Walk into Asia de Cuba, in the St Martin's Lane Hotel, and you could be almost anywhere. That is, if anywhere was Milan, Paris or LA. Because Asia de Cuba has that kind of electric, buzzy did-you-see-who-just-walked-in vibe that you hope to find in any of the worlds major cities. This is a place where diners come to be seen, as well as to dine. But primarily to be seen.
The crowd is a mix of the fashion, music and business crowds (those with expense accounts or those lucky enough to not need them). And you would need to feel flush to dine here; the 'sharing style' menu, which encourages diners to order dishes and split them, may work brilliantly when sharing cheap plates of tapas, but here, the starters are all in double figures and the mains can approach £40 pounds. If you have an agreeable dining partner, this isn't an issue, but if you find it hard to agree it can be expensive way to order.
On ELLEuks visit we ate from the newly launched menu, which included octopus (the highlight of the meal), and the coffee-encrusted rib-eye steak, with mandarin orange and gingered sherry butter with yuca mojo fries. The steak was tasty, with a slight bite from the coffee, but the fries, a little similar to potato but with fibrous strands running through it, disappointed. A particular stand-out was the miso black cured cod - if it could perhaps have benefited from a little more endamame fufu, the very generous portion more than made up for it (particularly given that it's designed to share). Seafood features heavily on the rest of the menu, and there's also a ceviche and raw bar on offer. It's definitely worth saving room for desert, though; the chocolate and coffee cake is dainty but large, as is the amazing semifreo, a creamy fruit custard that has no dairy and is suitable for vegans, and wholly delicious. The cuisine is described as Asian and Cuban, but dont expect subtle flavours here; these are bold, flashy dishes that can hold their own with the Starck and Shrager décor and the loud banter of the chic dinner crowd.
The ELLEuk Score
Good for: Pre-theatre; special occasion; first date; romantic
Style of food: Contemporary Cuban meets Asian
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Prices & Other Details at Asia de Cuba
Address: 45 St Martin's Lane, London, WC2N 4HX
Opening times: breakfast 7am-11.30am daily; lunch 12pm-2.30pm daily; dinner Mon-Wed 5.30pm-12am; Thu-Sat 5.30pm-12.30am; Sun 5.30pm-10.30pm
Average price per person for a two-course meal (without wine): £40
Set menu? Pre-theatre £19 (2 course); £25 (3 course)
Price of bottle of house wine: Pinot Grigio Rizzardi, Veneto, £31
Price of glass of house wine: Pinot Grigio Rizzardi, Veneto, £7
Price of a glass of house champagne: Laurent-Perrier, £13
Price of a bottle of house champagne: Feudi di Romans Sauvignon, Friuli £31 or Laurent-Perrier at £57 a bottle
Private dining? No. But group bookings are available
Bar? Yes. The Light Bar is for non-diners, too
Best tables? In one of the raised level booths, overlooking the restaurant
Who goes? Fashion types, models, people in the media and music industries; recently, Caroline Flack and younger squeeze Harry Styles were spotted having an intimate dinner.
Nearest tube/metro station? Leicester Square