Very near to a unique sculpture of Don Quixote on the centrally-located Avenida 23 of Havana’s Vedado neighbourhood is the Mesón Sancho Panza. Like the lovable hero, one of this restaurant’s virtues is loyalty, in this case to its numerous clients.
Serving them with care and pleasing their palates are goals that are more than fulfilled by this restaurant, whose ambience and menu reflect the richness of Spanish tradition. Among the many offerings on its menu, one of the most extensive in Havana, some of the dishes that stand out are based on authentic products from the peninsula, such as octopus, boquerones, anguilas, pez platino, manchego cheese, Serrano ham, and paella dishes prepared in the styles of different regions of Spain.
There are also super offers for those who prefer Italian or Cuban cuisine, and a children’s meal to ensure that families get what they need, and that children can enjoy proverbially wholesome Mediterranean cooking.
It’s not easy to choose at dessert time, either. Sancho Panza’s owner, Ana Grethel Sarabia Domínguez, recommends
the Dulcinea de Jijona, a turrón nougat bathed in syrup with cream on a sponge cake.
While this establishment offers whatever beverage the diner prefers, the ideal accompaniment on the menu is wine, and the restaurant has a well-stocked cellar of Spanish, Chilean and Argentine wines. Here the house wine deserves a special mention: Sancho Panza, a 2006 merlot made and bottled in Spain especially for this mesón.
And on weekend evenings, a flamenco show takes place here featuring well-known Cuban groups of musicians and dancers, livening up the night. Other music groups perform here as well, featuring Cuban and international music and a variety of genres and languages.
The design of Sancho Panza, a paladar or privately-owned restaurant that refreshes the eyes and spirit with its lovely Spanish décor, lush green ornamental plants, and the burble of a little waterfall into a fish pond, is owing completely to Ana Grethel, who is a member of the Cuban Association of Artist Artisans.
With her restaurant, Grethel is returning to an old family tradition. Her grandfather and father established a popular restaurant called La Rueda in Siboney, in the eastern region of Santiago de Cuba. After the family moved to Havana, Grethel’s father, Alfredo Sarabia, devoted himself to planning, designing and building—to the point of “keys in hand”—many of the Cuban capital’s best-known restaurants and nightclubs, such as the Andes, La Carreta, Club 21, Club 23, La Zorra y el Cuervo, the Carmelo restaurants on Calzada and 23 streets, Wakamba, and Polinesio, with the additional touch of furniture made in his own factory.
Sancho Panza opened its doors on Oct. 20, 2012, Cuban Culture Day, after two years of work and preparations. Many of its visitors have become regulars at this beautiful eatery, and according to manager Elisa Gamboa, these preferred customers receive a VIP card for discounts of 10 percent. The 10 percent service gratuity is not included on the bill. In just a little over a year, Sancho Panza has won the loyalty of its diners, which is why they keep coming back for an excellent quality/price/service relationship. It is a reaffirmation of one of the sayings painted on the tiles that decorate the restaurant: “He who sits down at a fine mesón is rewarded with good food.” (AMR)