The opening of a new bar in Havana is no longer news, as more and more keep popping out faster than you can find them, but every now and then when a new place, trying to be totally different from the crowd opens, it instantly stands out.
That’s the case with A PUBblic house Tales from Britain, the first pub in Havana, at least the only one with a clear intention of becoming a pub from its very conception (even when it doesn’t have the typical British decor of a pub). With an initial name that proved way too long and complex, the venue was renamed to Tales from Britain PUB, as it stands now.
How I found it
A couple of weekends ago, it was my father-in-law’s birthday, and as my husband and I have a reputation for hunting down good places to eat out in, we were asked to choose where to go for this particular occasion. It’s really hard to find a place for a birthday celebration with such a big family as ours is. We have my sisters-in-law, cousins, their wives, husbands, boyfriends, friends… in short, an assorted bunch of people with so many varied tastes that it even includes a vegan aunt (an extremely rare person to find in Cuba).
We had already considered several options when a friend told me about the Tales from Britain PUB, which had just opened a couple of weeks before, so we went there to take a look. The place looked really nice and we thought this pub would be the perfect place for what we wanted, because of a handful of important factors, which I’ll proceed to list here:
1. It’s a tapas and light bites place – ideal for snacking
Although they offer very good meat and fish dishes, the variety of tapas, salads and starters towers the menu. I have always thought this is the best option for a big group celebration as there is always something that strikes everyone’s fancy and it’s nicer to be sharing
We started with a variety of delicious bruschettas, some with just tomatoes and basil for my vegan aunt, while the rest of us had croquettes or "croquetas" (the Hispanic version, not the ones made from potato that are popular in Britain), which we all enjoyed very much. My husband’s family loves seafood and the shrimp cocktail stole the show; according to those who had some it was awesome and beautifully presented, with the mayonnaise served separately so you could individually choose how deep you wanted to dip your fork in it. In general, the starters are really outstanding here in terms of both quality and price.
2. It offers a wide variety of choice, even for vegans
The advantage of going to a place like this with so many people lies on the possibility to try almost every dish. I chose the roast beef… amazingly delicious. My sisters-in-law preferred lamb, a luxury for us Cubans, and one of their boyfriends went for grilled fish. It was red snapper, and I regret not having ordered it myself, no matter how good the beef was. This is why I sometimes I dream of having two mouths and two stomachs. Cuba is seagirt, and although we don’t have the offer of fish and seafood one would expect, the fish is always good and fresh, I do recommend it.
A funny fact was the discussion we had about the main accompaniment to our dishes, the "congrí" rice. It was twice as funny, because having a creole Cuban dish like congrí in a British pub is unusual to say the least. We had a family debate about the difference between congrí and moros y cristianos, an argument that my vegan aunt finally brought to a close when she defiantly declared: “for the record, congrí is made with red beans and moros y cristianos with black beans, that’s that”.
3. It has an extensive drinks menu
The drinks menu is really extensive at Tales from Britan PUB: it has Cuban and international cocktails as well as some innovative ones that are creations of the house, something I like to find. I had a “gin-tonic” night. Like in a British pub, gin and tonic is a specialty of the house. They have a wide range of gins and tonic waters, and I metaphorically chose Beefeater with its Londoner silhouette.
The drink of choice among the aunts, cousins, sisters and friends was less adventurous and shows their tropical heritage; they all had piña colada, which was freshly made onsite with natural pineapple juice. Other alcoholic beverages that completed the night out was the excellent collection of whiskeys.
4. It has an excellent terrace and private space to reserve
Tales from Britain PUB has two multifunctional spaces and a reserved room that, depending on the weather, can be opened up to include an-open air terrace; offering a different way to enjoy Havana’s nocturnal views. Thanks to that we managed to solve the issue our large group had: to unite smokers and non-smokers in two different but adjacent spaces. This room makes it possible for both to sit at the same table, as it opens up to the wide and fresh terrace, in contrast with the air-conditioned interior rooms.
This lovely terrace deserves going into a little more detail. It faces 84th Street and 5th Avenue and it is nicely arranged, furnished with fibre armchairs to enjoy the afternoon sun or the night breeze. My husband loves to smoke a cigar while drinking rum and he recommends the marriage between a Romeo and Juliet Habano and an aged Santiago rum, a sublime pleasure, he assures. He always tells me that smoking a good habano not only depends on the brand of cigar and the rum, it also requires an appropriate place to relax and enjoy this unforgettable experience. The terrace of Tales from Britain PUB is one of those places.
The interior décor of this pub is a tribute to British culture: wooden furniture, coasters and walls covered with art depicting traditional Britain are very evocative. The owner insists on emphasising the Britishness of the place – even the “reserved” signs on the table come in the shape of a traditional red public phone box.
5. It offers friendly and attentive service
The service, like in all newly opened places, is a little bit slow, but very friendly and attentive. I hope it will improve with time. In any case, they were nice and did their share to make it a great night for us.
6. It makes you want to come back
This might seem to be controversial: there are places to visit only once and others to which one enjoys coming back. Although Spanish singer Sabina says that “you should never try to return to the place where you were once happy”, I have a different view when it comes to food. Tales from Britain PUB not only made an imprint on me, but they also make a great effort to continuously innovate and come up with new things.
The music, in those first days after the opening had no theme. However, it gave a good ambience to the place in a nice atmosphere. People tell me that they now have a Blues & Funk Friday Night and this tempts me to go back there.
They still don’t have a well-defined audience; it’s a very new place. I might dare to say that it will become a very interesting place in the future. The owner was interested in finding out how everything was for us and told us about the process of opening a business in Cuba, the taxes, his plans.
Finding out about the inner world of these places always adds to the experience. If you come to Havana, don’t miss the chance to talk to the owners; and if you come to this place or any other you read about in any of my posts, never forget this piece of advice: talk to people, they are Cuba’s greatest treasure.
|Address:|| 503, 84th Street between 5th Avenue and 5th-B Street.
Very close to hotels: Panorama, Comodoro and Memories Miramar Havana and Melia Habana.
|Opening hours:||Monday to Sunday from 12:00 noon to 3:00am.|
|Prices:||Drinks start at $2.00 CUC. EUR and USD also accepted.|
|Reservations:||Only required for booking large groups.|
|Dress Code:||Smart casual.|