Cuba Libre, with its extensive drinks menu featuring a range of cocktails, mocktails, blended drinks, shooters and Cuban specials, has been adding to Clark Quay’s happening night scene since 2006. So you might be surprised to know that Cuba Libre Café & Bar also has an extensive food menu serving Latin American fare to hungry diners.
I’ve been to Cuba Libre @ Clark Quay quite a few times but always for drinks and nibbles. When i found out about their newly opened branch in CBD, I realised it was time to try the food. So one fine Friday evening, we headed over to their new outlet – Cuba Libre Café and Bar at Frasers Towers to try out the contemporary Latin American food, that brings in influences from surrounding countries like Peru, Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela, Colombia, Costa Rica, Portugal and Spain.
The restaurant is helmed by Executive Chef Alexander Moreno, who hails from Havana, Cuba, home of the Mojito. We got chatting with the chef about his cuisine and he didn’t seem surprised or thrown off by our plant-based requests. There are quite a few vegetarian dishes on the menu and when I mentioned that I prefer vegan dishes to vegetarian, he was able to customise a couple of dishes to be vegan.
Chef Alex mentioned that vegetarianism isn’t huge in Cuba, but it isn’t unheard of either. There are more vegetarian people in the countryside than in cities. Moreno’s cuisine, however, is contemporary and as such, he doesn’t forget the vegetarian diner.
The Viñales Board (S$34++) is a good way to start your meal. The word viñales means vegetarian, the platter features 4 appetisers and is good enough to be shared among 3-4 people. 123 Gaspacho is a cold tomato soup, served in 4 shot glasses, each glass is a different flavour – garlic, pesto, tabasco and rosemary. The Gaspacho is vegan and if you request for it as a full serving on its own, the team at Cuba Libre will likely oblige. The Bruschetta is quite good too, crispy bread is topped with cheese and roasted peppers. I was hoping to kick things up a notch with the Jalapeno Poppers but that was not to be. Cuba Libre’s poppers are quite mild. I like mine to be a bit more fiery, so these didn’t appeal to me much. The next item on the board, Coxinha de Frango, however, won me right back – a savoury snack of cucumber topped with ricotta cheese, topped with a tiny chickpea and sweet potato patty which is topped with some more ricotta and garnished with chopped tomatoes and a cracker.
Next up, Coriander Guacamole Chickpea Salad (S$10++) was my most favourite dish of the meal. Chickpeas, roasted veggies and olives are served on a bed of rocket leaves and greens. The chickpeas are slightly spiced with cumin and sweet paprika and there are hints of truffle oil adding to the flavours. The salad is topped with a dollop of guacamole and drizzled with sesame seeds, toasted almond slivers and coriander mayo. The coriander mayo does not contain eggs, it is made using only coriander and olive oil. Highly recommended, a highlight of our meal! *The dish is vegan.
If you’re looking for something heartier, go with the Verduras Burger (S$15++). The burger is made with a homemade patty of beans, chickpeas, capsicum, coriander and roasted, mashed sweet potato in a charcoal bun and served with a chickpea side salad and potato wedges. The burger has a cheese slice, which was omitted upon request for us, making the burger vegan. The charcoal buns are vegan too.
Another great dish, Arroz a la Cubana (S$18++) is a dish of spiced Cuban rice with mixed veggies and cheese. Once again, upon request, the chef omitted the cheese and gave us a vegan version. The Arroz a la Cubana is a cousin of the Spanish Paella, it looks and tastes somewhat similar. However, unlike the paella, this is cooked for a shorter time, around 20-25 minutes. The dish is loaded with vegetables like carrot, okra, asparagus, cauliflower and eggplant. There are also mild, pleasant flavours of saffron and truffle oil. *Vegan option available upon request.
If you’re vegan and have a sweet tooth, you’ll love what’s coming next. What I find missing from almost every menu in Singapore is a vegan dessert. At Cuba Libre, we had the Pumpkin Flan. Chef Morino makes this without eggs or dairy. The flan doesn’t taste of pumpkin, there is a distinct vanilla flavour. We also had the Arroz Con Leche (S$5++), which is essentially a rice pudding. We enjoyed both desserts, they were also a welcome change from the cheese cakes and chocolate puddings that abound around town.
Verdict & Vegan Friendly Factor
We were both pleasantly surprised by the food. If you work around CBD, you have to try the vegan and vegetarian food at Cuba Libre, Frasers Towers. The restaurant is a stone’s throw away from Tanjong Pagar MRT station. The branch at Frasers Towers focusses on food more than nightlife but that doesn’t mean that they’re skimping on drinks. They also have an extensive drinks menu with a plethora of cocktails, mojitos and martinis, taking care of the weekend socials. Vegetarians will be well catered to and vegans will also be able to get a few dishes on request.
Cuba Libre: Frasers Tower, 182 Cecil Street. #01-06/07, Frasers Tower, Singapore 069547. P: +65 6954 4232 Website