For those of you who aren't aware, Birmingham (or Brum as its affectionately known) is the United Kingdom's second city. It hasn't always felt like that's an honour that fits; however a recent influx of development and openings in retail, leisure and transportation projects, not to mention some amazing cultural events in the city, have really made David and I appreciate our adopted home city.
It's a really common occurrence to have a group on Facebook share details of a new restaurant or bar coming to the city, and on a sunny Friday afternoon in June, we decided to check out one of the most recent additions to the city's cocktail bars.
We were hungry too begin and planned to visit a few other new places (keep your eyes peeled on the blog over the coming days for more) so needed to line our stomachs for some day drinking so decided to try out Revolución de Cuba, a recent opening in the Colemore Business District, in the trendy (and actually quite foody) financial centre of Birmingham.
First impressions were mixed. The restaurant was well themed; David summed it up well - akin to what a Disney Imagineer might come up with when wanting to stoke feelings of wanderlust for a trip to Havana. Giant maps on the wall, Cuban music, dark wood ceiling fans and 1950s retro picture postcard artwork on the walls. However, immediately we weren't made to feel welcome by the hostess (who it turns out was also the duty manager). The place was only moderately busy and we were made to feel as if it says unlikely that a table for two was available as we didn't have a reservation before almost immediately taking us to a table behind her.
Once seated a polite member of staff gave us the menus and brought us tortilla chips to snack on whilst at decided on what to order. He asked if we wanted to dip for the chips before advising that either salsa or guacamole would mean a surcharge of £1.50 on the bill and extra chips could also be ordered for £1. We're not gluttons by any means but the whole thing felt a bit stingy considering the costs of the items on the menu.
Tapas was the main event of their menu and as massive fans of this fun way to try lots of specialities at decided to order a couple of meat, veg and fish options, including Crispy Squid Tacos, Gambas Pil Pil and Halloumi Tacos. Yes, Tacos were a menu staple here and we ended up with three different types!
nce ordered the food came quite quickly. It was well presented and although there were some exceptions, on the whole it was disappointing. Bland, lukewarm and with the ethos of the stingy tortilla chips carried over with the under-use of key ingredients. For example, the glory of halloumi is the texture and that familiar squeak that comes from the first bite, however, in the halloumi tacos the pieces of cheese were few and far between and also the size of sweetcorn kernels, losing any bite that the foodstuff normally provides.
Whilst the alcohol servings were a bit more generous, the service that came with it certainly didn't come with a smile.
Despite lunch time in Birmingham being prime "happy hour" fodder for local bars and restaurants, Revolución de Cuba didn't have any such offers at the time of our visit. However, that being said, David and I appreciate a good cocktail and are more than willing to pay for it, so happily decided on a Pan Am and a Polynesian Punch.
The drinks arrived and looked and treated spectacular. David's Pan Am was a perfect mix of this classic and my own Polynesian Punch, complete with palm frond decoration and bright green colour, was like summer in a glass.
However, we suddenly noticed something wasn't quite right with the glassware. With both drinks there was a peculiar smell; like the glasses had been wiped down with a wet dishcloth leaving an lingering oder each time you put the glass to your lip for a sip. We swapped drinks and after a sip of each realised the glasses need to go back so called over our waiter who in turn took the drinks over to their manager.
Now, I've worked in retail so I understand the customer always being right is a difficult value to subscribe to when some customers can be difficult but the duty manager immediately started the conversion off with an insinuation that we were just trying to get an additional round of drinks.
"I've tried your cocktails and there's nothing wrong with them."
Agreeing with her, we politely explained that it was the glasses which were not quite right and described the smell.
"None of the glasses here are washed by hand. They're machine washed and dried."
She didn't want to know that there might be something wrong with her machine or even contemplate just pouring our still full drinks into new glasses. So at this point I told her to take the drinks off the bill. She'd clearly made her mind up about us, or had been burned before.
The bill came shortly after and was displayed in a nice cigar box and we paid for something that had become a rather pricey and disappointing first experience.
It's od how a themed restaurant can be so powerful in making you re-evaluate your thoughts, or at least priorities on a trip. Earlier in the spring, a week in Havana came a close second to a week cruising in the Caribbean as our summer holiday choice. I found myself leaving Revolución de Cuba thinking we'd made the right choice on our next trip (which I know is ludicrous and I'm guessing we'll be writing about Cuba before too long on Have Husband, Will Travel ).
Have you visited Revolución de Cuba, either in Brum or one of their other locations? Was your experience any better? Let us know in the comments.