Thursday, 7 November 2013

Cantina Laredo: where Mexican was a bit lacklustre

I'm staring out my window and it's drizzling. My stomach is shouting for a good dose of Tabasco-drizzled chimichangas, a bowl of corn soup and spicy chicken mole. Torturous, considering I still haven't found mind-blowing Mexican food in London. I've tried a few Mexican chains and restaurants here but they were all the same: a wee bit uninspired. The safest bet has been Wahaca, which I actually like if not for their 'no reservations' policy. Clearly, there's a gap in the market and someone seriously needs to mind it.

A colleague mentioned how much she enjoyed Cantina Laredo and said this is a nice place to take clients because it's a nice restaurant where "good Mexican meets fine dining". I got curious and excited.

I went with a friend for dinner service. The menu is pretty straight forward so other than margaritas (no, not the frozen ones please!), we knew what we wanted straight away. Both my date and I weren't too hungry so we skipped starters and went for mains. Mexican is usually filling anyway so we were sure to have a decent meal out of it. 

As a little extra, we had tortilla chips (£1) with some salsas dela casa (£1 each). I like me a good tortilla chip and I'm glad these were served warm. They were on the thin and crunchy side which is definitely a plus. They were so moreish, my date and I stopped and started a few times, trying to save our appetites for entrees.

The salsas dela casa were a bit bland, though. The roasted tomato salsa tasted nothing different from those you can buy in shops - I actually think some of the jarred supermarket ones fare better! The roasted tomatillo salsa wasn't served warm as stated on the menu and was a bit underwhelming. The server said this was meant to be spicy. Really?

My date and I both ordered enchiladas which they serve with 'a portion of rice' and salad. When I saw the server coming our way with massive plates I was scared I won't be able to finish the whole thing but when he laid our dishes on the table.... um... yeah. I couldn't help but blurt 'When they said 'a portion of rice' I think they forgot to say it's a portion for infants.' I'm not too keen on rice myself, but come on. We're all adults here.

The enchiladas themselves resembled stereotypical runway models: thin, long and pretty. Each plate glistened with respective sauces and garnish. I've seen uglier, messier, fatter enchiladas but they tasted pretty good. Let's see if these thin ones had substance too.

The enchiladas del mar (£12.95) looked very pretty in orange. The filling of roughly chopped prawns, scallops and fish tasted quite nice so it was a bit of a shame that there wasn't much of it. The sauce was a nice creamy concoction of chili de arbol, spices and cheese. I missed the heat on this one.

The mole poblano enchiladas (£10.95) got me really hungry when I read its description on the menu, especially the sauce: "16 ingredients including Ibarra chocolate and a variety of dried Mexican chilli". *salivates* The enchilada itself was okay. The sauce had good balance between bittersweet and savoury and had good consistency all around. But, like any good Mexican sauce, I expected heat and missed out.

As mentioned, I wasn't hungry when we started the meal but after having our enchiladas and stuffing ourselves silly with some tortilla chips I was left wanting more. For what they're charging per plate I could get two burritos from Chipotle or Benito's Hat and have a good belly after.

The saving grace, I'd say would be the cocktails. So yes, I'd go back but I doubt I'd go beyond the bar and the margaritas.

Seriously, London restaurateurs. Please mind this Mexican gap.

Cantina Laredo
10 Upper St Martins Lane, St. Martins Courtyard, Covent Garden, London WC2H | +44(0)20 7420 0630
Ave spend pp: £30
Cantina Laredo on Urbanspoon
Square Meal

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