Another weekend, another bottomless brunch. I wasn’t sure what to make of the name except that Asia de Cuba sounded suitably exotic, which seemed appropriate for a brunch double date with our good friends Mr and Mrs P who love to travel.
Your first challenge is finding the restaurant – also your first clue that it’s too trendy for its own good. It waits in the unmarked St Martin’s Lane Hotel, in the far left hand corner of the painfully minimalist lobby. The hotel receptionist gestured us towards it with a sigh that said, ‘I have to do this 20 times a day just put a goddamn sign up’.
From the look of the lobby I’d thought the restaurant might be similarly harshly decorated but I was pleased to find a cheerful dining room with splashes of my favourite colour yellow and bright Asian/Cuban fusion style posters on the wall that I was quite coveting for my flat. I also have a thing for well-stacked bookshelves so enjoyed the view from my seat.
The star of the show then introduced herself – our server Vicky. She took us through the options from normal to cocktail to champagne brunch, and we opted for the middling ground of the set food menu and unlimited cocktails for £48. The mark up to the champagne option at £70 seemed too high. You can choose from Mojitos, Mimosas, Bellinis or bespoke Bloody Marys that you can go to the bar and mix to your liking (though we were too lazy for the last option!).
We began with a round of vivid yellow mimosas as the sharing ‘starters’ came out. Plantain and malanga chips with black bean hummus were the first items to appear (and promptly disappear), and before we knew it Vicky was back to bring us drinks round two. So far so good.
Next came ceviche, which was probably my favourite dish as it had such freshness and zing from the lime and chilli that it almost made me wince. But in a good way. And yet again Vicky was on hand to take our next drinks order.
The remaining starters then arrived altogether, presented in a cigar box between two to share. I have to say that this is where the Latin American fusion element fell down as sadly none of these items stood out for me and the novelty presentation was probably the best part. Oh and the dips. Otherwise the shrimp churros were just ok, and the chicken chicharrones and mini Cuban sandwiches quite bland (hence overuse of the dips). At some point we switched from mimosas to peach bellinis which helped to distract us from the fact that these starters weren’t amazing.
We each got to choose one main course from the a la carte menu, which ranged from my simple and wholly satisfying choice of poached eggs, smoked salmon and smashed avocado on toast, all the way to my very own Mr K’s more ambitious choice of duck confit and waffles. By this point waitress Vicky seemed to have thrown her only-take-another-drinks-order-when-the-glass-is-empty rule to the wind and was basically racking them up for us. Now Mrs P gets happy after two drinks so was having great fun by this point, as were the rest of us for that matter. Cue plenty of giggles, most of them at the expense of Mr P’s impressively grown out beard.
We needed a time out after the main course as it had all gotten a bit heavy, especially as the starters (ceviche aside) were all quite stodgy. But we eventually told the lovely Vicky that we were ready for the dessert course of Mexican donuts. Which are filled with either chocolate or caramel sauce (we ordered a plate of each). And are also bottomless!
They were delicious, oozy and thankfully not overly sweet, but we were just too full by this point to make very good use of the unlimited factor. I think we managed to get through one round then ordered a second which just sat there for another half an hour as we chatted and finished drinks. It was nice that they didn’t hurry us up and I found the atmosphere pleasingly relaxed for such a high end place. I think we got a little extra pouring time on the cocktails beyond the stated two hours too. I could have hugged Vicky by the end she was so damn friendly (and yes it helped that she was seriously generous with the drinks).
A final reality check (or should I say reality cheque… badam-bam-tssssh!) came with the bill which had an itemised list of just how many cocktails we’d consumed. I’m going to claim it was entirely made up though. Erm everything in moderation kids!
Overall the food was plentiful but nothing special, which is probably well disguised with a bottomless brunch. It did show that this place is expensive for what it is, but the pretty setting and impeccable service made for some very stuffed and happy patrons which means I’d probably still keep this in mind as a group brunch option.
Asia de Cuba, 45 St Martin’s Lane, London WC2N 4HX