I can safely say I’ve eaten in many strange a place in my time. Actually I tend to seek them out, these interesting places to eat; be it a farm, a castle, a treehouse, a boat, a spaceship, the moon.
I’d heard of El Cocinero through a friend, and had seen it mentioned online, and my interest only grew when I read that it found its home in an old cooking oil factory, complete with chimneys that rise above the city like cathedral spires. Right next door but also a part of this building is Havana’s art scene’s most recent masterpiece; la Fabrica de Arte Cubano, a cultural explosion of art exhibitions, live music, cocktails and fashion shows. So it was evident that we were to combine the evening and enjoy some of Havana’s modern culture.
El Cocinero’s rooftop terrace is everything you might wish for on a warm late afternoon, shaded from the last heat of the day yet with sprawling views of the city’s rooftops. We arrived early to ensure a table and get a nice view of the sunset, and indulged in maybe one too many espresso martini’s, which really should be an essential on any dinner table in my book. Salt, pepper, oil, vinegar, hot sauce, Espresso Martini, thanks. Scratch that – Espresso Martini comes first, always.
The restaurant has a great feature for those keen to come only to sample from their great cocktail list – a spiral outdoor staircase will take you to a higher platform attached to the chimney spire. Inside the spire is a small bar where you can order your desired poison and enjoy it whilst overlooking not only the view this time, but the diners down below (just don’t laugh so hard that you spit your drink out – no one wants a tequila shower. Do they?)
We were in the mood for tapas as, by then, we were definitely a lot more excited about life than a martini ago, and getting our own meals was out of the question. Must taste as much as possible! We tried the trio of tacos – homemade crunchy taco shells filled with chicken, beef and pulled pork which were lovely. We also opted for some classic Spanish tapas – Patatas Bravas and croquetas (vegetable) – and for dessert, a chocolate tart. Truly great meal and wonderful staff, we ended up staying so much later than we planned just eating and drinking.
Eventually it was time to venture next door to the Fabrica del Arte Cubano which unfortunately I could not get many pictures of as it was very dark and I was sick of taking my camera out. After paying your entry of 2cuc (about 2EUR), you were immediately lost in a maze of artworks. Around every corner, you could find a small bar, a coffeeshop, a band busting out smooth jazz that swayed you this way and that, and upstairs a sizeable fashion show. It’s a slightly surreal experience, with so much cuban culture under one roof.
This was one of our best nights during the trip and we left the venue with our heads and hearts full of Havana.