Monday, 1 July 2013

Cantina Laredo - No Mexicano

Good Mexican restaurants are hard to come by in London. Unlike the Americans who do it ever so well, the Brits are somewhat too restrained and too controlled to let the flavours out. Yes I know La Bodega Negra was a hit, but really the food wasn't that impressive - unless the neon sex shop signs were the signature dishes.

Cantina Laredo in Covent Garden got Cynthia's attention because they came from the States and have fish tacos on the menu. It's something she fell in love with in New York but not a common menu item in London. This is a complete contrast to La Bodega; not dirty hot sexy grub, more like white-shirt-button-up and chef had too many squeezy-bottles of sauces kind of dishes.

Top Shelf Guacamole
Avocados, tomatoes, red onions, red coriander, jalapeno peppers and spices with a bowl of warm tortilla chips
This was made fresh at our table. The waitress brought over a large tray with small bowls of chopped ingredients and 2 halves of an avocado. And drum roll..... she mixed it all in front of us.

It needed a lot more seasoning and a lot more coriander to give it flavours. Texture was good though.

Tasting plate of citrus marinated tiger prawns, scallops, fresh fish, olives and capers & citrus marinated salmon with pico de gallo, roasted corn & chipotle chile served with corn tortilla shells
Let's get this straight, this is NOT ceviche. They could argue to death about a Tex-Mex variation, but there is nothing ceviche about this so-call ceviche.

First of all, there were more capers and diced veg than seafood. Had I wanted a cup of salsa, I would have ordered one. Secondly, nothing was raw. The lime juice had 'cooked' the 4 pieces of seafood to sour, rubbery morsels by marinated them in acidity for too long. The portion was a joke, 3 tsp of whatever mixture it is in a tortilla cup, which by the way, was tooth-breaking, despite the lime juice that settled at the bottom. It must have been baked and cooled repeatedly at least 3 times to achieve this kind of unbreakable solidity. 

Machaca Quesadillas
Toasted flour torillas filled with melted oaxaca cheese & machaca beef
There was no beef in these machaca beef quesadillas, none to the naked eye anyway. There were plenty of mushrooms and a healthy dose of melted cheese towards the centre of the wrap. On a slightly more positive note, the tortilla was nice and crispy.

Pescado Tacos
Fresh fish with marinated vegetables, fresco cheese and chipotle aioli in three soft corn tortillas.
I don't think 'disappointing' could even begin to describe how rubbish these were. 

The flakes of fish may have been fresh at some point the week before, but they could have used anything really because it was cooked to bonito-dryness then drowned in a watery dressing made with a limp nudge from the chilli. No idea what I had in my mouth, just didn't want to swallow it. The coriander lime rice was over-seasoned and hard to swallow; grilled courgettes lacked oil and arrived wrinkled and parched with no seasoning.

Enchiladas del Mar
Soft corn tortillas with a filling of tiger prawns, fresh fish and scallops topped with a chili de arbol cream sauce.
This was probably the most tolerable dish of the evening. mainly because it was swamped in a sauce that tasted like tomato & mozzarella cream sauce from a jar. The filling was a gooey mess with excessive amount of floury white sauce. There was no bounce from the seafood, just lumps after lumps of mush. Rather disgusting.

The 'creamed spinach' on the side had no cream, arrived cold with no seasoning.

Carnitas Tacos
Slow roasted pork with chipotle wine sauce and fresco cheese in three soft corn tortillas.
I was lucky enough to get a small slice of pork belly to grease this up slightly. No doubt the meat was slow cooked, and definitely overcooked too. The tacos were parched and tortillas was stale and sinewy on the edges, as if they have sat on the counter since the morning as unlucky souls go through the pile. For the most iconic Mexican dish, this was at the level below sub-standard.

What I hated most, above the trashy food, was the service. Our waitress came to our table 3 times to harass us about the Magarita offer (it was a whooping £1 cheaper with a double shot - you probably need it to numb your taste buds with that kind of food). When we were ready to order, she held a hand to my face to signal she'd come back for it. I don't mind waiting, but the hand gesture was infuriating. The sparkling water landed on our table and we had to help ourselves. She bellowed at us when we were in mid-conversation: ladies is the food good?! I answered not really and she walked off. 

Finally she had the audacity to ask us complete a 'vote of good service' for her when we paid. I couldn't make it any clearer I found her service unacceptable.

I suspected this to be a tourist trap, and sadly Cantina Laredo proved me right. Should have and would have gone to Wahaca. Manager said they were opening their second restaurant soon and whether I wanted to be informed. Yes please, so I can steer well clear from it.

10 Upper St Martin's Lane
St Martin's Courtyard
Tel: 0207 420 0630

Cantina Laredo on Urbanspoon
You may also like: LIMAZoiloCeviche

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