Founder Luís Gonzalez-Castro brings the food of his grandmother to Reineta at Dicken’s Yard
Cuca, the fledgeling but already popular Cuban supperclub, has announced an exciting residency at Spanish delicatessen Reineta, in Dicken’s Yard in Ealing, every Thursday in August kicking off on Thursday 6th August at 7pm.
Only its third event, Cuca has built a small but loyal following in and around west London but this is Luis’s first event at a restaurant. Reineta owner Miguel is keen to make Cuca the first of a series of supperclubs there – a beautiful, independent delicatessen/café serving up fresh Spanish plates and selling exquisite seasonal fruit and veg and Spanish produce.
Cuca is the name Luis affectionately gave to his beloved grandmother back in Miami. His memories of her are completely connected to food. “There was always something bubbling away on the stove,” he says. “She didn’t stop feeding us. She taught my mom how to cook, and she, in turn, taught me. This culinary inheritance is so precious to me.” Luis came to London 20 years ago to begin a new life in the UK, bringing his grandmother’s precious recipes with him. Cuca is a love letter to his grandmother.
The menu features a tapas-style menu full of dishes synonymous with Luis’s memories of his childhood and includes a Hemingway daiquiri on arrival and a sharing plate of wildly addictive mariquitas: crispy plantain crisps with drizzles of mojo throughout with a garlicky, zingy sauce. Also on the menu are tostones, beautiful little plantain disks topped with prawns, lime and mango. cooked in mayonnaise. They’re little but filling, delicious and comforting.
Other dishes include Arroz imperial, a decadent dish of chicken cooked in a creamy sauce and sofrito and layered with rice; a rich ropa vieja, literally meaning ‘old clothes’: a pulled beef in a rich, tomatoey sauce, served alongside Moros y Cristianos, a rice dish made with black beans. There is a wonderful Ensalada de Toronja, with buttery lettuce, avocado and pink grapefruit, the perfect palate-cleansing dish. Let’s also not forget Luis’s super comforting black bean empanadas: buttery, flaky and totally moreish.
And last but not least, Luís is serving up a trio of desserts: his tres leches cake, a showstopper of a light sponge cake drenched with three different types of milk; his twist on Eton Mess – the Havana mess, with beautiful gooey meringue topped with coconut rum-soaked mascarpone, tropical fruit and a drizzle of guava sauce; and finally the bocado de principe, a rum-drenched vanilla-y sponge cake fit for a king with a velvety topping dusted with cinnamon. All these are dishes that take him straight back to his mother’s kitchen in Miami when he wasn’t tall enough to even reach the countertop. Vegetarian dishes will also be available if required.
His grandparents fled Cuba when the revolution started 60 years ago. Only allowed to take one item of clothing with them, his grandmother also hid her recipes in those belongings. She passed them onto Luis’s mum, who in turn has and still is teaching Luis and his siblings those recipes that reminded them of their tough journey to freedom.
“I’ve always missed my family and my home. But in the last few years, I’ve realised how much I yearn for the criollo cooking of my family. This is hearty, robust and honest food.” For Luís, this food is comforting, colourful, it’s home.