Cafe Laurent

Situated a 5-minute walk around the corner from Hotel National, Cafe Laurent is a trendy paladar that specialises in Spanish-inspired cuisine. With a light, minimalist interior and retro touches of 1950s Cuba, it's a restaurant that delivers exceptional cuisine in a setting representative of Havana's confident new dining scene.

Cafe Laurent isn’t the kind of restaurant you stumble upon. In fact, those who know where they’re going might still take some time to work out that they’ve arrived. Tucked up on the top floor of a residential block of flats in Vedado, the non-descript exterior of the building does little to let you know you’re in the right place, so it’s worth taking detailed directions with you.

Correct location established, you can either climb the stairs or take the restaurant’s rattling antique lift to reach the 4th floor. When the doors part, you might be expecting to stroll into the kind of cosy, home-from-home paladar that’s typical of Old Havana. What you’ll actually discover is a chic, tastefully furnished dining room that’s very much representative of Havana’s new look scene.

Flowing linen drapes and crisp white tablecloths give things a contemporary feel, while the historic newspaper clippings covering the back wall and the circular patterns of the wallpaper add a touch of 1950s feel and nostalgia. The rooftop views across Vedado and the Malecon are also sensational. To enjoy the vista at its best, try to book a table out on the restaurant’s balcony for sunset.

An innovative menu

Café Laurent is the kind of high-end establishment that’s becoming increasingly commonplace in Havana. As well as the thoughtful furnishing in the dining room, the fusion menu on offer feels fresh and adventurous, pushing the boundaries of what the typical paladar experience usually offers.

At the helm is head chef, Dayron Aviles Alfonso. Originally from Cuba, Dayron’s background involved overseas stints in Spain and Argentina. Now running the show at Cafe Laurent, his culinary travels have clearly influenced the inventive range of dishes on offer.

No less than 30 dishes make it onto his menu. Starters such as jamon serrano and mains including paella and risotto are the most obviously Spanish offerings.

Seafood also features extensively with shrimps, lobster and dishes like pargo con almejas y gambas en salsa verde (red snapper with clams and shrimp in green sauce). There’s also plenty of salads, steaks and the wonderfully tender cordero lechal a la tabaca (slow-roasted lamb in a garlic, cream and mint reduction).

For dessert, try the sweet Spanish delicacy of Leche Frita (literally translated as fried milk) with a serving of palate-cleansing strawberry ice cream. Or go for the equally tempting biscotti de chocolate. It’s worth noting that portions tend to be on the larger side so you might want to work up an appetite if you’re planning on a 3-course feast.

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