Cubana Tapas Bar – Leopold Square

People might be surprised to see that I have picked Cubana for my first review. The fact that I very rarely see other children in there makes me think most people would assume it isn’t family friendly and I suppose it isn’t in the traditional sense. One thing you will see from my posts is that when I say family friendly I don’t necessarily mean it has a ball pool, your kids can run around wild and unattended or that they have a variety of fried things with fries (that’s what soft play is for right). Don’t get me wrong, there is a time and a place for that. But to me family friendly means that it appeals to the whole family. What’s the point of going out at all if you don’t enjoy it yourself? There has to be all the baby essentials, friendly and accommodating staff and the opportunity for both yourselves and your small people to have fun. I also like to find places where my friends without kids would be just as happy to meet me as my friends who have them.

The first time I went to Cubana with Alfred was on a wet Tuesday when I was still on my maternity leave and Alfred was around 10 months old. I was vaguely wandering around town (as I so often did just to be out the house) at about 4pm, killing time till my husband finished work at 5pm. The rain really set in and I thought I would find somewhere to go and wait for him. I mainly chose Cubana because I was near Leopold Square and because I thought it would be quiet. When I walked in it was practically empty, I expected to sheepishly order a drink and sit in a corner willing Alfred not to make too much fuss and annoy anyone. The man behind the bar engaged me in conversation right away, asked me how I was, said ‘alright mate’ to Alfred, asked me his name, asked me what we were up to and other general chit chat. This might seem like a small thing but when you are the first of your friends to have a baby and have been off with said baby for 10 months spending a lot of time wandering around and being ignored/looked at irritably by people, a bit of genuine conversation and interest really matters. I ordered a soft drink and his response was ‘you know wine is on offer at this time right?’ with that sentence he made a customer for life. I loved the lack of judgement, the way he made me feel comfortable to sit alone for an hour with me son and drink a glass of wine, because let’s face it that’s what most parents of 10 month olds need on a rainy Tuesday.

Just in case you are wondering if I just happened to have a lovely member of staff on my first visit and not all of them are as lovely, here are some of the other things members of staff have done for us on occasions we have been in since then.

  • During one visit I had a cocktail with a strawberry on the rim. When the bartender noticed Alfred eating and enjoying it he brought a little bowl full of strawberries over just for him.
  • On another occasion when I had a cocktail Alfred said he wanted a drink like Mummy’s so they made him his own (fancy juice with loads of garnishes) which he was absolutely thrilled about.
  • Technically I believe they only serve food upstairs and occasionally outside but every time I have asked them if they would mind doing a little bit of food just for him downstairs they always have.
  • Also I have never once noticed a member of staff rolling their eyes at or whispering about Alfred (I tend to notice these things) despite the fact that he can be very naughty, has spilt drinks in there, spent the whole of one visit trying to run behind the bar, spent the whole of another visit attempting to ‘play the piano’.
  • Once he was kicking right off and we were about to leave when they brought him a little bowl of ice cream which kept him quiet for long enough for us to finish our drinks.

Although we do often allow our son to have pizza, chips, sausage or burger when we go out I always really like it when places have other options. In this sense tapas is a perfect choice, one or two small dishes are the perfect size for a little person (depending on their age and appetite of course) some of the dishes that have gone down a storm with Alfred are; Albondigas (meatballs), Merluza fresca (hake with cannellini beans), Croquuetas de jamon (ham and cheese croquets) and Asado de verduras (roast vegetables).

Our favourite time of year to visit Cubana is in the summertime (most things are better in the summertime right?) If you arrive quite early you can get set up outside on one of the tables and while away an afternoon taking advantage of the drinks offers as well as the built in entertainment in the form of a band which is normally playing in Leopold Square and by taking it in turns to walk around the fountains (literally hours of toddler joy, ‘Oh yes darling, its bigger than before, now its small again, yep it’s still doing it). They normally serve food outside in the summer too and if you have eaten they will continue to offer table service for drinks. Sneaky tip – If you go during the day in the summer and all the tables outside are full, the cocktail bar next door doesn’t open till late afternoon so you can get away with a bit of outdoor space stealing. Just make sure you move when they open or you’ll get told off like we did!

The worst time to go is during the day on a weekend when it isn’t warm enough to sit outside. They normally have dance classes on then and quite understandably you will probably get a few filthy looks if your toddler is running under the dancers’ feet. I would also check how busy it is before going in. Sometimes, especially in the summer or for after work drinks on a Friday, it can get really busy and the crowd can be a little too merry to relax. If you wanted to go at that time for food rather than just drinks you can get your own table upstairs and then this wouldn’t be a concern. If you are eating I would definitely recommend the set menu, it’s such good value for money as you get literally loads of different things and you never know what your smalls are going to like – gives them a chance to try lots of new things. I would recommend booking as it always seem to be busy.

If you, like me, are pregnant while visiting there is a non-alcoholic lager option (it isn’t Becks blue, thank goodness, why does everywhere have that? It’s grim), they are happy to make non-alcoholic cocktails and no one looks disapprovingly at you if you order a cheeky little wine. I visited Cubana (toddler free, thanks Mum) for my 30th birthday a couple of weeks ago. The waitress brought me over a rum punch cocktail to celebrate and said ‘don’t worry, there is only a bit of Rum’ which I thought was such a non-patronising and refreshing way to go about things.

Cubana has the baby and toddler essentials including; highchairs on request, a lift to the restaurant on the second floor, baby change in the disabled toilet on the ground floor, loads of space to park your prams/walk about with your toddler and sofa options downstairs for a comfortable place to feed for tiny ones.

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Hi, my name is Faith and I love eating out. I have worked in the hospitality industry in Sheffield for 15 years and during that time have watched it develop and grow. In August 2014 my perspective on eating and drinking out changed when I had my lovely son Alfred. Going out with kids is perhaps a different experience but can still be absolutely great if places get it ‘right’. My daughter Lucy was born in May 2018 and I have decided maternity leave would be a great opportunity to visit as many places as possible with my kids and share our experiences to try to help others decide where to eat out as a family. Hope you enjoy my blog. Instagram @foodiewithsmalls

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