This New Serendra Eatery Is Its Most Colorful One Yet
We're calling it: Cuba Libre is your new lunch staple in BGC.
G/F Serendra, Bonifacio Global City
Open daily from 11:30 a.m. to 12 a.m.
(SPOT.ph) When you think of Cuba, you probably think of Cubano sandwiches or Camila Cabello’s Havana, all of which only paint broad strokes of what the Caribbean island has to offer. If you really want to experience the colorful world of Cuba, nothing beats a flight to the country, but Cuba Libre, Charlie Paw's latest venture with restaurant group Tasteless, is a more-than-satisfactory plan B.
The restaurant's bright-yellow façade will catch your eye even in the middle of busy Serendra, but even that does not prepare you enough for the visual feast that’ll greet you once you step inside. Ivan and Pauline Despi of Acidhouse (under the Hydra Design Group) make the most out of Cuba Libre’s small space with bright, almost psychedelic murals on every available corner. “I gave them the photos I took around Cuba, and this is what they came up with,” shares Charlie, so you can be sure the scenes are as authentic to Cuban life as they can get.
Charlie shares that the casual diner's vibrant look is a callback to the cantinas he enjoyed on his trip to Cuba in 2016. “In Cuba, locals aren’t allowed to put up signage for their restaurants,” he says. “So they took their houses and painted them extra colorful to attract visitors.”
The food, and the way you order also stay true to these cantina roots. Charlie tapped Chef Luis de Terry, whose family owns Spanish deli Terry’s, to recreate the mains, sides, and different kinds of rice he had in Havana.
Like the eateries in Cuba, and even Manila’s turo-turo, ordering at Cuba Libre starts at the cafeteria-style counter, where you pick a main dish (or two main dishes in smaller half-portions), rice, and a side. With seven different mains, four kinds of rice, and five side dishes, there are countless possible combinations.
Masitas De Puerco En Adobo, Moros y Cristianos, and Croquetas de Malanga
Ropa Vieja with Arroz Blanco and Maduros Fritos (fried ripe plantains)
While you can’t go wrong with whatever main dish you order, there are standouts. The Masitas De Puerco En Adobo (P245) is adobo, Cuban-style. Lighter in color than the adobo you’re probably familiar with, this pork belly and potatoes stew has a distinct citrusy tang from sour orange. On the sweet-savory side is the Ropa Vieja (P275), with incredibly soft shredded beef brisket slowly stewed with peppers, tomatoes, and white wine. Saucy and rich, you’ll love this on rice, of which you can choose from Arroz Blanco (white oregano rice), Arroz Amarillo (yellow rice), Moros y Cristianos (rice and beans), and Arroz De La Casa (white rice).
Albondigas Criollas, Arroz Amarillo, and Frijoles Negros (black beans)
Pollo Frito Cubano, Boniato Fries, Arroz Blanco
You can also go for the Albondigas Criollas (P220), or hefty-sized meatballs that are full of punchy flavor from a signature blend of herbs that include oregano, cumin, and more. Their fried chicken, the Pollo Frito Cubano (P275) is unlike your usual, with its delightfully crunchy exterior and a subtle tang from lime and white rum. The chicken pairs well with Boniato Fries (add P30), made with sweet potatoes—because you can never go wrong with the classic fries-and-chicken combo—or you can go for the Croquetas de Malanga. Made with taro and pumpkin, these bites have a delightful crisp-and-pillowy-soft contrast that's pretty addictive.
Aside from filling rice meals, Cuba Libre also serves up cocktails like their namesake, the classic Cuba Libre for only P99. Charlie shares that they also plan to offer bar chow in the soon, like empanadas and pan con lechon, which, judging from just the name, is already drool-worthy. We can already imagine ourselves enjoying a drink or two at their al-fresco area, which looks just like a patio of a home in Havana. But for now, their filling plates are more than enough, for when you need that colorful break from your humdrum office cubicle. The flight to Cuba can wait a little bit longer.
Photos by Kai Huang