Asia de Cuba at the St Martins Lane hotel has always been in the restaurant section of mine. The name itself oozes an exotic fusion I’ve never experienced anywhere else. And every time I hear someone mention it, they say ‘ you’ve got to go,’ with an extremely enthusiastic emphasis on the ‘got’.
So before anyone else could tell me how great this Covent Garden venue is, I went along myself to Asia de Cuba’s ‘Brunch Party’.
The event, which runs on the first Sunday of every month isn’t brunch in the traditional eggs and bacon sense, oh no. While this five star hotel restaurant does offers an impressive-sounding breakfast, Asia de Cuba’s Brunch Party is a condensed version of their a la carte evening menu, with an emphasis on Dim Sum and the ethos of sharing.
I was excited from the moment I stepped inside the hotel’s lobby. From giant chess pieces to garden gnome seats and oversized vases, it’s like stepping into the Tate Modern.
A few steps in and the split-level set up of Asia de Cuba gets even chicer.
Against the white linen table clothes and light pine furnishings are a series of wide circular pillars displaying a range of artistic arrangements. From beautiful hardback books and retro-looking gadgets to ivy-filled plant pots and a hotch potch of black and white Cuban photography, it certainly makes an impact.
That, alongside the network of low-hanging bare light-bulbs and I was already day-dreaming of how I could emulate the ‘Asia de Cuba’ look in our own apartment.
Ambience wise, the restaurant nails it too. As part of the ‘Sunday Brunch’ vibe, they had a fabulous Cuban three-piece band called Son Yambu who transport you straight to the sunny climes of Cuba.
Soon, with a cocktail in hand and a high energy beaming around the room, I could understand why one couple felt the urge to throw down their napkins and break into a salsa.
Speaking of the cocktails, they were exotic, powerful and deserve a review in themselves. But as that’s not possible, I’ll tell you this: the spiced mango and chili Caipirinha was the most punchy, sweet and sour mix of flavours I’ve tasted in a drink. And the ‘Spiced Mango’ deserves a mention too. A tangy mix of basil sugar, chilli and lime with a blend of Chinese pear infused Sake, it complimented the meal perfectly.
Like the cocktails, the ceviche tasting platter, which came in the form of four Asian-inspired marinades, managed to hit about every single tastebud we had.
With a lemony tang, crunch of coriander seeds and nutty curry-like flavours, the Kingfish and passion fruit was a hit. The Vietnamese prawn, snapper and confit watermelon was a fruity concoction. And the way the coconut and japaleno kick was extinguished by the juicy watermelon had us chop-stick fighting for more.
While the Scottish salmon was a smoother, coconut infused creation with a ‘cooling effect’ from the avocado helado (ice cream), the grouper, Seville orange and Aji Amarillo possibly topped them all. The peppery heat of the Aji Amarillo, (a South American yellow chilli pepper) contrasted amazingly with the zesty orange and texture of sesame seeds. It was like eating sour popping candy.
A fried calamari salad followed mixed with crunchy cashews, banana infused dressing and freshly squeezed lime, I could have devoured this alone. The Thai beef salad featured the carpaccio beef so tender it melted in the mouth and was beautifully offset by tangy orange and creamy avocado.
Next our tower of Dim Sum baskets arrived and the creativity didn’t stop there.
I was initially skeptical of the Cuban pork-stuffed baby calamari. But the delicious combination of herby meaty flavours and a smooth calamari texture caught me by surprise.
The intense flavours of the oxtail and kimchee dumpling didn’t quite do it for me, but the tiger prawn potstickers – topped with plantain – were pretty good. While the pot roast pork belly buns weren’t as soft and squashy as I’d hoped, the lobster chive and coriander shu mai really nailed it. Dunking them in a selection of soy, chilli and mango sauces, we were like two cats that got the cream.
Amazingly, we somehow found room for dessert in the shape of brioche donuts and a Cuban coffee brownie.
With Kahlua glaze and fudge brownie ice cream the brownie was sticky and moreish. And the butterscotch sauce made the brioche donuts taste devine.
To say that we indulged at Asia de Cuba would be an understatement.
For a five star brunch that takes chic, fusion dining to another level, well, what can I say? You’ve just got to go.
Asia de Cuba, St Martins Lane Hotel, 45 St Martins Lane, London, WC2N 4HX, 020 7300 5588