When London-based Bestie,'HL' decided to endorse her birthday celebrations with a jaunt to the West Country, it was up to me to determine an appropriate venue for fourteen of its coveted inhabitants to assemble for dinner and drinks. For me, nothing says party time like a little spice and the odd tequila slammer so where better than Bristol's much-loved Mexican, Casa Mexicana. A intimately-arranged eatery with oodles of character...
Date and Time: Sunday 3rd March 2013, 7:30pm
Name of Establishment: Casa Mexicana*
Location: 31 Zetland Road, Bristol
Reason for Visit: Sharing the city's favourite Mexican with my favourite Bristolians...!
In short, Casa Mexicana is an absolute joy – vibrant yet cosy and traditional yet tactfully quirky; the latter seemingly fitting given that it's a stone’s throw away from the eclectic buzz of the Gloucester Road strip. Diners are greeted warmly, the friendly ambiance enhanced with soft candlelight, an upbeat soundtrack and a theme which has been subtly integrated into the overall character of the space rather than over-done in a stereotypically sombrero-clad cheese-fest. It's fair to say that I’m certainly not alone in my praise for this eatery given that the National Press have been quick to celebrate Casa's success; the Guardian placing it within the top five Mexican restaurants in the country and The Independent deeming it worthy to feature not once but twice as the ‘best Mexican Restaurant’ in the Sunday Times' supplement – all this within a 27-year-long innings; a time in which it has secured a keen following of devoted regulars and their keen convertees.
Back to the evening at hand and despite the fact that we constituted a rather sizeable gathering, it was duly noted that the service was not to its detriment which can often be the case elsewhere. Quite the contrary in fact as chatty, efficient service ensued, setting the bar for the duration of the evening whereby nothing appeared too much trouble and a reassuring sense of pride lent itself to both the menu's content and the dishes that transpired, (which, incidentally, were piping hot and delivered in a timely fashion). On this occasion, no one opted for starters, which was met with a touch of relief in the face of the main event given that dishes had been liberally plated to say the least; my beast of a Chimichanga (£12.95) had been munificently stuffed with smoky-tasting chicken, peppers and cheese, deep fried in a large flour tortilla and topped with freshly-made salsa and cool sour cream. This could have so easily been a car crash of varying tastes and textures, not to mention a visual monstrosity, but had been neatly packaged; its three amigos of seasoned rice, refined beans and rocket salad proving suitably portioned as tasty accompaniments. Others were equally complimentary; the Puchero de Cordero (£13.95) – slowly braised lamb shank with chorizo and pasilla chilli – especially well-received with top marks for its ample-execution and melt-in-the-mouth disposition.
|Chimichanga - be honest, it's even fun to say!|
The hard-core amongst us managed dessert, most opting to share and wisely so given that the food babies had, by this stage, exceeded foetal status! I settled upon The Tarta de Chocolate (£4.95) as my weapon of choice which was positively death by chocolate (though let's be fair, what a way to go!) If truth be told this was a touch too heavy to follow abundant plates of Mexican tucker – though the viscous mound of Chocolate and Vanilla Brownie Cheesecake, that had been lovingly drizzled with Coffee Bean Sauce and coupled with a dollop of good-quality vanilla ice cream – was deliciously decadent to say the least! The Montezuma Mess (also £4.95) was an arguably safer option; comprising a light ensemble of crushed meringue, fresh passion-fruit, mascarpone cream, orange and lime glaze – its recipients describing it as ‘refreshing’ and a ‘welcome palate cleanser’.
To wash it all down, it was unanimously decided that a cocktail or two were in order and as Casa have an abundant selection, it would have been difficult to resist especially as The Green Iguana combined my favourite tipples; José Cuervo, Midori, Cointreau and sours which had been muddled on the rocks with addictively pungent appeal. Another favourite was the Casa Rinha; a twist on the classic Caipirinha, containing Brazilian cane rum, lime, sugar syrup and lemonade. A healthy selection of wines, bottled beers and spirits complete the bill and most importantly, four different tequilas – from which the birthday girl chose to indulge in a shot of José Cuervo Gold (or 'ora' for those in the know) which is served with cinnamon dust and a slice of orange as opposed to the usual salt and lemon chaser – TEQUILAAAAAA!
|The Green Iguana - hic!|
In the danger of submitting an imbalanced review, there is very little to grumble about when it comes to an evening at Casa Mexicana; its menu focuses on traditional South American cuisine which is fairly priced, generously portioned and served with a smile. The space itself is humble and comfortable, though tastefully arranged with a respectable buzz which intensifies as the evening progresses and the tequila flows. Hence, this is an eatery in which the cuisine speaks for itself, it’s neither showy nor gimmicky...simply, good honest food which, just as their website suggests, really is the real enchilada!
And now for the second opinion…
‘HL’ gave Casa Mexicana a rating of 8/10 and in three words described it as, 'yummy yet heavy'.