Cantina Laredo – London
Cantina Laredo, 10 Upper St. Martin’s Lane, WC2H 9FB
t: 0207 420 0630
A few weeks ago Chris Pople of Cheese and Biscuits invited me to be his +1 for dinner at the latest addition to the “Mexican” offering in London, Cantina Laredo.
He’d been invited to review it upon opening and felt it appropriate to bring me along since I’m Latin American.
Now, Latin food in this city so far hasn’t been anything great for me: I have either encountered restaurants serving nicely cooked but unauthentic fare or restaurants just serving plain bad food. I don’t mind the former so much and just ignore the latter.
However, Cantina Laredo doesn’t fit in either category – In fact, Cantina Laredo stands in an extraordinary world of its own.
We arrived already knowing that we had a problem with its over-priced menu so it didn’t really bode well for them, but, hey, if the food is good then I’m happy to pay for it.
Let’s start with the drinks, shall we? For £9.50 each we could enjoy margaritas – One on the rocks and one frozen. The one on the rocks had 2 ice cubes in it and went tepid very quickly whereas my frozen choice kept up for a little longer, but as it melted away it gave in to the sweetness of a sugary slop that did not taste of fresh lime juice to me.
I’ve had a better margarita at an average Tex-Mex chain in Panama called Mrs. Mendoza and theirs cost the same for a 42oz glass. Enough said.
Right after the margaritas were ordered we were presented with a free bowl of totopos (tortilla chips) and 2 salsas… They did have good flavouring, but one of them was presented as “tomatillo” and as long as I know tomatillos are green. The salsa was dark orange. Ah, well. Maybe the waitress got confused?
Next up was the guacamole – We were fascinated by the idea of being charged £6.95 to eat mashed avocado just because the waiter prepares it at your table.
So do I get it cheaper if I know how to make guacamole and don’t mind having it done in the kitchen? Cantina Laredo are yet to get back to me on that.
Our waitress rocked up to the table with her fake Aztec bowl, ONE avocado, roughly chopped red onion, tomatoes, something that was presented to us as jalapeños but tasted like green peppers and a helping of the “secret seasoning” (salt, pepper and ground garlic according to the staff. How lovely) and off she started mashing with glee.
“See? It’s very-very easy to make” “Uhu” “You can make it with any ripe avocado you find in the shop” “Uhu” “And that’s all there is to it” “Indeed”.
I love guacamole and it’s difficult to get it wrong, but the taste of that price tag could not be ignored.
Moving on to our main courses I went for Enchiladas Veracruz (£12.75) and Chris for Camaron Poblano Asada (£18.95).
Chris’ meat was cooked properly (as palomilla cuts go there’s no other way than to cook it through) and it had nice flavouring, but from where I was sitting (and according to the man himself) the poblano part of the dish was a sad affair and when we looked at the bland rice and even blander “sautéed veg” on the side it felt even sadder.
And let me tell you about my enchiladas…. I am a big fan of enchiladas. HUGE in fact. But these were … let’s just say they weren’t nice.
The tortillas used for the wrapping were actually quite nice, corn-based and seemed relatively fresh – A good start. But, oh no…
Enchiladas veracruzanas don’t come swimming in sauce like the suizas or verdes, but normally come with nice juicy beans inside as to give moisture to the shredded chicken: all these had inside was some dry chicken and they were plonked on a teeny tiny spoonful of tomatillo sauce (this time in its original green)
A bad and awkward attempt at a hybrid that left me quite depressed.
Do I really have to go on to the dessert list now? I think I do.
Before going I had perused the menu and had spotted a “Mexican Apple pie” and a “Mexican brownie”.
Now, for a restaurant that claims to not serve Tex-Mex, but authentic gourmet Mexican food I found it a very odd choice, but, hey, maybe I was missing a trick.
We asked our waitress what made the brownie “Mexican” and her response was (I quote) “It comes with vanilla ice cream and in a sizzling skillet” “I’m sorry, but that doesn’t sound very Mexican” “Oh, it has brandy butter on it too!” “Nope, still not Mexican…” “Oh, I know! It was made by a Mexican chef!”. Oh, dear.
We opted for the buñuelos that were a little too crispy for my liking, but close enough to the real concept and a flan that didn’t taste of much sadly, but by then we had been able to draw the picture.
We even asked to see the bill at the end of our evening wondering what damaged would we have had to endure had we had to pay for the dinner – £90.00 for that. I think not.
We left wondering what the food would have been like had we gone incognito… Well, we didn’t have to wait long.
Lizzie from Lizzie Eats London did go incognito the following day and her dinner was like something out of a horror movie – When I read her review I didn’t know if I should have laughed relieved at having avoided such a fate or cry for what my poor friend had to endure.
To date, the only response the Cantina Laredo PR team has managed to muster was cancelling the invitation they had extended to another blogger due to “unfair” reviews and, bizarrely, a number of far too excitable reviews popping up in random websites; some of them even stating the false like the one I found here – I emailed their editorial team to point out that the guacamole at Cantina Laredo is NOT made with three, but one avocado and their statement hasn’t been rectified let alone have I received an acknowledgement.
What is more, damning reviews like Fay Maschler’s saw a surge of complaining comments from enthusiastic Cantina Laredo “customers” claiming to have eaten there 3 or 4 times – I want to know who these people are who feel extravagant enough to spend £200 in less than 2 months (that’s how long the restaurant has been opened) for such bad slop.
Makes me wonder about humanity’s common sense.
Cantina Laredo? More like Cantina LareNO.
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