“ Address: 32 Duke Street / Brighton / East Sussex / England / BN1 1AG / Tel: 01273 773 388 „
In Brighton, a beach resort on the UK's south coast, there is no shortage of places to eat, no matter what your budget. If you're looking for somewhere a bit upmarket without costing a fortune, then Havana in Duke Street is an ideal choice. Despite the name, it is not a Cuban restaurant, but rather a restaurant that caters for a range of tastes, from beautifully presented sandwiches, pasta and salads, to more substantial meals like steak and lamb with all the trimmings and wonderful deserts. The menu changes from lunch to dinner, with the lunch menu obviously targetting diners who are looking for lighter choices. I ate there at lunch time, so that is what I will concentrate on.
Location and opening times:
32 Duke Street
Telephone: 01273 773388
It is easy to find, being particularly close to the Lanes. If you are arriving by train, it is a fairly short walk from the station; if arriving by car, then there is an NCP car park very close by.
For anyone who doesn't know where Brighton is, it is on the UK's south coast and is a very popular beach resort.
The restaurant is open from 9 - 11.30am for breakfast, noon - 5pm for lunch and 6.30 - 11pm for dinner.
Walking into the restaurant, I was tempted to turn around and walk out, simply because it looked like the sort of place that would turn you away for wearing with jeans. I was with two friends who had been there before, however, and they assured me it wasn't a problem. It is, however, a very smart-looking restaurant, with comfortable sofa seating as you walk in through the door, with the bar to the left. We were then taken through to the main part of the restaurant, which houses a series of round tables and a few rectangular ones in alcoves, presumably to cater for parties.
The website states that they are trying to go for a colonial look and, if that is the case, they have done a fabulous job, because that is exactly how it does look. I almost felt like I was sitting in a bar/restaurant for diplomats somewhere across the world, rather than in Brighton. There was an atrium towards the back of the restaurant near where we were sitting which let in a lot of light, and there was a lighted water attraction, which was attractive, if a little pointless. I noticed that there was another seating area upstairs, but no-one went up there while we were there, so I presume it was an overflow area.
The lunch menu is just two A4 sides, however, they managed to fit an awful lot onto it and there was plenty of choice, including a selection of light dishes, which could also double as starters, sandwiches, salads and the more substantial meals, including pork belly, steak and saddle of lamb. I settled for a smoked salmon and cream cheese bagel; one friend had a club sandwich and the other had a pasta dish - penne with courgettes, pine nuts and a tomato sauce.
The food came promptly. The bagel and club sandwich were served with a light salad and crisps. My bagel and the filling was extremely fresh and very delicious - my only criticism was that it was advertised as coming with lemon juice, and although I could taste it a little, I would have preferred more. A chunk of lemon that I could squeeze myself would have been a nice touch. The club sandwich also looked lovely - there was nothing out of the ordinary about the way it was presented, but if was fresh and my friend enjoyed it. The pasta dish looked a bit ordinary, but it was apparently very tasty and my other friend certainly polished it off quickly enough.
The restaurant is apparently famed for its desserts and they are certainly impressive, including creme brulee, sticky toffee pudding and a variety of ice creams and sorbets. We ordered the chocolate medley, which included a chocolate tart, a chocolate souffle, coffee ice cream and a chocolate biscuit. It came beatifully presented - it could have come straight out of a Masterchef kitchen - and tasted divine. The portions were small, but because there were four items, it was plenty.
We stuck to sparkling water and coffee, but there is a wide range of wine, cocktails and spirits available. The range of cofffee was excellent, including the usual lattes, macchiatos? and cappucinos, and some more interesting items, such as coffee with rum and coffee floats (I presume the float was ice cream). Another time, I would love to try the cocktails, although they are certainly not cheap.
I really could not fault the service. It is professional rather than overly friendly and we were attended to promptly and politely. There were plenty of staff around, so it was never difficult to get anyone's attention and in any case, we were asked more than once if everything was okay and if we needed anything. The restaurant was full, but everyone seemed to receive the attention that we did.
The bathroom was spotless, with plenty of mirror space for applying make-up and checking hair and for washing hands. One of the three toilets in the ladies was out of order, but I was happy that the staff had closed it off rather than having to go in and find out for myself.
Wheelchair access downstairs is fine for the restaurant; however, I couldn't see any way of getting upstairs to the toilets apart from the stairs, so that could be a real issue for anyone with mobility problems.
There is wifi access available for anyone needing it.
I thought it would be a lot more expensive than it was. The final price came to just over £40 for three people, including three light meals, one desert, two coffees and two bottles of water. The sandwiches, salads and the pasta were all in the £7-10 area, which was quite reasonable for the quality and service. The deserts were quite expensive - the chocolate medley being around £8 - but again, for the quality, it was good for a treat. The evening dinner menu is obviously more expensive, although not prohibitively so.
I would not have chosen this restaurant myself, simply because it looks so up-market and I just wanted a light lunch. However, I'm glad that my friends persuaded me, because it was a real treat and didn't cost the earth. If you want a rest from the hecticness of shopping and sight-seeing in Brighton, then this is a very pleasant choice. It isn't, however, somewhere that you could walk into straight off the beach - although jeans are allowed, the attire is supposed to be smart. Recommended.