Robaina's plantation

Friday 22 February 2013

El Meson de la Flota (Havana) Restaurant Review

                This place always brings back memories of my early visits to Havana. On my first overnight visit to the city about 8 years ago, before discovering 'Casa Particulares', I stayed in one of the rooms above the restaurant. El Meson de la Flota is not only a restaurant, it's a boutique hotel as well. The building was constructed in 1890 and was even an armory at one time but had been abandoned for many years until 11 years ago when it became what it is today. It's reminiscent of the inns that existed back in the 18th & 19th century which catered to the sailors who's ships were in port. The motif of the restaurant even has a nautical feel to it. I came back again a few months after that and took a room for several days this time. Looking back, the rooms were spacious, comfortable and not as expensive as some of the other options I was looking at. I took a couple of meals in the restaurant back then and remembered them being acceptable. Although my partner and I have talked about taking a meal here many times, it's been a while since I've been back.
                The person serving us on this day was Eduardo who has been here from the time the restaurant opened 11 years ago. I can actually say I've known him longer than any other Cuban, about 9 years. He was Manager of the restaurant when I first stayed in the Hotel but nowadays he's opted for the less stressful job of waiting on tables. We happened to be walking by El Meson as the Flamenco show was about to begin and finally decided to take that meal we've been talking about. The Flamenco show is on twice a day, the 1pm show lasts 20 minutes while the dinner show which begins at 8pm lasts about 40 minutes, both shows feature singing & dancing performed by a professional troupe. The restaurant is centrally located within steps of the Plaza San Francisco and open 7 days a week for lunch and dinner. It's guaranteed they get a lot of business from people just walking by. They have a Patio set-up on the brick-lined street in front of the restaurant & sometimes have a grill going so to attract customers into the place. The building is located in a part of Old Havana, on Calle Mercaderes, where cars are not allowed to go....which means, you have a lot of tourists walking by and poking their heads into the place. There's no mistaking it, this is a tourist restaurant.
                The cuisine is Spanish and the menu is limited. I remember them always trying to sell me the Paella. I've had people tell me it's very good here but I'm not a big fan of Paella. The Appetizer selection was pretty vast but we opted to just have a main course, hindsight....I should have tried the Lobster Bisque or Fried Chick Peas to start. The Main Course selection was limited but I found a couple of choices on the fish page that I thought might be good. My date had the Lobster Tail which was oven baked and topped with melted cheese and a mushroom cream sauce. The lobster meat had been taken out of it's shell, cut up and put back in the shell before being topped with cheese that melts in the oven, later adding the sauce. My date loved it not only because it tasted great but also because she's always struggled with gracefully pulling the meat out of the shell. This time the restaurant did it for her. I had the Pargo Filet in shrimp bechamel sauce with garlic & seafood jus. I enjoyed my choice as well and would have it again. I usually have my fish prepared simply, I never have it cooked with cheese or a  bechamel sauce but they turned out to be pretty good done this way. Once again the side vegetables were horrible except for the pureed pumpkin. We ordered white rice with a side of black beans which was done well enough but didn't realize the meal came with white rice. Regardless, the portions of both of our meals was generous and it was more than sufficient. We washed our food down with a Rose from Spain, Joan Sarda Cabernet Sauvignon, Penedes Region for under 20cuc. The wine list was quite extensive with half the wines being Spanish and ranging from 10cuc-75cuc. I don't know if all the wines were available but I counted 21 wines under 20cuc and 25 wines priced betwe 20-25cuc with 8 countries being represented. The list was too long to post.
              The service was ok but not great, I've had far worse. I like Eduardo so for me he can't do any wrong. I would strongly recommend taking in the show while having your meal, a pleasant experience which adds value to your lunch or dinner. It's a little different than the usual state owned restaurants and not priced too badly. It's definitely not as good as some of the Paladars that have been opening up lately but it's not as expensive either. Acceptable food, a fairly large & moderately priced wine list and if you come at the right time you can see a floor show. In my opinion it's worth giving this restaurant a try but come during one of the shows so you get full value for your money.

El Meson de la Flota
Calle Mercaderes #257
e/Amargura y Brasil (Teniente Rey)
Habana Vieja, Havana
tel. (07) 863-3838

Wine Room

Lobster Tail

Red Snapper Filet

Eduardo and I

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