Many twitter discussions to this end – “£12 for a FUCKING CRANBERRY SALAD????” - were picked up on by Cantina Laredo’s omnipresent PR team and I was duly invited for a meal there. It’s not somewhere I would ever go myself as those prices are just too prohibitive, but my theory is that you shouldn’t slag something off without having tried it. I asked if I could go anonymously, and aside from the team there knowing someone would at some point in the week, they agreed. So I hope this experience (I cringe at the word ‘review’) is somewhat more impartial.
Now, first thing’s first. Tequila and I don’t get on. Even the smell makes me retch and if someone mistakenly buys me a shot of it instead of the marginally more bearable sambucca, I have to hold my nose. I’m a determined drunkard. So determined in fact, that I still tried the margarita. A bucket of the stuff, lined with a heavy salt rim, straw poking stiffly out of its frozen contents, was drinkable. Sweet, citrussy and with only a hint of tequila, it was quaffable.
Obviously we had to have the guacamole. Sadly our waiter was conservatively dressed and he duly chopped, mashed and slung stuff into a bowl. With some tortilla chips and some lovely fiery salsas, it tasted alright – I’d have preferred some chilli but our server said the green peppers were jalepenos. They were the least spicy jalapenos I’ve ever tasted. We used our lime wedges hanging off the rim of our margaritas to pep it up a bit.
Starters of that infamous cranberry and pecan salad, and a ceviche (£8) turned up. The salad was an enormous bowl of greenery punctuated by dried cranberries and nuggets of pecan. Mouthful after mouthful of leaves were cloying; there wasn’t nearly enough blue cheese to balance out the overwhelming sweetness of it all. What’s Mexican about it? I’ve never visited the country so I haven’t a clue. Unfinished, it was pushed to one side. The ceviche was fine. That’s all; fine. Chunks of fish, parts of cooked prawns nestled in capers, olives and red onion. It lacked any kind of freshness or zippy zing that I associate with the dish.
On to the main courses, and we wanted to try the mole. Only on the menu with one dish, chicken enchiladas, our server tried to steer us away from it. “It’s very traditional Mexican”. I thought that was the point. Unrelenting, we ordered it. What a mistake we made. Upon its arrival at the table, I was reminded of a dessert. Smothered with a dark, almost-but-not-quite shiny sauce, anaemic sesame seeds were scattered on top. One dimensional in flavour, the sauce was vaguely chocolatey, with some sort of spice added to it. There was no hint of smoke or fruitiness, no complexity of flavour. The tough corn tortillas were sawed away to reveal chicken that was drier than a camel’s hoof. I stuffed my half down my face before gratefully swapping plates with my companion. My tastebuds wondered what on earth they’d done to deserve this.
Her dish, prawns with a cheese sauce was heaven in comparison. Well cooked prawns, spicy, cheesy dip and a ghastly lettuce and carrot salad that had chunks of mango in it. All 6 of ‘em for a whopping £16. Meanwhile, I looked up to find a face screwed up in horror. “This is the worst thing I’ve ever eaten in this country”. The chicken mole was left unfinished. I felt hard done by - I’d finished my half of it, dammit.
We were too disturbed and stuffed to contemplate dessert. We gazed at each other, agape in the incredulity of how unpalatable it was. The overwhelming feeling I got from it all was that it was all so damn sweet. Our bill, before we piped up and ‘revealed’ ourselves, was an arse-twitchingly expensive £100, 12.5% of which was a deserved service charge. Our waiter was charming, engaging and personable; we had a good amount of banter. Unfortunately, this was the only good thing to be found at Cantina Laredo.
10 Upper St Martin's Lane
St Martin's Courtyard
Tel: 0207 420 0630