MG with a classic Daiquiri
Originally uploaded by mgharris
Finally, I get to have my daiquiri en La Floridita*.
In honour of...oh who needs a reason...we went to celebrate, dinner & dancing with friends at London's La Floridita.
It's a fancy restaurant/bar/dance club that features the finest examples of Cuban music, and a big variety of rum-based cocktails, including my favourite, the delicious daiquiri. I tried three different ones and they were pretty, pretty, pretty good.
The band was El Guayabero, an excellent son group from Holguin on the eastern side of the island. They played 30-min sets of up-tempo son numbers with some boleros and cha-cha-chas mixed in. No one danced for the first two sets - maybe the people at the bar were shy? Others like us were scoffing down food yummier and more luxurious than you'll find anywhere but in the very fanciest restaurants in Cuba.
The first time we ever went to Floridita was in January, for my friend Becs's birthday. That was before we'd been to Cuba (Becs had been many times), before we realised that Floridita is like an idealised, fantasy version of Cuba. In reality I didn't see anywhere in Cuba that looked anything like this. It's the levels of consumption - no-where we went in Cuba looked this fancy, certainly not the type of places bands like this play (excluding Varadero - the tourist-only enclave, which I didn't visit.) In our experience bands like Guayabero play to sweltering, smoky rooms with ineffective celing fans, and the dance floor heaves with expert Cuba couples and salsa tourists being taken for a spin by their Cuban insrtuctors.
During the third set, when we were moved off the table (you only get a 2-hour sitting on busy nights) and back to the bar, we decided to go for it on the dance floor. One couple had just taken the floor. Within seconds of us joining them the dance floor filled. The musicians looked utterly delighted. It must be a drag for a dance band to play to a motionless audience.
However, salseros, whilst the music and atmosphere are romantic and evocative (if not authentic), the drinks are wonderful and the food delish, it is not a cheap night out... And like us, you will probably still need to factor in a visit to a salsa club for a proper dance fix.
We went on to Salsa Republic@Club Colosseum, where the music of Maikel Blanco, Manolito, Issac Delgado, Adalberto and Los Van Van was as ever, wall-to-wall and sizzling hot.
P.S. Inexplicably, a photo of Becs and I dancing at the Manolito concert has rapidly risen to become one of my most viewed photos on Flickr. Is this blog to blame?
Let's do the experiment. Here's another MG & Becs dancing salsa photo - better quality, taken last night at Club Colosseum.
* the reference is to Hemingway's habit of drinking "my daiquiri in La Floridita and my moijto in La Bodeguita" - two of Havana's most famous bars. The line is quoted in one of Los Van Van's most popular songs, "Tim Pop con Birdland", a timba riff on the 1970s jazz classic "Birdland". For those who are interested in such things, I reckon "Tim Pop con Birdland" may well be my keeper on a Desert island Disc selection...