I can’t quite put my finger on Havana Bank Square.
I was expecting a stylish, chic venue similar to its website, having visited its page several times in the past few months before finally making my way down. Hence, walking in for lunch on a sunny day, I was surprised to find a casual, brick-wall interior that seemed incongruous against the chandeliers and plush, red velvet chairs.
Their slow braised beef with duck fat chips (£10) was served in a soup plate and had so much gravy that I was confused for a second, thinking I’d ordered the wrong dish. The mushrooms had a rich, meaty taste and the gravy was among the most robust I’d ever had. It was quickly sopped up too, as the beef was somewhat dry and tough, requiring the gravy to soften it and add flavour.
Unable to choose between the lemon and lime panna cotta and the strawberry shortcake, my friend and I decided to get both. Again, the presentation was unexpected – used to seeing panna cotta resemble a pudding, having another shallow-plate dish came as a surprise.
I liked this twist on the usual panna cotta with the addition of lemon and lime. The citrusy flavours cut through the cream, giving a fresh, light taste. While the panna cotta itself was a bit too dense and solid, it was still a scrumptious dessert with a good portion of berries, sorbet and vanilla cream.
If you’re getting the sense that Havana Bank Sq doesn’t do conventional, their deconstructed strawberry shortcake will only bolster that impression. The generous serving of strawberries was a treat, but the shortcake was crumbly and hard – in fact, a piece actually broke apart and flew off the serving slate when we put a spoon to it.
I don’t know if you’re finicky about your desserts like I am, but I do like it when I can get a mouthful of dessert with proportional amounts of its constituent elements. In this case, it was challenging to get some strawberries, cream and shortcake all at once. The ratio of cream and shortcake to strawberries was too low (though I really shouldn’t complain about having too many strawberries!) and the slate it was served on made eating even harder. I mean, dishes were designed with lips and sides for a reason. At some point I got fed up with inadvertently pushing bits of my dessert round the plate in a futile attempt to pick them up with the spoon and used my fingers instead.
The verdict? Havana Bank Sq might be worth a second visit. There were elements of the meal I enjoyed, although some of their attempts to be fresh and different didn’t work that well. Perhaps these niggly details will be ironed out in time, so I’ll look forward to their new spin on things instead.