In preparation for our Travel Journalism & Photography Internship Seminar in Havana and Trinidad, Cuba, which is currently accepting applications, RGNN is putting together a series of useful articles and interviews for all those interested in visiting Cuba.
In an exclusive interview, we spoke to Selene Nelson, a British-American freelance writer who is travelling the world for a year. Selene studied English Literature at the University of Sussex in the UK, and has since worked as an editor, copywriter and content manager. She is a vegetarian and is writing about her experiences searching for vegetarian food around the world as she travels.
Can you name your favorite restaurants in Havana? Why are they your favorite? What dishes should one try there?
O’Reilly 304. They have the most eclectic range of cocktails which are prepared by the cool bartenders as you watch. The food here is excellent too; I enjoyed the vegetable pasta but I would definitely recommend the plantain chips appetizer. It doesn’t sound like much, but it comes with the most delicious dipping sauce I’ve ever tasted.
Can you name your favorite three restaurants in Trinidad? Why are they your favorite? What dishes should one try there?
Giroud: This restaurant is very cool with a very unique style. I recommend trying the tapas and maybe sharing a few plates, as there are lots of different dishes so there’s something for everyone.
Taberna La Botija: A 24 hour restaurant where I ate many times. It gets very busy in the evenings, but they have great live music so the atmosphere is lively and fun. The food is good, especially the pizzas, but the deep-fried cheese balls were incredible. I definitely them, as well as the sweetcorn fritters.
What are the three must-try Cuban dishes? Where should travelers try them?
Cuban pizza, most definitely! The best Cuban pizza we had was from a tiny stall in Santa Marta, near Varadero. I’d recommend you get it from a stall or a kiosk-type place rather than an actual restaurant – that’s the authentic way. As a vegetarian, a lot of dishes Cuba is famous for I can’t eat, but I enjoyed having a Cuban omelette every morning and seeing how they changed slightly from place to place. I also really liked the rice and bean dishes – again, that’s something that always seems a little bit different wherever you have it, so it doesn’t get boring. And of course, no one can come to Cuba without trying an authentic Mojito cocktail!
What advice can you give for vegetarians traveling to Cuba? Any specific restaurant recommendations?
The vegetarian movement is growing in Cuba, although in some places there still isn’t that much variety and you may find yourself eating a lot of pasta and pizza. But there are some excellent restaurants with a wide variety of vegetarian options too, so try to do a bit of research before you go. Also, sometimes you’ll find you’ll have a lot more choice ordering a few starter dishes instead of one main course, as many of the small plates in Cuba are based around vegetables rather than meat. In Havana I would recommend O’Reilly 304 as they always have a few good vegetarian dishes, and both Giroud and La Taberna Botija in Trinidad have many meat-free dishes. You definitely won’t get hungry, that’s for sure.
What advice do you have for young journalists and bloggers who want to write about food?
Get writing, and also get snapping! Everyone is interested in food, but without photographs it can seem quite uninspired. Also, there are so many food bloggers and journalists out there that it’s advisable to think of an angle that makes your writing more unique; if you have a small budget you could incorporate that into your angle, and write about trying to eat excellent food on a small budget. If you don’t eat meat/gluten/dairy or any other food product, perhaps focus on that. Try to think of something that makes your food writing stand out from all the others.
Read more about Selene Nelson at www.selenenelson.co.uk