Havana Nights / Hg2 RESTAURANT REVIEW

Expectations were high for Floridita when it opened at 100 Wardour Street on the former site of Mezzo, a Conran restaurant that once claimed the title of the largest restaurant in London. Six years down the line, expectations have been exceeded with a beautiful basement setting that makes stylish use of the space with deep reds, sexy blacks, pristine white leather, electric neon signs and dazzling crystal chandeliers; indeed, favela chic at its most fabulous. Split into separate sections for eating and drinking – including Bar Constante, a private members’ area – the space is buzzing every night of the week, including the Wednesday Hg2 reviewed on.

Shown down the curved staircase and into a prime spot beside the stage, the staff was amicable and eager to please. We were told the music would start at 8.30pm, and were encouraged to stay after dinner and party with the best of ’em. Clearly, the music at Floridita is pivotal to the experience, so we agreed.

The food itself spotlights traditional Cuban and Latin American favourites, with empanadas, quesadillas, barbecued meats and grilled seafood making up the varied menu. It’s all quite heavy – particularly if you’re planning on dancing afterwards – but tempting, nevertheless. For starters we were torn between a number of dishes – such as the spicy black bean soup, chilean empanadas and cerviche – but eventually settled for stuffed piquillo peppers and chorizo picante. Big ticks for both. Mains were more simple, with one of us having the churrasco – barbecued lamb, pico de gallo, guacamole and warm flat bread – and the other opting for a 10-oz Brazilian-cut picanha steak, cooked medium-rare and ordered with sautéed filed mushrooms, garlic and spizy chorizo. Despite being relatively simple dishes, both were cooked extremely well and presented with South American flare. Wrapping things up nicely was a shared slice of guanaja chocolate, whose warm spices of nutmeg and ginger were welcome on such a cold night.

As promised, the resident Floridita All-Stars band came on at 8.30pm and combined exotic Latin rhythms with funk and soul to get the dance floor heaving within minutes. But after two of the bar’s signature mojitos – made with Havana Club Anejo Blanco and churned with mint, fresh lime and sugar syrup – we were in no stable state to join.

In short, Floridita offers a lively supper club-style experience that wears its heart on its sleeve; it’s bright, it’s brash and it’s very, very big, but it knows what it is and champions South American flavour oh-so well. And with the appointment of new Michelin-starred head chef Richard Sawyer in December – having trained at The Connaught, no less – Floridita is only going to get better. We, for one, can’t wait to see it blossom.
SITE: floridita.co.uk/london/
Buy Hg2 London here

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