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Guide to Havana

By Charles Runnette

This story originally appeared in the July/August 2017 issue of Elite Traveler.

With hundreds of beautiful candy-colored 1950s Dodge and DeSoto finned sedans circling the architecturally stunning heart of the city, Havana is otherworldly. It feels as though you’ve been dropped into a movie set about an alternate time—one where nothing was built after 1959 and credit cards were never invented. Havana’s dreamy time-warp quality won’t last forever, but Cuba is in no rush to do anything, let alone restyle itself as the next Miami. The US government relaxed the travel ban in 2015, and there is only a sprinkling of new developments, such as the June 2017 opening of the island’s first five-star hotel since the 1950s.

Places to Have…

A light meal alfresco
MAR ADENTRO

Opened in May 2017, this modern Mediterranean restaurant has a breezy, sexy Miami feel to it (in the best sense), with an open front area where you can hear the crashing waves in the distance. The Cubans will tell you to get the meat dishes, but fish is the way to go, particularly the shrimp and lobster. The delicious chicken salad in a parmesan bowl is unlike anything else you’ll find in Cuba.

+53 78 332 060

Best mojito and organic meal
OTRAMANERA

Spanish-Cuban couple, Álvaro Díez and Amy Torralbas created a beautiful, sophisticated restaurant and bar compound that’s one of the jewels of Havana. Álvaro, a sommelier at three-Michelin-starred Catalan restaurant elBulli, and Amy, a Cuban artist, combined their tastes to make the most tempting paladar in the city, with a Cuban-Spanish menu using produce from local organic farms. The outdoor bar in the garden has the best mojitos you’ll have in Cuba.

+53 72 038 315, otramaneralahabana.com

Dinner in the Centro
MAS HABANA

The city is getting so chic with gringos that the paladars popularized by the visits of Beyoncé and President Obama are now overrun, and the food at many of the most famous has suffered. Try at your own peril or opt for delicious fresh fare in a modern setting near the heart of the old city. Private chef Renier Perez—who sometime caters for Pamela Ruiz (see To Do)—and his wife have just opened up this restaurant that has everything from a delicious steamed fish with the sauce of your choice to spaghetti with light Cuban sauces, to a perfectly cooked filet mignon and even teriyaki samosas. It’s an antidote to heavy Cuban food that you may need after a day or so.

+53 78 643 227