I’m never on time, I’ve always slipped 10 minutes out of sync. Nothing disastrous, just the sort of thing that puts dental appointments in jeopardy and is rude at funerals, which is a shame as they’re two of my favourite hobbies. Timing, then; not a strong suit. I was mulling it over last week at new Cuban bar La Rampa, remembering a time when, just ahead of a holiday to Havana, I wondered aloud to the girl I was half-seeing that wouldn’t we be better doing it as just mates?
Er, no and well, couldn’t I have waited till after the trip? I see that now. But timing; not a strong suit.
That masterclass of smooth-talking meant I never made it to Cuba – yes, not such a surprise – so I can’t comment on how authentic La Rampa is. But a friend came with who has been and says: not very. It’s not such a bad thing, in its way: communism, you may recall, does not have a sparkling success rate. If we really wanted the real deal, my friend said, there’d be a long list of beeautiful drinks placed in front of us, but just the Cubre Libre on. Limitation might breed creativity, but only pouring rum n’ cokes probably isn’t a recipe for instant success in the centre of town.
What you do get at La Rampa is that familiar fairytale take on Fifties Havana; live music that rumbas and mambos and cha-cha-chas, rust-coloured walls, rum in everything. The music makes the place; at the high tables by the bar, lively types kept tugging at their friends to dance.
Drinks are the ones you’ve heard of: mojitos, daiquiris, lime and pineapple in everything. It’s a list from Marcis Dzelzainis – he’s done time at Sager + Wilde and Dandelyan – and does, they say, “cocktails created and served exactly as they would be in the bars of Havana”. And, well, maybe, but someone should tell the Havanans to go steady with the sugar; ours were a sweet bunch.
For what the place is doing, it doesn’t matter so much. This is one of those fun ones, not a dour, darkened room for short serious serves and thoughts about horrors in the headlines. This is a forget-the-news place. A night off from it all. Most of us need that sometimes.
So come in for a Jennings Cox, named for the man who got away with saying he invented the daiquiri. It sits in a broad coupe balanced on twig of a stem, a flourishing palm on top of a pinched trunk. Try the El Presidente, a rum Manhattan by any other name, the hint of someplace more exciting coming from a splash of grenadine. Ask for the Cleopatra, which reads like someone wondering if you’d care for a hangover – brandy, port, pineapple, lime, triple sec – but is one of those thwacking things that untethers the last mooring lines of sobriety. Have the food, done by TÄ TÄ Eatery: prawn tacos (they call it ceviche, but see for yourself) were our hit of the night. Oh, and go late: when we left, it felt like things were just revving up. But then, timing. Not a stro - oh, you understand.
Bar La Rampa, 7/8 Market Place, W1. Drinks from £11, barlarampa.com