San Cristobal Paladar

San Cristobal bears the name of its chef/owner, and this is more than appropriate for one of Cuba's most uniquely personalised paladares. Located on the first storey of a still lived-in Centro Habana mansion, the restaurant's space is eclectic to say the least. It's also somewhat cramped, but that's all part of the charm. The unique, trip-back-in-time atmosphere and the truly top-tier traditional Cuban menu make this one of the top places to eat in Cuba's capital.

San Cristobal is named after its owner, chef, and overall creative director, Carlos Cristobal Marquez Valdes. What at first could be seen as a sign of vanity makes more sense as you get to know this one-of-a-kind Centro Habana paladar—everything about this place is a tribute to its owner’s unique tastes and vision. The end result is a paladar unlike any other, and one that many guests come to consider as contemporary Havana’s most exemplary dining experience.

The Atmosphere

Succinctly put, San Cristobal exudes a sense of authenticity that can’t be recreated. The restaurant sits on the ground floor of a still lived-in Centro Habana mansion, and the décor testifies to the fact that this was no hastily assembled spot designed simply to cash in on Havana’s growing paladar market.

“Eclectic” would be the kind way to describe the style here, though “cluttered” is just as appropriate. Mountains of ancient books are stacked precariously on much of the antique furniture, and black-and-white photos depicting Havana throughout every stage of the 20th century compete for your attention with movie posters, original paintings, religious iconography, unique timepieces, and yes—even an authentic, full-size zebra pelt. This sort of collection can only be assembled in two ways—a slow accumulation representing a lifetime of experiences, or a diligent and constant search for the most interesting of artefacts at every flea market and second-hand store in town. As we’re talking about Cuba the former is most likely to be the case.

Because San Cristobal is situated in a repurposed mansion, there are a variety of dining rooms as well as an outdoor terrace area. No matter where you sit, feel free to wander around for a bit to really gain an understanding of what a special place this paladar is. It has been featured in many guides, travel publications and lists of Havana’s top ranking paladares, including The Guardian.

The Food & Drink

Though the atmosphere is more eye-catching, the fact of the matter is that no restaurant succeeds like San Cristobal without top-notch food. The menu here is Cuban creole in its most traditional and flavourful form. If you think you’ve enjoyed authentic Cuban food before, San Cristobal could very well prove your initial understanding of the island’s cuisine less than accurate!

Get ready to experience exotic roots like malanga and yucca, as well as seafood and meat mains like the Cuban-style lamb stew and the “Havana Temptation” steak, served alongside fried plantains. After your meal, enjoy a dessert like the house pudding or the timbalitos - guava shells served with natural syrup and cheese. Finally, a full bar menu and a relatively expansive wine list are also on offer.

At the end of the day, San Cristobal is the sort of restaurant that must be experienced in order to be understood. From the décor to the food, this place is so emblematic of Havana that it’s almost a sin not to eat here during your Cuba holiday.

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