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Cuba Travel Guide

James Suckling
From the Print Edition:
Cuba, May/June 2007

(continued from page 6)

This is one of the nicest places in Havana for lunch, sitting outside on the terrace overlooking the harbor of the city next to the cruise ship terminal. Lots of fresh seafood is on offer, from snapper to lobster, and it's prepared various ways, from simply grilled to sautéed in olive oil and garlic. The standard Cuban side dishes are available. Good wine list.

El Palenque
Calle 17 y 190
Tel.: (7) 271-8167
Every day, lunch and dinner; cash only

When I am in Havana I always go here for lunch for the good, hearty simple, food and fun atmosphere. Located near the Palacio de Convenciones, it's the sort of place where you rub shoulders with everyone from diplomats to taxi drivers. The dining area is right next to the car park under open-air, palm-leaf-roofed buildings. Order something off the outdoor barbecue, like ribs or pressed chicken.

La Bodeguita del Medio
Empedrado, No. 207
La Habana Vieja
Tel.: (7) 867-1374, 757-1375
Every day, lunch and dinner; Visa; reservations needed

OK, it's full of tourists. And the bar can be very loud. But it's fun. Relax and enjoy a simple lunch or dinner of grilled fish or roasted pork with plenty of black beans and rice. Hemingway was said to drink his Mojitos here. But apparently it may not be true. Who cares? He should have drunk them here and you can too.

La Fontana
Calle 3 A, No. 305
Esquina 46
Tel.: (7) 202-8337
Monday to Sunday, lunch and dinner; cash only

The restaurant has been inconsistent at times, but it is currently getting it very right. The main courses of grilled meats and fish are good, like many places in Havana, but the starters are exceptional, from tender grilled octopus to spicy homemade sausages as well as sautéed garbanzo beans with tomatoes and smoked ham. Eating outside on the patio is a treat, but it's cooler, in both senses of the word, to eat in the air-conditioned bar. Good bottles of Torres are available, both from Spain and Chile.

Havana's Cigar Shops
The Cuban capital has some of the world's best cigar emporiums, with great selection and service

Havana is the cigar mecca of the world and its unofficial guru is cigar merchant Enrique Mons. The 64-year-old has been selling cigars in the capital for close to two decades. He opened the first fine cigar shop in the city in 1990 after spending 18 years as head of quality control for the export company for Cuban cigars, then known as Cubatabaco.

"Back then I traveled frequently to Europe and I could see how well the cigars were kept at the stores," he says, smoking a lonsdale that a roller in his shop had made a few minutes before. His current store is located in the Club Havana in Miramar, an opulent area in the southern part of the city. "I always thought that Cuba, being the best producer of cigars in the world, that we should also be able to keep [and sell] our cigars with the same care that was done elsewhere in the world.

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