In fiction it was home to a refined gay in the nineties, symbol of the receipt of the counter-culture, religion, spirituality. The hideout of a man cornered by the society of his time, in the Cuban film of largest international impact: Strawberry and Chocolate. In reality it was a family home converted into a successful paladar (private restaurant), located nothing more and nothing less than on the third floor of an authentic tenement building in Centro Habana.
The man behind this metamorphosis is an electronics engineer whom life diverted by chance to the world of gastronomy. His name is Enrique Núñez and he manages La Guarida, one of the best restaurants in town, visited by kings, artists and personalities from around the world. But the beginning was, like almost all the great things, by sheer chance.
“I had read the story of Senel Paz and had seen the play, so I knew what it was shooting. A friend who was assistant director of Titón asked me to help find a location and I suggested the house of my parents. They came; they liked it and chose the place to be the ‘hideout’ of Diego “says Enrique while smoking a Cuban cigar.
In 1993 the film Strawberry and Chocolate triumphs in the Havana Film Festival and the following year it was nominated for an Oscar. The fame transcended the film and tourists began arriving from everywhere in the hope of finding the Cuba they had seen in the movies, the image and atmosphere of the film, to see La Guarida with their own eyes.
Enrique Núñez: “We do not want La Guarida to be just a restaurant where you dine and that´s it, but to be an experience that customers feel the satisfaction of a good meal and enriched spiritually.”
“But they were disappointed to note that it was merely a normal family house,” recalls Enrique and recalls the days when many friends called him crazy and others encouraged him to do something. It was the same time that they gave the first self-employment licenses in gastronomy. His parents and his wife accompanied him on the adventure of “recovering the local environment of the film and convey its poetic message”.
Together they decided to make the place they would like to visit and spent all the resources that they had. They were careful on details, decor, linens, cutlery, plates and glasses and precise music, Cuban especially: Bola de Nieve, Rita … “Our goal with the site was to enhance the best values of our culture and we had a story gave us the excuse for that. Reconstruct the ‘altar of the Cuban culture’ that appears in the movie and began to display works of artists. Today people come to enjoy the food, but also to discover some that piece of Creole art we show. They ask us about everything around them, from mixtures of our dishes to the photographs and paintings on the walls, music, everything. ”
The restaurant has received visits of numerous figures like Jack Nicholson, Beyonce, Peter Norton, Steven Spielberg, Fito Paez and Pedro Almodóvar. But Enrique remembers one particular visit. “Once I was at home taking a shower and a friend called me to see if I could close the restaurant at night. I had everything booked and jokingly told him that only if he brought the kings of Spain. And he just replied that ‘okay, close it’. Then I got nervous and I agreed, but I had to apologize to affected customers. Then I saw the royal guard and received the Queen of Spain, Queen Sofia. It was an amazing experience working for someone of royalty, although I never had the feeling of serving a queen, because she is a very easy person and that was wonderful. ”
The film seduced many people at first, but now s the quality of the restaurant has more weight than the legend. Many who come do not even know the movie. Enrique and his team of friends, family and neighbors of La Guarida, tell the story and suggest the film is something “comforting”. However, they are not licensed to sell or project images of Strawberry and Chocolate. It is something that, according to Enrique, “would be very interesting if we could.”
Surrounded by works with the signatures of Fabelo, Rancaño, Flavio, Ivan Capote, Zaida del Rio, Pichi, Abela and others involved in the aromas of the most delicious ” Grandma recipes ” brought to current culinary context, Enrique Núñez self.defines as an “optimistic of those who believe in something and put all the effort, passion and strength. Today we get what we like that. I am sure that we are also ready to take on the challenges for the development of Cuba. And I hope the government institutions allow us Cubans to make our projects who are committed to this, we want to invest in the island. They give us space to which we are devoting our future to the destiny of our country.”