Cafe Society: Castronomic treat

The Pope's experienced it - now you can too. New Cuban bars and restaurants are opening up all over London, as Nikki Spencer reports

Arrange to meet your mates in a bar called Havana and you'd better be pretty specific. The current trend for all things Cuban has resulted in two new restaurants opening in as many weeks - Little Havana just off Leicester Square and Havana, opening tonight in Hanover Square. There is already a branch of Havana in Fulham Road and another restaurant owned by the same company, called Cuba, in Kensington High Street.

So what's with the current craze? Steve Bowen, General Manager of Little Havana, who's just returned from a trip to Cuba, reckons it's got a lot to do with the fact that Cubans know how to enjoy themselves. As he says, "You only have to look at the country's two major exports, rum and cigars, and it explains a lot."

A Taste of Cuba

Little Havana 1 Leicester Place, WC2 (0171-287 0101)

Claiming to be London's most authentic new Cuban restaurant and bar, Little Havana is huge. There are two restaurants, the longest bar in Europe (93ft) and another bar devoted purely to cigars. The food is a fusion of Cuban and Caribbean, plus cocktails (Hors Feliz or Happy Hour is 5- 7pm Mon-Fri) and dancing on Thur, Fri, Sat, 11pm-3am.

Havana 17 Hanover Square, W1 (0171-629 2552)

The menu is more Hispanic American than Cuban. Happy Hour 6-8pm. Live music Thur, Fri, Sat.

Havana 490 Fulham Road, London, SW6 (0171-381 5005)

This was the first Havana. Now others are also opening in Manchester and Glasgow.

Cuba 11-13 High Street, Kensington, W8 (0171-938 4137)

Offers a basement club, restaurant and tapas bar.

Cuba Libre 72 Upper Street, N1 (0171-354 9998)

Tapas bar, restaurant and dancing. Not the place for a quiet meal.

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