The Drive’s Havana Now Looks Better, Tastes Better

Rattan lamps and plantain delights for days, y'all.

Rattan lamps and plantain delights for days, y’all.

We stopped by Havana’s new-look, new-crew debut party Tuesday, and here’s everything you need to know.Who: New owners, The Settlement Building “brand collective” (Belgard Kitchen, Vancouver Urban Winery and Postmark Brewing), which includes Managing Director/Partner Reuben Major, Co-founder/Partner Steve Thorp (who did all the design). Plus General Manager Miguel Garcia, Head Chef: Andrew Hounslow (formerly of Earls) and Theatre Manager: Alastair Cook.The Inspo: Prior to the redesign, Major and Thorp took an authentico trip to Havana to eat their way through an off-the-beaten-track food-tinerary that included about 15 culinary stops a day (from street food to local home cooking) and some dangerously late-night art purchases that ended up turning out more than all right as you’ll see below.

What’s New: Havana’s strong suit was always its patio (still there) and its mojitos (the team orders about 5 kilos of fresh mint per week and has this writer considering going into the minty plant business), but the revamp saw a complete (delicious) overhaul of the menu and that formerly dark mystery cavern before the theatre is now a cool, open-concept hangout awash in Cuban pastels, palm-leaf motifs and crowned with a dozen or so beachy keep-the-rum-cocktails-coming rattan pendant lights. We dig. (Fear not, sentimental public, the scratched graffiti wall is still in tact! Your “J+B” and “Steve Rules” etches shall live on, perhaps forever.)

The Avocado Tostones and the Jungle Bird cocktail—could not eat/drink these fast enough.

Eat These: My favourites from the new Havana-with-West-Coast-touches menu, in order

Tostones de Aguacate a.k.a. Avocado Tostones ($11). Thick twice-fried plantain chips topped with fresh-to-death pico de gallo, creamy avocado and cotija cheese sprinkles. Verdict: HEAVEN, order a plate and share with no one; overheard: “That avo is fresh AF.” Cubano sandwich ($14). Verdict: The salty porchetta and honey ham to zippy dill pickles, yellow mustard and Swiss ratio is on point—loved every bite. Flatbread Vegetariano ($15). Delightfully smoky, fresh and super-loaded with cohiba sauce, cashew cheese, charred corn, calabaza squash and roasted cauliflower. Ceviche ($15). Verdict: The crunchy sweetness of plantain chips with the citrus-marinated Ocean Wise prawns, tomato, scallion and fresno chili is a winner. Flatbread Lechón ($15). Verdict: Your basic B to go with beers who won’t do you no wrong: salty porchetta, sweet plantains, generous white cheddar and mojo onions piled on top of soft flatbread. Pretty plantain-forward, just FYI. To Drink: The mojitos are fresh and not too sweet, but while it’s this hot outside I’m cooling down with the tart and fruit-punch-esque Jungle Bird ($14), which is dark rum, campari, pineapple juice and lime juice in the cutest cocktail glass you ever did see.

The Details:

Address: 1212 Commercial Dr.Hours: Monday to Thursday 10 a.m. – 11 p.m., Friday 10 a.m. – 12 a.m., Saturday 10 a.m. – 12 a.m., Sunday 10 a.m. – 11 p.m.Seating capacity (because it’s fun to know things): 73 inside, 34 patioSquare footage (incl. theatre): 4,752 square feetWebsite:

The New Look

They’re calling it, “Mexico meets Cuba” and we. Are. Into it. Big leather banquets wrap around the whole back area. The painting on the left was something Thorp and Major bought late one night off a street artist in Cuba. Ooh la la, we love the tile on this bar. In the foreground: star of the hour, the mojito. Thorp sourced this note-perfect banana-leaf wooden door from vintage odds and sods shop, Jack’s New and Used The patio you know and love with some cool new furniture! (Photo: Sweet Pea.)