It may be a little misrepresentative of me to lump Loco Mexicano in with the likes of Centro Lounge, Pizza Express, Nandos and Bella Italia as a chain because the Loughborough restaurant that opened recently is only the third in the ‘chain’ and first outside of London according to their website: http://www.locomexicano.co.uk
Being long-time satisfied customers of Cactus Café, Siggy and I were a little cautious during our visit and felt a little like traitors to the cause of indie restaurants and things started off poorly with a pitiful plate of nachos which didn’t compare at all well to the legendary nachos served at the Cactus.
The portion was small with too few pre-flavoured corn chips and too much topping – the ratio was all wrong. The smattering of refried beans we found under the soggy chips looked like grey cat shit but actually tasted okay. The salsa on the chips made them soggy and the amount and flavour of the cheese was inferior to the Cactus. We saw a couple who had gone for the chicken nachos option and there was still too much topping in comparison to the amount of nachos.
Along with the nachos, we were presented with two old -fashioned beer glasses with our bottles of San Miguel. I wasn’t sure what that was all about – maybe some elaborate restaurant theory mind game that we would be inclined to order more beer more quickly if we saw the glasses half full – but it sure took me back to the early nineties.
They had Cholula hot sauce bottles on the table – chilli garlic and original – curiously positioned alongside salt and pepper pots. There were plenty of staff on and the place was about two thirds full by 7.45pm. It wasn’t as busy as Nandos and Pizza Express, and Centro Lounge was jam packed.
The drinks menu featured over 30 cocktails, including non-alcoholic ones, a variety of shooters and shots. The various tequilas were quite expensive. The main menu featured all the usual Mexican classics along with steaks, ribs, burgers and salads. There was also a good selection of hot beverages including at least six different types of special coffees.
The service was, as you would expect from a new restaurant opening months after the clutch of chains around the cinema, quick and friendly. Well they were quick with the starter and the drinks anyway. I think there might have been a little confusion in the kitchen over our mains, since people who arrived after us got theirs before we did and I ended up chivvying along the lovely lady who appeared to be the most ‘in charge’ to find out when they would arrive. A minor point.
I ordered chicken enchiladas. I thought I would be asked if I wanted green or red sauce, as this appeared to be an option, but I wasn’t given the choice. Again no biggy, but all these little things were adding up. However, when they finally arrived, the mains were great. The portion size was big and the food was piping hot with a good amount of filling. They thoroughly redeemed themselves after the small proportioned starter. The red sauce was rich and tomatoey and reminded me of Italian sauce with cannelloni since it wasn’t particularly spicy.
Siggy had a pulled pork burrito and agreed that the portion size was generous and reflected the pricing. At around 8.30pm the music was turned up and the lights dimmed a little adding to a party atmosphere. The weaker minded individuals in the restaurant were wearing sombreros and ponchos. We passed. I don’t see the need for fancy dress while you’re eating and, unless it’s ComicCon related, at all ever, really.
We got a couple of free tequila shots by way of apology from the lady (perhaps why I refered to her as lovely earlier – anyone who gives me free drink is lovely). The tequila, accompanied by a lick of salt and a suck of lime was pretty smooth and I would have happily ordered a couple more if it wasn’t for the pricing.
For pudding I ordered churros. I have seen them often on tv but never had them. They are quite possibly what will ultimately put the cactus cafe out of business, amazing. Fantastic. Crispy, covered in sugar, with squirty cream, chocolate sauce, frozen double cream like ice cream. Truly one of the best desserts I have ever eaten.
All in all we left very satisfied and had to revise the earlier claim that the visit was just a one-off fact-finding mission.
By the way, apologies for the inferior photos on this post – I had to make do with Siggy’s phone which never seems to give me good results. J