They had us at Mojitos and Jazz… For a few weeks now The Hubby & I noticed Havana Beach’s enticing Instagram posts promoting their 2 for 1 mojitos and live Jazz every Thursday night. Had it not been for our alcohol free June challenge, we would have been there a lot sooner as both these highlights were right up our alley. Needless to say that on the first thursday of July, it was an easy decision which eatery we would tick off The List. Hola Havana!
The Hubby & I had been to Havana Beach cafe & lounge only once before and that was probably the first week it opened in late 2012. It was nice to return and see the eatery settling in and attracting a significant crowd. Like its namesake, Havana specialises in Cuban style food for breakfast, lunch and dinner. They have cleverly utilised the downstairs space as a cafe during the day time and the upstairs for dinner and drinks. However, unlike a lot of its competitors on the Manly beach front eatery scene, Havana boasts a “menu that is easy on the hip pocket” and includes a stellar beach view to boot!
The 2 for 1 mojitos and Jazz had certainly pulled in the crowd, there was only one table left when we rocked up around 7.30. The table wasn’t ideal due to it being the furthest away from the buzz of the dining scene and right at the top of the entry stairs… I would have preferred to be in the action of the restaurant tonight. However, we didn’t find ourselves there long as within 5 minutes of arriving another table departed and without asking, the Host came straight over and offered this table by the fireplace instead. Fabulous mind reading and attention to detail, BRAVO! Our long legs were a little awkward on these low upholstered stools and coffee table setup but we definitely preferred our new location by the fire and closer to the sounds of the Sydney Jazz Collective. We made ourselves comfortable and waited for our Mojitos to arrive.
The dinner menu is set up as a tapas style with starters, smaller share plates, salads and bigger mains for the table. The Hubby & I were tempted by all 4 Tacos as well as the main Seasonal Fish baked in a banana leaf and seasoned with a white wine garlic and coconut cream served with “congri” cuban style rice and beans. I love all things coconut…a new obsession …so the fish was an easy choice for me. We also opted for one of the specials of the evening called Wicked Chips which was a mixture of curly fries and sweet potato fries topped with shredded bbq pork, melted cheese, sour cream and guacamole. OH HELL YEAH… that is just a no brainer, really! When our waitress took our order, she suggested we might cut back on the tacos as we had a lot of food and the portions were quite large…we complied and ordered 2 instead.
I had a great view of the bar from where I was sitting and found it quite amusing to witness the amount of mojitos being prepared and whisked out to the floor. The bartender had the system down… line up several glasses, add the mint leaves, limes and sugar – MUDDLE – top with ice, add rum add soda and garnish. Line up the glasses… and so it went, there was not much else coming out of the bar and why would there be… those mojitos were good and at $10 for two, they have to be the best value cocktail going around in Manly.
The Wicked Chips came out first and they were HUGE… a lot bigger than I expected. They were similar to nachos but with fries instead of corn chips . Probably a dish more suited to accompany a bucket of beers than a starter for dinner, but hey they were lip smacking good!
Our tacos came shortly after and we were glad that we had taken the waitresses advice…they were a decent size and two was plenty! I had opted for the sweet potato taco and The Hubby went with the chipotle chicken. The tacos were satisfying and at $5 a not bad value either.
We never did ask what type of fish the Seasonal Fish was when we ordered, and so when it arrived, it was a nice surprise to see salmon. It was the highlight for me. The salmon was perfectly cooked…The method of cooking in banana leaves works wonders and kept the fish soft and moist plus the salt crusted skin gave a beautiful balance to the dish.
The more I took in the atmosphere at Havana, the more I fell in love with it. The space is sensational and well planned. It would be an ideal spot to have a private party. The different seating options from tall tables, low casual tables to bench window seats and views out to Manly beach give the restaurant a fabulous diverse arrangement allowing it to act as both a bar and restaurant in one. Plus there is even seating at the bar, which was actively taken up that evening too.
The Hubby & I did a double take when the total amount owning, for the evening, came to $56 which included $10 for our mojitos. AWESOME! Now that is incredible value and worth shouting out loud about! The Hubby & I were impressed and agreed that Havana Beach hits all the right notes and gives the locals a reason to come back week after week with their affordable tasty menu and drinks, great weekly specials and super vibrant scene. Gracias Havana!