Bar Review: The launch of Asia de Cuba Bar, St Martin’s Lane Hotel in London
‘Barrios chinos’ (Latin American China Towns) rapidly developed alongside the rise of the Chinese immigration predominantly within the 19th century. Accelerating across various countries across South America, these communities introduced a whole new dynamic to cities across the continent, including Cuba. One of the largest, most influential and featuring this contrasting weave of cultures, was Havana, host to one of Latin America’s largest and most established China Towns. Over here in the UK and on St Martin’s Lane in central London; the recently unveiled Asia de Cuba bar opened last week and draws its inspiration directly from the Havana’s Barrios chinos, within the grandeur of the St Martin’s Lane Hotel.
The vibrant flavours of the imaginative menu at Asia de Cuba are prepared by Chef Louis Pous (from Cuba of course). Intertwining his heritage and experience into one, Asia de Cuba focuses on the precision of the fresh ceviche with sugarcane cocktail pairings. A modern day interpretation, Asia de Cuba’s is inspired by the culinary authenticity and interprets this further into a modern menu of today. Utilizing the finest ingredients from across the globe, with a particular focus on rum, Asia de Cuba stocks 51 varieties from across 18 countries, this includes, with the aid of London’s only sugarcane press; an ultimate selection of sugarcane cocktails and some of the London’s most impressive mojitos!
A natural sugar with what is said to hold various health benefits, sugarcane is at the heart of this new bar’s cocktail menu; this also coincides with their collaboration with Havana Club. One of the cocktails to frequent the dynamic menu is their Tocororo Julep, a clever combination of the freshest sugarcane juice you can get; direct from their press, with peach purée & liqueur, a mix of Havana 3yr Rum and the Guarapo, topped innocently with orange juice. To celebrate the launch of this distinctive concept, Asia de Cuba & Havana Club teamed up to host a ceviche and cocktail masterclass. A boozy, rum based evening emphasized the highlights of the exotic Chino-Latino philosophy. Maintaining the exotic blend of only the most premium rums, step by step we were taken through the technique of how the sugarcane is produced on site from the raw cane, into a blend that resembled liquorice or treacle, through the distillery process, and into the rum sat in front of us and found within the fruity cocktail pairings.
‘Crudo de Pescado’ or Cuban ceviche has a very simple method utilizing fresh and fragrant components, traditionally made with olive oil, garlic and lime. Six pairing samples led us through this custom culinary tour, featuring the creative selection that ceviche presents in its modern form. The Shrimp Ceviche was the first to be an example of this creativity, poached shrimp was paired delicately with pickled sweet potato, jalapenos, pickled ginger and of course the lime juice. The meaty shrimp a contrast from the ceviche as we know it was doubled up with their Tocoroco cocktail: a basis of peach liqueur and puree 40ml Seleccion de Maestros. Another to be found at Asia de Cuba is their Calamari Ceviche simply complemented with chilli oil, tomatoes and ginger, again with its appropriate pairing of their Mariposa Fizz; a base of fresh lime, Havana rum, ginger & ginger ale with rose water.
The pairing I would have ordered, or will on our next visit, was their Coconut-Cane & Red Snapper Ceviche. The sugarcane is a refreshing match with the red snapper and the simplicity of the ingredients speak for themselves: Snapper, cilantro (coriander to us), Thai chilli, jalapeno, red onion, lime juice with plantain chips and salt. The Coconut-Cane cocktail was based with 25ml of 3 year old Havana rum, fresh lemon juice, Coco Lopez, Koko Kanu with sugar syrup; another simple recipe adding sweetness to the kick of the chilli.
Asia de Cuba cunningly pulls together the Chino-Latino diversities resulting in the fresh globalisation of flavours. With the new and enhanced cocktail and ceviche paired menu, and recent renovation, Asia de Cuba is a bar and restaurant in the centre of town tailored towards those who are open-minded and with a cultured palate. A team made up of homemade sugarcane, Havana Rum and their collection of zesty ceviche comes together as one to educate and inspire the flavours and heritage of Havana’s Barrios chinos.
Address: Asia de Cuba: 45 St Martin’s Ln, London WC2N 4HX / 020 7300 5588