Cantina Laredo … la bamba

When I visited: January and May 2017

Location: London, near Covent Garden

Rating in the Michelin Guide: Not rated in the Guide

Dining Owl Hoot rating: 4/5

What to wear: Men – jeans or nice trousers and a shirt; women – jeans and a smart top or a smart dress

Ambience: Big, friendly, bustling

Course of the meal: Chicken fajitas

If I could change one thing: Better publicity so more people go to the restaurant!

Review:

If you need a prescription to brighten up a dark, dreary January (or indeed any dark, dreary day), I would recommend a meal at Cantina Laredo, preferably with the wonderful Mariachi Fiesta providing the music. After eating here, I want to have good Mexican food a lot more regularly.

1st visit:

On the recommendation of the waiter, my partner Owl and I shared several starters: guacamole en molcajete (avocado, warm corn tortilla chips, prepared in front of us at our table with a selection of salsa molcajetes – you can choose how spicy you want it); the wonderful yellowtail tiradito (sashimi yellowtail with lime agua chile and jicama, cucumber and radish salad); seabass ceviche (seabass and avocado with a cucumber and lime salsa); and tortas de carnitas (pulled pork mini burgers or ‘tortas’ with black beans and salsa verde). Each starter was small enough to not fill us up too much and really delicious. For me, the yellowtail was the standout starter as it was just so light and in terms of quality it wouldn’t have been out of place at a much more expensive restaurant (for instance, Sushisamba).

We also shared a couple of mains – tacos de pato con mole (confit duck with Nutella mole, corn tortillas and plums – the tortillas were dark grey, described by my partner Owl as the colour of “cool cement”), and fajitas de pollo (grilled chicken fajitas with rice, black beans, tortillas, guacamole, sour cream and salsa).

For dessert, I had the brownie de chocolate con helado de vainilla, which my partner Owl was very envious of – it was a chocolate, pecan and walnut brownie, with vanilla ice cream and agave vanilla butter, but far far above your average chocolate brownie. My partner Owl went for the pay de manzana con helado de canela (Mexican spiced apple tart with cinnamon ice cream and agave vanilla butter), which was also good but obviously not as good as the mega-brownie.

We enjoyed lots of house margaritas on the rocks and tall mojitos throughout, which were much better than your standard central London cocktails in that all the ingredients were balanced and they weren’t composed of 75% ice melting into water.

2nd visit:

We had a margarita on the rocks each again – only one this time though as we were off to the theatre afterwards.

We went with sharing dishes on the a la carte menu again and the guacamole en molcajete was just as good as before – as was the yellowtail tiradito, which was quite spicy this time around. We also sampled the seabass ceviche with avocado, cucumber and lime salsa, and sweet potato and beetroot skewers with green habanero mayonnaise. The dish of the meal for me was the grilled chicken fajitas, which were just delicious – not dry or over-spicy but just full of flavour.

After my partner Owl’s mistake last time, we shared the chocolate, pecan and walnut brownie this time. It was served on sizzling agave butter with some melty vanilla ice cream. It was super-rich so it wasn’t a problem to share it, despite its awesomeness.

In the past, I had mostly only had fairly bland Mexican food in cheap chain restaurants and had enjoyed it, mostly, but never really loved it; this restaurant changed all that and showed you don’t have to overload your customers with tons of rice or boring beans. In addition, the staff were really friendly and easy to chat to. I don’t really understand why this restaurant, which is next to Jamie’s Italian and Dishoom, doesn’t get more queues out the door, while Dishoom, which is nice but in my experience not spectacular, regularly does. I will be going back, a lot.

2 thoughts on “Cantina Laredo … la bamba

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