14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodríguez, Havana, 26 November 2023 — After being closed for several years due to the pandemic, the state restaurant Europa, on Obispo Street, reopened its doors in Havana. The establishment, however, looks different from how its customers remember it: the menu has shrunk, the service is careless and the prices – as is now common in the historic center of the city – are impossible to pay.
A dozen diners fail to fill the 20 tables at the Europa. From a corner, and without being able to dissipate the heat, a fan scares away, as far as it can, the flies, while some tourists half-heartedly snack on some squares of cheese.
“Mold is invading Europe,” a woman sarcastically comments, as she looks in horror at the black stains on the ceiling. Her companion – who already predicted that the food would not have much charm – distastefully shreds some fish steaks. “The menu said fish with vegetables, but the vegetables never arrived,” she complains.
“It’s a widespread problem, all state restaurants are like this,” asserts another customer
The women’s conversation exhibits tones of discomfort and they criticize the crude decoration, “with two fried spaghetti,” of the dish, whose garnish of rice they suspect is “stolen from the bodega [ration store]” due to the number of broken grains. “There is no one who will eat this fish, with the amount of bones it has. They didn’t even remove the scales properly and it comes covered in fat,” they snort.
At the door, a wooden blackboard scares away visitors with the Europa menu: ropavieja [shredded beef – but literally ‘old clothes’] at 375 pesos, pork slices at 775, fish steaks at 945, lobster tail at 1,180, whole lobster at 1,390 and rice – which must be paid for separately – 100 pesos.
From one of the central tables, a man questions the waiter about the “lack of details.” The glass with the juice, he assures, has been brought to him cracked and, as for the napkins, they have not even bothered to put out a paper one. The employee’s response is definitive: “Excuse me, but we don’t have any.”
The disappointment of having lunch at Europa is evident among most diners. Unfortunately, those who leave as quickly as they can criticize, it is not the only “decadent” establishment found on the streets of the capital. “It’s a widespread problem, all state restaurants are like this,” says another customer. “It seems that they abandon them on purpose, so that the private sector ends up taking them over.”
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