Edinburgh has long had a reputation for being a city of foodies. From street food to fine dining, the city’s restaurant scene pretty much has all bases covered – although Glasgow will always hold the torch for me when it comes to Indian food.
As you can imagine, I like eating, and I like doing a lot of it. I often find that people imagine that as I make my living from cooking, I won’t like to do much of the cooking at home. In fact the opposite is quite true. I get great pleasure from actually being able to sit down, and enjoy my food with friends and family, and all would probably accuse me of ‘interfering’ when they’re in the hot seat. I’d be more inclined to say I was just providing a helping hand. However, all that being said, I certainly don’t enjoy the cleaning up, especially after a few glasses of wine, so eating out ranks quite highly on my list of hobbies.
My current number one is El Cartel Mexicana, by the guys behind the Bon Vivant. I was working abroad when I heard they’d suffered a fire and, after initial disbelief and googling, was absolutely gutted for them. I’m so glad to see they’re nearly ready to reopen. My life has been seriously lacking in margaritas since they’ve been out of action and I’m looking forward to getting through their doors post-relaunch.
A testament to El Cartel’s greatness is the consistency, which throws them a mile above so many Edinburgh eateries, which can deflate guests as often as they elate them. Everyone I have raved to about this place, has come back to me and raved themselves. There’s nothing worse than recommending a pal to try out somewhere new, only for them to have a totally average experience.
If you’ve yet to make it down, El Cartel has a rainbow of frozen margaritas on offer, with flavours changing regularly. If you prefer something a little harder hitting, they have over 40 different tequilas. The food is something else, relatively simple Mexican street food – think fresh guac and soft shell tacos – but done so fantastically well, that before you’ve left you’ll be thinking about when you’ll be coming back, and who you can show it off to.
The menu’s made up of a selection of ‘starters’ followed by around six different tacos. Everything is bursting with flavour and texture, a far cry from the usual cheesey slop which Edinburgh’s Mexican scene has become quite guilty of. This isn’t always a bad thing, but it’s great to see the team here showcasing an alternative to the Tex-Mex stereotype.
The guacamole is a game changer. I knew I liked guac but El Cartel’s is on another level. A mountainous green bowl served with plantain chips or pork cracklin or if you’re like me, both, and topped with feta and pomegranate. Creamy avo, salty cheese, fresh & fruity pom, coming at you on a crispy meaty spoon. I never go without it and despite numerous attempts at home, have never quite been able to recreate it.
Recent twitter stalkings lead me to believe they’ll be back dominating Thistle Street again in a few weeks – and better than ever.
El Cartel: I cannot wait to have you back.