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Cube & Star, London N1

Louise Elgin swung her hips to the Latin beat - well almost!

Cube & Star, yes it is a play on words, slightly corny, one could argue, as are the huge black and white photographs of pre-Revolutionary Cuba that adorn the walls of this spacious new restaurant that once was the electricity showrooms in Shoreditch. Yet, after all, Cube & Star’s aim is to introduce to London the Nuevo Latino style of cooking which is all the rage in the States, and this attempt to blend South American and European cooking styles under the banner of Cuban cuisine justifies somewhat the photos on the wall. Music is played loud, in fact a little loud for my taste in the somewhat echoey surroundings, however on the arrival of what must be the best Mojitos in London, (cool, fresh and minty), I had to be restrained from standing up and swivelling my hips to the Latin beat.

To begin, in place of starters, we ordered a selection of tapas from the choice of fifteen on the menu. Fresh calamari came served in tartly spiced tomato and garlic sauce. Aged chorizo sausage cooked in red wine had a wonderful lingering flavour. Salted cod stewed in chickpeas was pleasantly spicy whilst chicken skewers were succulent and spicy, served with a guava bbq sauce. Eight main dishes, including paella suggested more of Spanish than Latin American influence. My guest chose cigar smoked beef tenderloin marinated in guajillo pepper with grilled vegetables. Although he thoroughly enjoyed his choice, the meat being tender and flavoursome from the marinating, he said he could detect no evidence of its cigar smoking in any shape or form! I tried the Cuban chicken served with Spanish saffron rice, plantain, tomatoes and garlic sauce. The dish was moist and tender with a good flavour and came served with a side order of authentic guacamole. A fabulous red wine from Chile, Baron Phillippe Rothschild Escudo Rojo had character, depth and lingering fruity spicy flavours on the palate.

To finish, we shared two puddings from a choice of four. The ‘Cuban smokeless cigar’ turned out to be a very cleverly constructed light chocolate mousse that looked just like the real thing whilst being light in texture and very chocolatey. It was placed on a caramel ashtray and came with a helping of vanilla ice cream. Our other choice, bananas tres leche, was an artistically served plate of flambéed bananas cooked with a delicate orange liqueur, and served with tasty rhubarb compote. This made a light and refreshing end to our meal.

Cube & Star has a young and vibrant atmosphere. The staff are enthusiastic and the kitchen is fully on view to its diners. Our bill at around £50.00 a head including several cocktails seemed fairly priced for a fun night full of Latin promise in this part of town, which is currently uber hip.

Louise Elgin. July 2005.

Tapas from £3.95 Starters from £5.25 Mains from 12.25 Puddings all at £5.50
Wine by the bottle from £11.50 Cocktails from £5.95

Cube & Star 39a Hoxton Square London N1 Tel: 020 7739 8824

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