breaking news

Vive la revolucion

August 18th, 2017 | by LCN Editor
Vive la revolucion
Venue Spotlight

The Revolution Bars Group has chosen the former Café Vaudeville building on Arthur Street in Belfast as the location for the first Irish outlet in its Revolucion de Cuba chain…

From the lazily revolving ceiling fans to comfy-looking leather armchairs on a pastel-shaded balcony, Revolucion de Cuba does its best to recreate the decadent sensuality of old Havana in the heart of modern-day Belfast.

Opened at the end of July, the new venue is the 15th Revolucion de Cuba outlet to be opened by the Manchester-based Revolution Bars Group since the brand was born six years ago– it’s also the first on the island of Ireland.

The plush interior of the airy new bar and restaurant on Arthur Street is a far cry from the heady Parisian glam favoured by the building’s previous occupant, the iconic Café Vaudeville. Revolucion de Cuba offers a bright, Latin-orientated atmosphere with comfortable seating, lots of bright colours and great food and cocktails designed to match the mood.

Revolution spent around £1.6m to transform the listed building and according to the new general manager in Belfast, David Fogg, that’s quite a bit more than would normally be invested in a new opening:

“That said, this really is how you would expect a Revolucion de Cuba bar to look,” he told LCN this month. “You have this big, comfortable room with a balcony and the dome that lets in lots of natural light. In the grand scale of things, this would be one of the bigger of these outlets, there are only about three Revolucion de Cuba outlets that would be on a similar scale to Belfast.”

David (31), is originally from Wigan, but has been living in Northern Ireland for the last 11 years after moving here with his Carrick-born girlfriend, Sara, whom he married last year. During that time, he has worked for some of the leading restaurants in Belfast, including James Street South, Deane’s and Paul Rankin’s former eatery on Great Victoria Street, Cayenne. His last position before Revolucion de Cuba was with Chiquito’s in Belfast, which closed its doors last year.

After his appointment, David spent 10 weeks with the Revolution Bars Group training at some of its outlets across GB. And that experience, he says, helped convince him that the Belfast opening would be a success:

“There’s a certain amount of pressure involved in being the first outlet in Ireland,” he confided. “But I knew that it would be a success because I’ve seen how popular these bars are in GB and I knew that what I was bringing back over here was going to fly.”

And his confidence seems to have been justified, the response from customers since the opening on July 28 has been “overwhelming”, according to David:

“To be honest, I think this is something that Belfast really needed in order to keep growing and to be a real cosmopolitan city on a par with London, Leeds or Birmingham. Somewhere that people can come to relax and have a drink. It’s somewhere that you can go before heading out or you can have a meal here and stay on to party the night away with a great vibe.”

General manager, David Fogg in the upstairs bar at Revolucion de Cuba, Belfast, with some of the staff.

Space won’t be an issue at the new venue – Revolucion de Cuba can accommodate 750 people at capacity, including the balcony bar area, and it can handle a maximum of 134 diners at a time.

“The food here isn’t spicy, that’s a cliché that often attach to Latin food in general, but our menu is full of really colourful, exciting, flavoursome food that comes from all the Latin countries and what’s really important here is sharing,” said David. “Our most popular dish is tapas. I always recommend to groups that they have the tapas and just share and relax.

Feedback has been “positive”, reports David and footfall has been “better than expected”. The venue’s happy hours are a particular hit – Monday to Friday, 5pm until 7pm and all-day Sunday is two-for-one on cocktails.

“We knew it was going to be busy for the first couple of days as people scoped the place out, but it’s been pretty steady for the last couple of weeks,” added David, who says the priorities now include a continue focus on customer service and standards at the venue:

“Those are the big things for me and the things that, I think, will bring the people back in…If we have 750 people in here, I can’t get around them all to make sure that they are happy with the service that they’re getting, so it’s important that I know they are still being well looked after. If they aren’t, then they may not come back.”

From the company’s perspective, David says that continued delivery on customers’ expectations also needs to be a priority:

“Part of ensuring that happens is an ability to change with the times and keep things fresh,” he added. “We try to change our food menu at least three times a year, for example and we always keep our cocktail menus fresh. You always need to be sure that you’re not just offering customers the same thing every time they come back, otherwise they’ll eventually go somewhere else.”






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