Cuba & Costa Rica Blog
About this blog
Written by Cuba and Costa Rica expert Christopher P. Baker, this blog will update readers on life in these two diverse and exciting countries.
- Last blog post on Costa Rica and Cuba
- First-ever group motorcycle tours of Cuba successful
- Cuba’s Mariel port readying for Panama Canal expansion
- Musings on wildlife encounters on Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula
- Cuba’s Steam Trains puffing their last gasp
- My top five thrilling activities in Costa Rica
- Cuba’s fun February festivals include Harleys, Books, Cigars
- Five top volcano viewing experiences in Costa Rica
- New road along Costa Rica / Nicaraguan border mired
- Cuba’s Hotel Campoamor at Cojímar to be restored?
- Cuban revolutionary Celia Sánchez honored in new book
- Christmas challenge for Costa Rica’s sexually abused girls
- Costa Rica opens Chinatown in downtown San José
- David Soul films Hemingway’s car restoration in Cuba
- National Geographic Expeditions receives license for Cuba tours
Havana's top paladar draws Hollywood's finest
Two of my favorite paladares (private restaurants)–Le Chansonnier and Hurón Azul–in Havana were recently closed down by Cuban authorities, leaving barely 30 remaining throughout the city. Of these, only half a dozen are worth crossing town for. And outshining all others by a wide margin is La Guarida (Concordia #418, e/ Gervasio y Escobar, Centro Habana, tel. 07/862-4940 or 264-4940; daily noon-4 p.m. and 7 p.m.-midnight).
On the third floor of a once glamorous, now dilapidated, 18th-century townhouse-turned-crowded ciudadela (tenement), its setting is as remarkable as the restaurant itself. Don't be put off by the near-derelict staircase, lent an operatic stage-set air by hanging laundry and the headless marble bust at the base of the stairs.
The place is ostensibly run jointly with the Ministry of Culture, explaining why there are vastly more seats than the officially permitted 12 for paladares (the owners deny the association, but this restaurant can only survive with official, or illicit, backing).
Owners Enrique and Odeysis Nu z serve up such treats as gazpacho (CUC4) and tartar de atun (CUC6) for starters; and tuna with sugarcane and coconut (CUC13), chicken breast with pepper sauce (CUC12), and desserts such as lemon pie (CUC5). The couple knows how to make their food dance, although quality is far from consistent and there are some duds (the Caesar salad needs work). It has a large wine list, but only house wine by the glass (CUC3).
The walls are festooned with period Cuban pieces and giant prints showing fashion shoots on the crumbling stairway plus famous personages who've dined here, from Jack Nicholson to Jody Foster and the Queen of Spain. In fact, you may recognize it as a setting for scenes in the Oscar-nominated 1995 movie Fresa y Chocolate.
La Guarida is usually jam-packed with diplomats, foreign businessmen, glamorous models, and perhaps even a sprinkling of Hollywood figures.
Dining here ranks right up there with the Tropicana and a visit to the Partagas cigar factory as a de rigueur experience on any trip to Havana. Reservations are essential. It's usually closed June-July.