Renfield Street on a dull and overcast Friday in August feels a million miles from the colour and vibrancy of downtown Havana. But in selecting a former opticians on the ground floor of Culzean House for their first Cuban-themed Glasgow outing, Revolution Group have kept it inadvertently authentic. This fume-choked artery running north to south through the city is one of the main bus routes out of the city and effectively communicates the grimy reality of Cuba’s capital. Some things are better left to the imagination.
The location isn’t all bad. You’re a 2 minute dander from Central Station and those pesky buses roll past the entrance with grim regularity. Once inside you’re treated to an exercise in bad chain restaurant design: pillars are left unfinished and bare, industrial power tracks hang ominously overhead, and the entire ceiling is punctuated with randomly placed light fittings. On the ground we have mismatched seating and a floor that alternates between polished wood and tiles. The strategy seems to be to throw everything at the place and hope the end result is funky and eclectic. Sadly it’s neither and the impression I’m left with is that of a jarringly contrived mess. If there’s a saving grace it’s the bar. Here the industrial design, exposed brick and jaunty light fittings work well to create a bar that feels made for sitting at.
Revolucion de Cuba tries very hard to establish its Cuban credentials. The decor may be clumsy, but it’s very obviously trying to evoke a world-worn Havana dance hall. Sadly the menu is a jumble of straight up Tex-Mex mixed with Spanish and Caribbean influences. The word Cuban prefixes many dishes but none stand up to any scrutiny. A “Cuban” cheeseburger is topped with Spanish Manchego cheese, and Mexico is represented in the form of burritos, enchiladas, fajitas and tacos. “Eat the Cuban way!” insists the menu, above a selection of sandwiches that includes a halloumi wrap but not, scandalously, an actual Cuban sandwich. That famous hot-pressed, Cuban-American creation would be the least you’d expect here, but it’s lamentably absent. Instead you can have such Cuban staples as jerk chicken, Caribbean curry and Cajun cream mushrooms.
The menu may not offer authentic Cuban cuisine, but it does offer a variety of options depending on your budget and how hungry you are. For £6 you can choose from their “Fast and Fresh” menu, a selection of 4 dishes that, at the time of writing, comprises a pulled pork sandwich, chicken fajita sandwich, halloumi wrap or a chicken burrito bowl. Small plates are available at £13 for 3, there are large plates priced between £10 and £17 as well as the sandwich selection mentioned above. When in Rome do as the Mexicans do, so I ordered shredded pork tacos and a side of halloumi fries, whereas my dining companion went full Cuban and ordered the eponymous burger.
The tacos arrived in their own special little stand looking a bit underwhelming. I couldn’t see any sign of the promised sweetcorn salsa and what greenery there was had seen better days. That said, it made for a decent bite of food. The pork was tender and full of spicy flavour and the cabbage lent it some texture. However, the unidentified creamy dressing was unpleasantly cloying. This was to be my first experience of halloumi fries and I’m very much on the fence. They were crisp and salty and initially very moreish, but as I took the last bite I was grateful for the small portion size. My friend’s Cuban cheeseburger was thick, juicy and well seasoned. The promised melted cheese was present and correct as was the “rum mayo” which had a pleasantly spicy if not particularly alcoholic kick to it. So a good but unspectacular burger and nothing you couldn’t have in a dozen places within a 2 minute walk.
When done well, Cuban food is fantastic and it’s a real shame that there’s very little of it to be found at Revolucion de Cuba. Maybe a mostly empty restaurant on a Friday afternoon isn’t the best time to judge them, but based on this lunch trip I wouldn’t bother coming back for the full evening experience. Our bill came to £26.50. As I left I could only think on how much better that money could have been spent.
Revolucion de Cuba
28-36 Renfield St
0141 404 0410
Lack of genuine Cuban food
Very ordinary tacos