Thursday, October 04, 2007

Viva Cuba

Wed 3 Oct 2007

After being a bit underwhelmed by La Tasca the other week, we decided to head up to Viva Cuba and see how that compared. Viva Cuba's original restaurant is on Kirkstall Road, but Japanic's demise has led to a city-centre venture.

Viva Cuba is part bar and part restaurant, which does mean that it's quite a noisy place. The music was rather loud and lighting is dim ... this makes it a venue great for groups, or kicking on after a meal, but not so ideal for an awkward first date!

Aside from the loud music, the other thing I don't like about Viva Cuba is the very slender selection of draught beer: Carlsberg, Guinness and Red Stripe. Really - there's just no excuse!

But on to the food! There are no deals at Viva Cuba ... just order what you want from the menu. At La Tasca we ploughed through nine dishes, so we decided to start safely and order just six. Lots of umming, aahing and compromising led to the following selection: tortilla, patatas bravas with chilli, cod cakes, Cuban beans and rice, pork medallions and (as always!) boquerones (white anchovies).

While we waited, we munched some bread and drank our beer and before long, the food arrived! The portions at Viva Cuba are far more generous than those at La Tasca, and our eyes were almost too big for our bellies! The slice of tortilla alone almost would have done the two of us as a starter!

The tortilla was described as 'with spinach' but there was hardly any spinach in it at all - which didn't detract from it, as it was packed with potato and onion and very tasty. The boquerones were soft and moist, their sweetness offset by the vinegar. The cod cakes were delicious - crisp exteriors, not oily or greasy, and soft fishy, potato interiors. The pork medallions with garlic and parsley were perfectly cooked - the thin slices of meat just flash fried so that they retained juices and didn't become tough. The patatas bravas chilli was probably my favourite part of the meal - small pieces of potato, fried up and topped with chilli that was packed with beans. The only dish I didn't particularly like was the Cuban rice and black beans. To be honest, I'm not a big fan of black beans (hmm, perhaps I should have ordered it?!) and there were just a few too many in the dish for me. And that's not actually a flaw in the dish itself - I'm sure plenty of other people would enjoy it immensely!

We ploughed out way through this stack of food and agreed that really, we could have managed with just five dishes. If you've got a small appetite, it might be wise to start with just two dishes per person and more if you need or want to.

The service was good: we were seated promptly, our drink order was taken quickly and the staff were all pleasant, polite and efficient.

And the bottom line came to just £30 ... the same kind of money as La Tasca, but with the bonus that we hadn't ordered from a cut-down menu.

If you're in the market for tapas I'd be heading straight to ¡Viva Cuba!

1. ¡Viva Cuba!, 19 Queen Square, Claypit Lane, Leeds, LS2 8AF, phone: 0113 244 9550

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