Samba and Sandwiches
It turns out Saturday afternoons, sandwiches and Samba are a winning combination. Who the heck knew? The guys at Alma de Cuba, that’s who
Review by Catherine Ferguson
I can safely say I never imagined I would find myself in an 18th Century former Catholic Church eating afternoon tea and drinking rum cocktails, with a DJ playing South American beats and the most flamboyant Samba dancers circling the room. But last Saturday afternoon in the heart of Seel Street, one of Liverpool’s most vibrant nightspots, that’s exactly what I did.
The lovingly restored St Peter’s Church is a grand setting for any event, with many of the original fixtures and fittings giving a glorious sense of occasion and the stunning stained glass windows creating an almost ethereal feel. Alma de Cuba offer an eclectic mix of Cuba, Hispanic and Latin American influences and believe that they’re all “enhanced by Liverpool’s great spirit.”
The afternoon tea is simple but tasty, with a generous glass of fizz on the side. There’s also an option to dip into the cocktail list, with all the classics and plenty of Cuban twists. Rather entertainingly, the menu is prefaced by ‘Alma’s Ten Commandments’ which include some pretty solid rules for life, “Thou shalt know one’s complete drinks order before approaching the bar,” “Thou shalt not click one’s fingers nor whistle to gain anyone’s attention,” and “Thou shalt not be surprised or upset at the cost of a double vodka red bull…A cocktail is much better for the soul, anyway.” I can’t help but think the latter may be a good-natured dig at the throngs of hen and stag do’s that seem to lurk round every corner in Liverpool on a Saturday afternoon.
So, what about the dancing? Well, I’m no Samba aficionado, but it all looked pretty Notting Hill Carnival-esque to me. Although the number of dancers is relatively small, they dominate the room in a flash of colour, sequins and hip wiggling, later returning to allow guests to don their authentic headdresses and dabble in a little dancing themselves.
While the Samba afternoon tea is one of Alma’s most popular offerings, they’re a far cry from a one trick pony. I, for one, am itching to spending a Sunday morning there indulging in Gospel Sunday brunch, but the whole place really comes alive after dark. The tiered stage and balconies are teaming with revellers fuelled on thumping Latin American beats while the professionals make their entrance periodically, showing them how its done, leaving anyone who thought they knew how to dance trembling in their wake.
Midnight is when the magic really happens, with a ticker tape petal drop heralding the arrival of the main event when Samba meets Voodoo in yet another explosion of lights, music, drums and colour. If anyone’s standing still at this point, they probably need to check their pulse.
Enquiries: Alma de Cuba, St Peter’s Church, Seel Street, Liverpool / 0151 305 3644 / www.alma-de-cuba.com