REVIEW: The Secret Cuban Paladar
By Claire Dupree on July 26, 2012 in Food
A paladar is the popular name given to a small, family-run, private-owned restaurant in Cuba. Usually limited to a maximum of 12 seats, the paladares are known for the authenticity of their food and their reasonable prices.
You might think that Tyneside isn’t exactly a hotbed of Cuban cuisine, but you’d be wrong. Tucked away in a secret location, the Galbraithe family are running a secret restaurant, producing home-cooked Cuban specialities for paying customers.
But no! Wait! This isn’t an expose on illegal restaurants, it’s EAT! Festival, and the Cuban Paladar is a highlight of this annual event.
My dining partner and I turn up, pre-approved cans of Heineken in hand, at the appointed house five minutes early. We dither for several minutes over whether to take a gift – Come Dine With Me style – and end up with a slightly worse-for-wear bunch of carnations from the local shop. It seems that we made the right choice, our host waves us past the bottles of wine and bunches of flowers collected at the door, and into their living room where a group of people already reside.
Our co-diners were all of a similar ilk, well-travelled and with a passion for food. Most people had been to a Paladar before, although not everyone had eaten Cuban food. One of our hosts spent some time telling us about her country: the customs, food, attitudes and people of Cuba, which was insightful and helped lend context to the night ahead.
We were eased in with canapés of deep fried plantain served with two dips – the chilli and coriander one particularly tasty. We’re then ushered into the kitchen-cum-diner where our hosts have laid out a feast of dishes.
We sample roast pork in garlic, lemon and cumin, with crackling crispy enough to break teeth, a delicious Cuban-style hash – essentially mince with vegetables and a spicy kick. Our host tell us cumin is a Cuban staple, as are the black bean stew and white rice side dishes. The sweetcorn fritters were so delicious I went back for thirds, and the tomato and avocado salad refreshed the palette.
Dessert was a super-sweet crème caramel with coconut – a special family recipe – and a cheese board served with guava paste, comparable to quince, but a lot sweeter.
The dinner conversation centred largely around travel and food – as you might expect, given the reason we were all here. And, thankfully our fears that we may end up in a nightmare of World-Food-Come-Dine-With-Me-On-Tyneside were totally unfounded. Everyone was lovely, our hosts continually kept our glasses filled and our plates full. Overall, a fascinating experience, and one I’ll definitely be repeating at next year’s EAT! Festival.
- Secret Restaurants at ¡VAMOS! Festival