Revolucion de Cuba, Birmingham

Temple Street is becoming quite the hot spot for after work drinks, with The Botanist and Las Iguanas already in residence, The Head of Steam soon to open, and now new resident, Revolucion de Cuba. I went to their launch party a few weeks ago, and was impressed by the decor, but being an old lady now, less so the crowds. When they invited me for dinner, I was interested to go along and experience the venue properly.

The spirit of cuba

Revolucion de Cuba

Inside the restaurant is packed with bright colours, and the walls are plastered with posters to bring that Cuban spirit. The main restaurant is downstairs, whereas upstairs in the Havana Bar, there’s an extra bar and space for a live band and dancing.

When we went, we found the downstairs much too loud. The music was so loud we struggled to hear our waiter as he took our orders, and then a live band started. Live music is a lovely addition to dinner, but it was deafening, and the sound was so badly balanced, we could hear none of the singer but the piano was so ear-splitting that Dave resorted to messaging me on Facebook instead of talking to me. Upstairs in the party bar, this would have been fine, but it was too much for over dinner.  The bar was busy though, and the atmosphere was lively, so this would be a fun spot for some post-work cocktails if you don’t mind shouting in people’s ears to talk.

Cocktails and rum

Rum Cocktails

The cocktail list is large, but for some reason leans heavily on Jamaican rum, which seemed an odd choice for a Cuban venue. Cuba makes some excellent rums and it would have been nice to see more of those on the menu.

I had a Classic Margarita (£8.60), which had a very messy salt rim, but was tasty enough. It was sharp and while I usually prefer my Margs in a classic glass, I do like the pretty bar-ware they use here.

Dave was less impressed with his Rum Old Fashioned (£10.50). I immediately commented the serve looked stingy when it arrived, and frankly, it’s much too expensive for a three-quarters full glass. There was virtually no taste of rum or bitters. In fact the overwhelming taste was water.

Not so authentic taste

I wasn’t expecting an even slightly authentic experience (my only experience of Cuban food is eating in Little Havana in Miami, so I’m aware I’ve been spoiled), but I was amazed to see there is no Cubanos on the menu. It’s a staple Cuban dish, and considering it’s basically a fancy ham and cheese sandwich, I’m astonished it isn’t in the sandwiches section.

Lack of Cubanos aside, the menu is a mix of main plates and tapas, with some good deals available, including 3 tapas dishes for £14 Monday to Saturday or 2-4-1 tapas on Sundays and a set menu of 2 courses for £8.95. The lunch deal is a good option for the surrounding offices too, priced at £6.

Nacho

A dish of nachos appeared before we ordered, and they were crisp and tasty. All tables get complementary nachos, but it seems to be luck whether you get any dips. I’m aware of friends who visited and got salsa and guacamole as part of the complementary nachos, whereas I was told very firmly I would need to buy any guacamole I wanted at £1.50 for a small pot, and I’ve had other friends visit and get nachos only.  The guac was fresh and creamy though, and I really enjoyed it.

Squid Tacos

Cheeseburger Tacos

To start, we chose a tapas dish each and shared. Crispy Squid Tacos (£5.75) were a mixed bag, with tender, well-fried squid, but a floury taco. They needed some more sauce or something, I think, as despite a liberal sprinkling of fresh chilli, they were a little bland. Cheeseburger Tacos (£5.75) were better, with plenty of sauce and moist meat.

Pork and Clams

For mains, Dave ordered Pork and Clams (£12.50), which is Chorizo sausage, clams and potato cooked in a spicy tomato sauce with white wine, garlic and onion, then topped with pork belly pieces. Unfortunately, Dave reported it was in fact burnt pork belly and clam shells, with very few actual clams appearing. We were also put out to be advised that the dish was very saucy and would need a side dish, so Dave ordered a side of Potato braised with Chorizo (£3.50). When it arrived, the main dish was drier than the side, and we found the potato was identical to the base of the pork dish. It would have been nice if our waiter had either not lied to us about the consistency of the dish or at least suggested a better pairing than a dish of the same potatoes, rather than just focusing on getting his up-sell.

Quesadilla Burger

My Quesadilla Burger (£12.50) was…strange. A burger, mozzarella, chilli cheese, spinach and serrano ham are sandwiched into a tortilla, and served with fries and rum mayo. The burger itself was perfectly nice but the ham was weirdly sweet. I understand the dish involves spiced sugar, but even sweet-toothed Dave found the ham bizarre. I enjoyed the first few mouthfuls of burger, but soon found I could taste nothing but sweetness, and I abandoned the second half. I know others have been and enjoyed this though, so it seems to be a matter of personal taste. However, the fries were decent, and I’d eat rum mayo with a spoon.

Poor service

The service was rubbish, I’m sorry to say. I watched our waiter dealing with other tables and it was immediately obvious he was very attentive to tables of all women, but was uninterested in delivering the same service to any table with a man on it.

As well as the issue with the side dish, we found he was brusque and a little rude. They had some ingredients for cocktails out of stock, which is fine, but instead of an apology, I was bluntly told I couldn’t have my original drink order, and no suggestions of an alternative were made. I also noticed that nobody did a check back on how our food was until we were almost done with our main courses. Nobody came near us during our starters.

Service speed was two extremes. We were seated promptly and our waiter arrived with water for the table and our free nachos (and to sell us guacamole) and then vanished. We sat for nearly twenty minutes before he reappeared to take our order, although he had plenty of time for the ladies behind us. When we eventually ordered, cocktails and starters arrived in good time and then service turned to breakneck speed. Moments after I finished my starter, the plate was whisked away be a waiter on my left, while in the same second, a waitress on my right was putting my main course down. I’ve said it many times, but no gap between courses is a pet hate of mine. We felt rushed. Despite the slow start, we were out of the place an hour after we walked in. Much too fast.

The verdict? With Las Iguanas over the road serving a very similar style of food, and similar quality cocktails for a much better price, and Bodega the next road along serving a similar style but better quality…personally I won’t be back to Revolucion de Cuba unless they massively step up their game. I’ve heard great things about their branch in Manchester, so hopefully this is just teething issues.

I was a guest of Revolucion de Cuba and East Village. Food and drinks were complementary for the purposes of honest review. All words, images and opinions are my own. All prices correct at the time of writing.

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