“It’s 1958 in Cuba, the mojitos are flowing, fine food is in abundance and the show girls are dancing.”
It was a time when Cabaret Quarterly wrote that Havana was “…a mistress of pleasure, the lush and opulent goddess of delights.”
But as rich jetsetters, celebrities and gangsters flew to Cuba to sample a luxurious lifestyle, poverty sat alongside. While socialites partied under silk canopies, seasonal cane workers scraped together a bare bones existence.
“On the horizon…revolution is brewing and Cuba will never be the same again. Join us at El Patio de Cuba to be part of this amazing story.”
El Patio de Cuba in Chevron Renaissance, owned by Harley Amies, whose family also owns the successful Cuban Bar & Lounge Dining in Broadbeach (opened in 2012), invites you to travel back to the pre-revolution party era of Cuba’s ’50s before Che Guevara, Fidel Castro and the Bay of Pigs invasion; a time when Cuba was at its most glamorous and decadent.
“When we moved to the Gold Coast six years ago, we noticed a sameness in the restaurants,” Harley tells us. “We wanted to bring some warmth, welcoming guests, and sharing the experience of Cuban food which we love. We travelled around the Caribbean and South America quite a bit and were really impressed with Cuban hospitality and cuisine.”
While it’s the cigars and music of Cuba that are most familiar to us, El Patio de Cuba brings us a glimpse of its food and drink. There may only be music playing on weekends, but the flavour inspiration is certainly Cuban. From an island nation that is a melting pot of cultures, Cuban cuisine shows off an eclectic mix of Spanish, North African and Caribbean elements including slow-cooked meat and seafood with garlic, cumin, roasted tomato, onion and capsicum with olive oil. Black beans, rice, lime, plantains and yucca also feature on the menu.
It’s the trendy Spanish Josper charcoal oven, the first of its kind on the Gold Coast, that sets El Patio de Cuba apart. The star of the kitchen, it’s a replication of a heritage wood fire oven combined with modern technology, it smokes, grills, roasts and pan fries up to 500 degrees. The unique flavours gained through cooking over charcoal cannot be replicated. So many dishes are cooked in this oven that it even has its own menu! Taste its presence once, and you’ll wish every dish was cooked this way!
The Paella Cuban is served in its own pan with roast chicken and chorizo, prawns and calamari tossed with saffron rice, sweetcorn and black beans – simply delicious! The lingering tendrils of smoky flavour are especially evident in the paella, seafood, chorizo and steak, giving additional depth and dimension.
Many Cuban favourites are on the menu: Luscious fresh salmon ceviche with capsicum and citrus; Mojito char-grilled free-range chicken marinated in lime, mint and rum; Ropa Vieja (literally old clothes, or ‘coloured rags’) – slow cooked shredded beef with garlic, capsicum, red wine and spices served with sweetcorn and black bean rice; and Churassco with fried plantains and chimichurri, all skillfully presented to please the eye.
As delicious as the food is, El Patio de Cuba delves into Cuban decadence the most with its cocktails. Choose from 72 Caribbean and Cuban rums, or an awesome list of cocktails, ably prepared by mixologist/barman Sofiane Rafei. Mojitos, daiquiris, cosmos… their names are as interesting as were the times: Myers Millions, Fidel’s Rebels and Old Cuba – they’re elegantly larger than life in huge crystal glasses to be savoured. These are some classy dames!
Sofiane makes us a Smoked old-fashioned, the smooth richness of Diplomatica Reserva Rum mixed with orange zest and orange bitters in a maple-smoked glass; a hypnotic multi-sensory experience!
We finish with a Spanish Café con leche; single origin coffee, milk and demerara sugar served separately to be mixed as you desire.
The inside of El Patio de Cuba is ambient and elegant. Outside, we’re more aware of being in a shopping precinct with tourists trudging past, tired from a day at the shops.
Meanwhile, we’re partying. Pick your night when the music is playing, put on your dancing shoes and join in with the spirit of Cuba. You will get a warm welcome, a Cuban cocktail of flavours in this delicious food,accompanied by some mighty fine rums.
Chevron Renaissance Shopping Centre, 3240 Surfers Paradise Blvd., Surfers Paradise Ph: 07 5538 3099 Open daily 11am – late.
NOTE: Parking’s usually plentiful downstairs, with the first two hours free. Good Food Gold Coast dined as guests of El Patio de Cuba.
Photo of Josper oven credited to El Patio de Cuba. This is an updated review, first published in Nov. 2016.