EATING OUT: Is this the best tapas in Sheffield?
Sheffield city centre isn't exactly awash with independent restaurants - especially those which have stood the test of time.
Having opened some 17 years ago Cubana is one of those rare exceptions.
Not only is this restaurant and bar - which fuses Spanish inspired tapas with a Cuban and Latin vibe - still standing after all these years, it is flourishing.
Originally located on Trippet Lane, Cubana moved to its current premises in Leopold Square three years ago.
And earlier this year Erkland Xhaja was installed as the restaurant’s new head chef having worked under the command on his predecessor Fabian Cruz for 13 years.
Cubana director and co-owner Adrian Bagnoli says the venue’s success is down to a number of factors.
“We started Cubana 17 years ago at a time when there weren’t really any other tapas places in Sheffield.
“It was a new thing and we decided to tie in the Spanish theme with the Latin concept and Cuban vibe.
“I think our success is down to being a niche and being able to offer something which no one else does.
“We offer the complete package. People can eat here, drink, listen to live music and dance away until 2am without having to leave the building.”
Adrian adds that Cubana’s success wouldn’t have been possible without its ‘special’ staff.
“Being part of our staff is like being part of a family.
“Each of them bring a special quality to the team.
“Myself and my business partner Brad pay a lot of attention to detail and we pick up little ideas all the time and are constantly seeking to improve things.”
When Cubana first opened there were around 20 tapas dishes on the menu, but now that has more than doubled.
“We don’t change the menu a great deal because there are already a lot of dishes on there,” says Adrian.
“The recent change to the menu was the first we’d made in the three years since we have been in Leopold Square. And even then we only changed about 10 dishes.
“Tapas is a great way of socialising - people sharing and eating together and talking about the food.”
As well as serving up tasty plates of food Cubana also prides itself on its impressive selection of 164 rums.
Adrian adds that they are planning on taking that tally past the 200 mark within the next few weeks as the team continue to strive to improve the Cubana experience.
“We are proud to be in this beautiful square and flying the independent flag,” says Adrian.
Our dinner date at Cubana was an early evening, pre-theatre meal affair ahead of a night at the Lyceum.
I am sometimes apprehensive about eating out as early as 6pm because more often than not the atmosphere can be decidedly flat.
My fears soon dissipated because even at this early hour the restaurant was reassuringly busy.
There’s a good chance all these early diners had been lured in by the tempting early bird savings on offer.
Cubana offers a large range of hot and cold tapas plates to choose from.
And for the indecisive and the hungry there is also a tapas set menu (Â£19.95 per person) and a Deluxe set tapas menu (Â£23.95 person).
Both these set menus are for a minimum of two people and are subject to Â£5 off for those seated before 6pm.
As well as the tapas spread the two of us each ordered a glass of house wine - priced at just Â£2.80 a glass at the early bird rate. Bargain.
There are no less than 11 dishes included in the deluxe menu in total and while we were tucking into the first batch the second lot arrived.
Included in the deluxe menu are bread with tapenade, spanish tortilla, melted mozzarella with crispy Serrano ham, meatballs, tiger prawns cooked with garlic and chilli, lamb braised in red wine, mixed mushrooms with goats cheese, pan fried chorizo, mixed roast mediterranean vegetables, rice and vegetables and last but by no means least potatoes sauteed with onions, red peppers and garlic.
If that lot isn’t enough to whet your appetite than I don’t know what is.
The deluxe menu has certainly got things covered in terms of quantity. But what about quality?
Well, our spread more than passed that test as well.
Most of the dishes were excellent, with a number of them standing out.
The braised lamb was wonderfully tender with a great depth of flavour, the tiger prawns were juicy and plump with a lovely kick of chilli and garlic, and the chorizo was sublime.
The vegetable led dishes are by no means there to make up the numbers.
They add to the whole thing and provide a good range of flavours, aromas and textures.
The potatoes, roast veg and mushrooms in particular were top notch.
In fact, the only dish which didn’t really float either of our boats was the tortilla. It wasn’t bad, we just didn’t like it as much as the others.
Usually neither of us have much problem polishing off three course but this tapas feast had us beat.
So much so that we literally had no room for a dessert. Only coffee. And it has to be added it was what I would call ‘proper’ coffee. A great end to a great feast.
Add the fact that the service was friendly, warm and efficient and it is fair to say that Cubana is a bit of a winner.