Test Drives

There’s been a lot of chat on Twitter about the launch of Cantina Laredo in London – mainly speculation about this upmarket Mexican restaurant chain’s pricey guacamole. Hot Dinners accepted an invitation to try the Covent Garden branch out to see if it could live up to the price tag.

The first (of many?) UK outpost for this American chain, Cantina Laredo bills itself as a gourmet Mexican experience. We’ll have to preface our piece with one proviso, we don't consider ourselves Mexican experts and so couldn't tell you whether this was ‘authentic’ or even ‘gourmet’. But we did rather like it.

The guacamole in question costs a punchy £7 and is made ‘table-side’. Some might say this is a cunning way of making you part with more money than you’d normally do for guacamole, but to be honest, we enjoyed seeing the waitress assemble it for us and thought it was delicious. Whether it’s worth that £7 is obviously subjective, but given it was a starter which fed two of us with a whole heap of tortilla chips included, and couldn’t have been fresher we thought it was fairly priced.

What we weren’t so keen on was Cantina Laredo’s margaritas. These were frankly odd – a sort of Slush Puppy version of a margarita, and at odds with the billed ‘gourmet Mexican’ experience.

For mains, we threw caution (and our waistlines) to the wind and plumped for the Filet Portabella - a filet mignon aged for 21 days, with a portabella mushroom cap. This was cooked exactly how we’d ordered (a surprisingly hard thing for many London restaurants to achieve) and was so tender you could have cut it with a spoon. The other half of Hot Dinners went for the mammoth Fiesta Grill with tiger prawns, costillas (ribs), quail, carnitas, beef and chicken fajitas. Astonishingly he also had room for the Mexican Apple Pie which is served on a sizzling skillet with Mexican brandy butter and ice cream.

While Cantina Laredo doesn’t quite dazzle, it’s an enjoyable enough experience. The service was pitched just the right side of enthusiastically-American and its position as part of Covent Garden’s new restaurant quarter on the corner of Upper St Martin’s Lane and Long Acre means it’ll presumably do well for passing trade.

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