Cuban vibes, great food, and tasty mojitos! Cafe Cuba is an unassuming, cosy, Caribbean clad gem in the heart of Stokes Croft.
After our recent trip to Cuba and being introduced to ropa vieja, I was excited to check out Cafe Cuba. Located on Gloucester Road in Stokes Croft right next to Turbo Island, Cafe Cuba is a small, unpretentious restaurant nestled between some real Bristol food heavyweights (aka Jamaica Street Stores, Poco, Masa + Mezcal, etc.), but can certainly hold its own.
Hubby and I went for an early dinner on a Saturday night, and were glad we did because being small, the restaurant quickly filled up. When we entered, we were greeted with a smile and a ‘Hola’, and shown to our seats at a table near the window. The interior of the restaurant is basic, but well decorated with Cuban and other Caribbean fare, and Cuban sounds and smells emanate from the rear of the restaurant; if it hadn’t been so cold outside, I would’ve thought we were back in Cuba. There is also an open plan kitchen and small bar area to the back of the restaurant.
The menu is varied and includes: drinks, vegetarian, seafood, Cuban specials, desserts, and the special offer meals for two. I’m a mojito lover, so I went straight for the “special mojito”! Teeming with mint and fresh lime, it was delicious and an absolute bargain at £6.50. I was craving the traditional ropa vieja (shredded beef with onions, garlic, peppers, olives and tomato sauce), so I went for that, and hubby ordered the bistec encebollado (beef sirloin steak with onions, garlic and peppers), both (£12).
While we were waiting for our food to be cooked, a couple of guys came into the restaurant, greeted the chef in Spanish, and proceeded to the “bar” area for a drink and a chat. Several other native Spanish speakers also entered the restaurant and ordered food/drinks and made themselves at home. This was a good sign to us because I always say “it must be good if the ‘natives’ are eating it”! The smells coming from the kitchen were absolutely wonderful, and I couldn’t wait to taste the food. My ropa vieja came with black bean rice and fried plantains, and hubby’s bistec encebollado came with white rice and also fried plantains.
Everything was well cooked and delicious! The ropa vieja was super tender and packed full of Caribbean flavors (salt, sweet, meaty, garlicky); it took me straight back to the Cuban sunshine and crystal blue sea. The black bean rice was seasoned perfectly and worked expertly as a “sopping” device for all the leftover ropa vieja juices. The fried plantains were cooked perfectly; crispy on the outside and slightly soft in the middle, with a touch of sea salt (the best I’ve had yet). Hubby’s bistec encebollado was also very tasty and well seasoned; it didn’t stay on the plate for long, so I know he enjoyed it!
On a side note, they had a hot sauce that I hadn’t tried before, so I was game. If you know anything about me, you know I love a good hot sauce and I’m always up for trying new ones. This one was called Sea Isle Caribbean Extra Hot Pepper Sauce and had the look of a sweet chilli sauce. That’s where the similarities ended however, as it was one of the hottest sauces I’ve ever tried. It was very hot, but also very good; don’t like a hot sauce that’s hot but no flavor.
So there you have it, this girl’s guide to Cafe Cuba in Stokes Croft. If you’re wanting to try something different and up for some Cuban vibes, I’d recommend checking this place out! I for one am extremely grateful that I can find Cuban dishes, including ropa vieja, at a cosy little restaurant nearly 5,000 miles away from its origin; Bristol truly is a food lovers paradise! Until next time hasta luego and muchas gracias Cafe Cuba!