Atelier was the first highly recommended paladar (state-sanctioned locally owned Cuban restaurants) that we ate at during our trip to Havana, Cuba. It’s in a gorgeous 19th century mansion that is converted on the inside and has two areas to eat, the nice quaint inside area and the gorgeous terrace with a view and funky antiques (check out the old school “Coca-Cola” sign) overlooking the more sedate neighborhood of Vedado.
Like a lot of the paladares in Havana, if you want to eat here at Atelier, you better make a reservation. I would suggest calling ahead of time when you are still at home, and get someone with Spanish to make sure you are getting the right time, date, and ask for the terrace. Try to get an earlier reservation so you can watch the gorgeous twilight of Vedado slowly drift into nighttime while you are getting first drinks/appetizers.
The menus are written out and change daily on cute little ration cards, which Cubans would normally use at markets to get their supplies and food. Even the unisex bathroom is kinda cute, with their (believe it or not) artistic toilet paper wall art.
As for the food, it’s okay. Nothing to scream about, but after the shit we had at Floridita, honestly anything was better. We had a wide sample of appetizers and mains, and in general the appetizers were pretty good, including their octopus salad and their salmon stuffed with eggplant. Their lamb seemed to be over done also and not taste quite right, according to my friend, so it was the weaker dish. In general, lamb and beef tend not to be as good as chicken and seafood in Cuba, as a whole, and El Atelier was no exception.
Service was great and on point, and even though the cutie waitress didn’t speak a lot of English, I was able to order well enough in Spanish and she gave decent food recommendations and great attention. Funny enough though, she directed us to a nearby bar for the afterparty that was an obvious working girl/hooker spot, sooooo…Not sure what she meant to imply by that! 😛 (It’s called Up & Down Bar, for anyone who really cares…Sarao, F.A.C, and 1830 are way better nightlife areas in Vedado)
All in all, Atelier was a great introduction to the paladar fine dining scene in Havana, Cuba, but also a culinary experience that showed us that there is definitely room for improvement with the food. And it was still worlds better than the awful experience at El Floridita. Definitely worth checking out if you happen to make it to Havana, Cuba! But the better paladares are yet to come…
The Traveling Bachelor rating:
3.5 out of 5 Cocounts
Calle 5, #511 (between Paseo and Calle 2), Vedado
12 pm – midnight