Cuba Libre first brought the flavours of the Caribbean to Ponsonby in 2016. Disappearing without notice after a few months, the space was eventually replaced by a Californian poké bar. Owner Guy Jacobson puts the closure down to differences with the transient landlord and crossed signals that the sit-down restaurant was operating as a nightclub.
The Caribbean-inspired rum bar returns to the inner city suburb this week, this time tucked away from the main strip down Mackelvie Street. It took Guy two years to find the perfect site. Previously occupied by a retail store, the six-year-old space was a blank canvas and required a huge refurb to accommodate the fit-out, including all the plumbing, electrical and concrete work. Guy's father Darryl Jacobson was once again enlisted to pull together technical drawings and create the vibrant colour palette. In response, award-winning Whangarei tattoo artist Earnest Bradley paid homage with an oversized mural of Darryl in a fedora, chewing a cigar, no less.
The floor space has doubled in size from the original concrete box on Ponsonby Road, something that Guy says, "wasn't a full expression of the concept." Suitably, the new locale is west facing and welcomes all day sun. "It's a huge step up from the divey rum bar vibe."
Cuba Libre 2.0 is being launched as an all day affair. From 7am Wednesday to Sunday and 9am on the weekends, visitors will have the option of grabbing a brew made with Peoples Coffee. At the other end of the spectrum, the 3am closing time gives ample time to sample some of the world's best spirits, wine from Spain and New Zealand and local craft beer. The cocktail list is predominantly rum based, and includes the winning concoctions from the Barcardi Legacy cocktail competition.
The food is a modern interpretation of Caribbean cuisine. Think jerk-marinated New Zealand lamb chops with kumara puree, pina colada ceviche and Cuban sandwiches filled with roast beef flank and slow roasted pork. Guy anticipates the space will eventually expand with an outdoor area and early morning menu. Until then, it promises to bring the "sights, sounds, people and flavours of the Carribean to Auckland."
Cuba Libre will be open at 61 Mackelvie Street from Saturday, 21 July. It will be operate from 7am-3am, Wednesday to Friday and 9am-3am, Saturday and Sunday.