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La Guarida: A Visit to the Finest Restaurant in Havana

La Guarida: A Visit to the Finest Restaurant in Havana

Posted by PanamericanWorld on July 31, 2015

La Guarida, according to specialized opinions, is the best paladar (private restaurant) in Cuba. The populous Havana neighborhood where it’s based has been visited by a significant number of international figures from art and politics realms, ranging from monarchs to Hollywood stars. PanamericanWorld proposes an approach to this emblematic place on the Caribbean Island, so you can discover five reasons that make so many famous people come to this place to have dinner.

Location. The restaurant is nestled in the third floor of a majestic mansion that dates back to the early 20th century, which is also known as Camagüey Mansion, in Central Havana, a typical neighborhood of the Cuban capital city. The century-old property, which is in decadence, is a building that houses several families. Discovering this architectural gem and the way people live in Cuba, without makeup, are some of the main attractions for visitors. Many of the patrons, before going up to the luxurious restaurant, interact with neighbors of the place that gather to chat and play domino at the common area.

One of the main halls of the restaurant, with plentiful and eclectic decoration. Picture: Nadia Herrada Hidalgo

Gastronomic offer and quality service. When La Guarida first opened its doors, back in July 1996, the menu of many restaurants was repetitive and unoriginal. So, Enrique Nuñez, who owns the place along with his wife, decided to include the nouvelle cuisine concept in order to mix tastes from different countries and refine the decoration of traditional Cuban dishes. That’s the reason why there are 15 specialized cooks in each shift, who are always trying new things in a bid to offer diners original proposals. Such dishes as sea bream ceviche, tuna tartar and caimanera wreck fish have been present on the menu since day one because of the great demand among patrons.

Enrique Nuñez, owner of La Guarida. Picture: Nadia Herrada Hidalgo

Visit by famous people. La Guarida was initially an anonymous place, where service was only provided to foreign entrepreneurs and members of the diplomatic corps in Cuba, until the restaurant was visited by Spanish Queen Sofia, in November 1999. This development made the media focus its attention on the place that had been visited by such illustrious figure. Ever since, it has welcomed other celebrities. The list is huge, but it’s important to underline such names as Prince Albert, from Monaco; Roberta Jacobson, present Undersecretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, as well as other US senators and congressmen, and former presidents from several countries. Moreover, La Guarida has served dinner for such outstanding names of the computers and new technologies world as Peter Norton and Eric Schmidt; Hollywood stars like Steven Spielberg, Jack Nicholson and Jodie Foster; prestigious musicians as Sting, Beyonce and Jay Z, and many others. This was also one of the locations recently chosen by famous photographer Annie Liebovitz to have a photographic session with Rihanna in Cuba.

The classic atmosphere blends with sophistication touches. Picture: Nadia Herrada Hidalgo

Shooting of Fresa y Chocolate movie. Prizewinning Cuban movie Fresa y Chocolate (Strawberry and Chocolate) was filmed in this stage by directors Tomas Gutierrez Alea and Juan Carlos Tabio. After the international success of the film that promotes the reflection on the intolerance and lack of understanding related to everything that entails being and thinking different, many have come from different countries to learn more about the “hideout” of Diego, the main character of the movie. When those people started visiting the house located in Concordia Street No. 418, they found the home of a common Cuban family. So, in order to keep the story behind fiction alive, Mr. Nuñez decided to open the restaurant, where he recovered and enriched the decoration of the movie, so enthusiasts could stand in the stage of this movie, which was nominated to the Oscar Awards.

Many of the patrons, before going up to the luxurious restaurant, interact with neighbors of the place that gather to chat and play domino at the common area. Picture: Nadia Herrada Hidalgo

1950s atmosphere. Having dinner in La Guarida is like attending a staging. The experience goes way beyond food and you’re never indifferent, Mr. Nuñez explains, based on opinions aired by customers. It’s like living back in the 1950s. The atmosphere is exquisite here, the light is faint and tablecloths and napkins are white, with fine embroidery. Precious wood furniture, glasses, dishes and pieces of cutlery made of nickel silver from the 1950s put a special touch on the table. Ancient artworks are accompanied by pieces created by outstanding Cuban contemporary artists, so the place is also a sort of gallery. Dinner is livened up by such representatives of traditional Cuban music as Bola de Nieve, Ernesto Lecuona and Rita Montaner, among others.

Article written by Nadia Herrada Hidalgo

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