Asturiana is a cultural association from the province of Asturias in Spain, which runs on cooperative principles and part of the profits generated by the restaurant has been used to renovate and rehabilitate a number of important old buildings in Havana.

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