Revolutionary leaders

Dou Touray, head chef at Revolucion de Cuba.
Dou Touray, head chef at Revolucion de Cuba.

THE revolutionary standard has been unfurled in Sheffield city centre and the torch has been passed from Russia to Cuba.

Well actually, Revolucion de Cuba is the latest brand from the people who brought you Vodka Revolution and, unusually, Sheffield has been chosen as the proving ground for the idea, which turns to a different spirit, white rum, for its inspiration.

Called a bar and cantina, it divides its attention between cocktails and food.

Although the iconic face of Che Guevara does feature in a fabulous wall of framed posters at the back of the bar, he’d most probably recognise it as the sort of place that well-off Americans used to frequent on booze-fuelled vacations, fuelling popular resentment, before Castro and his compadres swept to power.

Inside it’s atmospherically dark with shutters filtering in the light and a forest of ceiling fans add to the atmosphere. A long bar sweeps almost the length of the place, which is impressively large.

Seating is either in big booths with bench seating festooned with colourful scatter cushions or at comfortable white wicker tables and chairs.

The building housed Vodka Revolution before its move to West One up the road and then became the trendy Bia Hoi.

As we reported last month, former Bia Hoi glass collector James Whitlam is in charge, his eye firmly on students, young professionals and older people and that was definitely the mixed crowd who were frequenting the place on our visit.

As James Whitlam noted, rum is very trendy among drinkers at the moment and the cocktail menu features the popular mojito, alongside the zombie, mai tai and tea pot, a type of rum punch served from a pot to hark back to the days of Prohibition in the USA.

Rum pinches, however, are shot glasses of rum infused with different flavours.

The bar boasts 50 Caribbean and Latin American rums and you can learn more at the Monday night Rum Club.

There’s even rum on offer on the food menu, which we discovered when we settled down with a couple of good mojitos to study it.

You’ll be asked if you’re eating and if you are, you can order your drinks from the waitress rather than going to the bar.

As well as cocktails, there are sioft drinks, beers and a short wine list offering bottles or glasses.

The menu starts with small plates, tapas-style dishes which can also be treated as snacks or starters.

Choices include sweet potato and corn chowder, sticky pork ribs (sadly they’d run out on the night we visited), roasted chorizo, chicken wings and quesadilla tortilas or nachos.

Prices range from £2.95 to £4.95 and three small plates are £12.95.

My friend Rebecca and I opted to share patatas bravas (£3.25, or you can add chorizo for £4.95) and Havana corn lollipops (£3.25).

This got us off to a good start. I’ve eaten patatas bravas in a few places and these are among the best I’ve had, the crunchy and spicy fried potatoes contrasting well with the rich tomato sauce and garlic aioli.

The Havana lollipops look really cute and are pieces of Creole butter-tossed sweetcorn on sticks. The corn was sweet and enhanced by the spicy butter. Definitely one to copy for a barbecue.

Our waitress – who solicitously checked that we’d enjoyed each course – came over and asked if we’d finished and the main course arrived swiftly after she’d cleared, so a small black mark there for the kitchen.

Predictably, the main courses arrived on a wooden serving platter. Plate manufacturers must be in despair these days with the current fashion to heap your food on to wood or slate.

Rebecca had gone for a garlic mushroom burrito (£7.95); non-veggies can also choose from steak or chicken fillings.

She had a tortilla generously filled with the mushrooms and rice, black beans, guacamole, sour cream, pico de gallo, onions, peppers and cheese.

That was topped with salsa and came with a little dish of tortilla chips.

I nicked a bit and it was very good indeed, all those flavours working well without overpowering each other.

I had a Cuban hot burger (£7.95), the well flavoured, herby burger in a Cuban cob bun topped with a spicy rum sauce, jalapenos and Monterey Jack cheese.

There was also a little stack of very good onion rings and, quirkily, a ceramic mug filled with skinny chips.

If you are a fan of a really good quality burger, this will be a real treat with a pleasant blast of spice as well.

Other burger options are plain or with cheese, and there’s also a blackened chicken burger.

Other main course choices include five-bean or beef chilli, burritos, enchiladas, mojito battered fish and chips, half a roast chicken, steak or Revolucion de Cuba, Caesar or spinach fuit and beet salad or a big sandwich and fries.

Prices range from £6.95 to £11.95 and there is a £7.95 burrito and mojito deal from noon to 6pm daily.

Portion are generous but after a small break we managed to share divine warm chocolate brownies with vanilla ice cream (£3.50).

Alternatives are baked vanilla cheesecake or frozen berries with a white chocolate sauce.

A very enjoyable meal, enlivened by watching a party group desperately trying to learn how to salsa with a private instructor. Wish the DJ hadn’t played the same song for them seven times in a row, though.

You may also find the swirly light effects begin to wear after a while as well, although these are minor complaints.

Our food bill came to £25.90.

lVerdict: Viva la revolucion!

lFood serving times: 11am to 10pm daily.

lRevolucion de Cuba, 1 Mappin Street, Sheffield S1 4DT.