Think of Mexican food and you might picture lurid chilli reds and guacamole greens, and the tendency to slather sauce or cheese over most dishes; certainly not a cuisine that to lends itself naturally to the term ‘gourmet’. So it was with some intrigue that we ventured into Cantina Laredo, proudly boasting just such credentials. How could this slick-looking place turn tacos and enchiladas into something more elevated than your average.
Certainly service was a step above being thrown tacos in tin foil and offered a slice for your beer. The whole place was achingly efficient, with door staff gliding us to the bar as we waited for a table and at the same time expertly upselling the house margaritas. The drinks were good – certainly not timid on the tequila – though to my taste perhaps just missing quite the right balance to make this a truly memorable incarnation.
Salsa with nachos comes as a complementary appetiser, and is a crisp, fresh start with a great kick. Yet good as they were, these somehow seemed only to remind me about how over-priced much of the rest of the menu appeared. Table-made guacamole added nice theatre and shared the zesty, full flavours we’d experienced thus far, yet at £6.95 felt like a twisted misappropriation of that gourmet tag.
With familiar mains at unfamiliar prices, we were hoping for something with a real zing. However fillings in both a chile relleno (stuffed pepper) and enchiladas were significantly under-flavoured and disappeared quickly on the palette. A bizarre side of sautéed vegetables (courgette and sweetcorn) was a flabby addition to both plates that tasted as if they might as well have come out of a tin.
Stylishly outfitted in thick wooden cuts, in a prime location in the new St. Martin’s Courtyard complex close to Covent Garden, and with consistently good service, Cantina Laredo can lay some claim to its gourmet tag. Yet read by another (and frankly more important) meter, this was average cooking at above-average prices which left me hankering for something held together in tin-foil and where a cocktail simply means the choice of lemon or lime with your drink.