Enrique and Odeisys Nuñez first opened what has become Cuba’s most celebrated paladar on July 14, 1996. During 2009, it closed its doors out of what may be determined as an abundance of caution before reopening during late 2010. For those who have lived in Havana for many years, there was a palpable sense of loss at first when what had become an old friend was no longer around.
Anyone who has been to La Guarida will find it difficult to disagree that Enrique and Odeisys have managed to create their own magical place. It oodles a cosy atmosphere with soft lights, fine table linen, German silver cutlery, candles, Cuban music and good jazz. The entrance from a run-down Central Havana street magnifies the effect.
Today the mansion has been subdivided in many parts and you see ordinary Cubans watching soap operas as you climb the stairs.
Inside you are thrust into an exclusive New York style ‘the place’ atmosphere. Busy, hectic, professional. Although the accent is on charming ambience, bookings are a must. Space is at a premium and you may feel a little squeezed around a table especially as part of a larger party.
In terms of food, La Guarida is good, it is consistent and it is reliable. How good, I blow hot and cold. Although the kitchen has been refreshed over the years with international experience, [currently the head chefs are Manuel Cio & Pedro Rodriguez] there is a practical reality to serving two sittings every night from a very small kitchen. Things have to be prepped, dishes have to be standardised, and the show must go on. I am therefore slightly down on the food at present. It is still good; it is simply not great.