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Gourmet Mexican at Covent Garden’s new Cantina Laredo

July 18, 2010

Mexican food, anitakhartWhen I was invited to sample Covent Garden’s new Mexican restaurant, American-born franchise Cantina Laredo, I made the fatal error of looking up bloggers’ reviews: dry chicken; astronomical prices; dozens of idle waiters enquiring incessantly about your meal…put it this way, I may have been put off.

Things didn’t get much better on arrival. Half 7 on a Friday night, Covent Garden is brimming with people – and Cantina Laredo is near empty. Possibly something to do with its location next to a busy road, my friend suggests. We walk through the door and are greeted by no less than five attentive staff, four of whom are entirely unnecessary although genuinely eager to please. We’re shown to our seat by yet another hostess, who then introduces our waiter for the night. I’d lost count by this point.

But despite some rather overzealous hiring, the staff themselves were attentive without being over the top. Bonus points go to our waiter for taking orders for the starters first and coming back later for mains.

On to the food, and of course we order the £7 guacamole that has so enraged most critics. Okay, so a condiment should never be £7, but it’s a sizeable amount of very good guacamole that, coupled with our other starter, was more than enough for two people. (We kept it on the table to go with our mains, which stretched it a little further.)

The Ceviche was delicious – fresh fish on a bed of lettuce and yet more avocado. The mains were of a high standard too. We both opted for steak, medium rare, which comes with rice and guacomole (they do love their avocado). The addition of sauted carrot, courgette and new potato was tasteless and fairly inappropriate, and my steak was more medium than medium rare. But the meat itself was wonderful – its tender, melt-in-the-mouth texture shut us up for a good few minutes.

I managed to squeeze in a pudding of hot apple pie and ice cream, which for reasons best known to the chef came on a hot skiddle. It was nice enough and left me full to the brim – a good thing considering the size of the bill. The food was good – some of it delicious – and the waiters more than deserved their service charge. But for £85, Cantina Laredo should be offering something special. I couldn’t shake the feeling that this was yet another Covent Garden eatery looking to rip people off.

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