Mexican food is not something we eat on a regular basis in our household. Although since heading to trendy restaurant El Capo, Nachos have been popping up more often after staring across the restaurant at a humongous portion placed in front of one guy. Nevertheless, when I first heard about El Capo even before it's launch as I sipped on a cocktail in the building that it was about to sit in - I was intruiged. So when they invited me along for dinner one night shortly after they opened, I couldn't say no...
Housed where The Rum House and Bad JuJu once stood in Hockley, new restaurant El Capo brings it's Mexican and South American flair to Nottingham. As El Capo's second restaurant, with it's older sister being highly successful in Manchester's Northern Quarter over the last few years, this Mexican Cantina has some living up to do.
Decorated on the outside with the same edgy black and brickwork mix and signature El Capo cross branding, you enter through their main door to either their bar or restaurant area. On the left is the ground floor bar with laidback bench style seating and a drinks menu to please any Tequila lover. Take a right instead and you'll head up the stairs to their restaurant. The restaurant hosts the same style as the bar downstairs, only they've ramped it up a notch. The best way to describe it is as having an industrial Mexican medieval vibe that's entirely unique and is a style that I've fallen in love with.
Food and service wise, well it's a bit of a mixed bag. Do I love it? Do I hate it? In all honesty I'm not sure, but here are my thoughts from our visit regardless...
For our main courses I ordered the Gigante Mexicano DIY Taco Board whilst Jordan chose a more modest dish, the Enchaladas.
Now let me start by saying that I definitely needn't have ordered from the Gigante section and if I'm honest I wasn't expecting it to be quite so huge. It's definitely good value for money! I chose to have the following fillings; chicken dry rubbed in seven secret spices, slow roasted pork shoulder in orange and smoked paprika sauce and the rubbed beef brisket slow roasted with agave nectar. Although I know that it was dry rubbed, the fajita style chicken was a little too dry for me but once loaded up with a combination of guccamole it did go down a treat. The pork shoulder dish was the tastiest of the bunch and most unique in flavour, it was definitely the one I delved into the most. As for the beef, this had a rich beefy flavour which was definitely the one I can imagine would please most peoples tastebuds.
Jordan's Enchaladas were filled with the same beef I had with my tacos, except being in an Enchalada his were enclosed in two flour tortillas and covered in cheese and salsa, with a handful of nachos on the side. Whilst he commented that his nachos seemed undercooked, he raved about how amazing and tasty his Enchaladas were regardless of him typically not being a fan. El Capo, you've converted him!
Looking through the menu I was pleasently surprised with how many options were listed as gluten free. It wasn't only the amount of options I had to choose from with my rather annoying gluten allergy, but it was also the fact that it was clearly labeled on the menu. This is not something you can guarentee from all restaurants as although the majority are great with vegans and vegetarians nowadays, but it seems that GF is still a bit of a mindfield.
We began by sharing a couple of starters (or small plates as El Capo calls them), Pan Fried Chorizo and Potatas Bravas - arriving in sizzling hot skillets, a sort of Mexican style tapas. The chorizo in red wine, garlic and onions was perhaps my favourite of the two, despite chorizo being a dish that I've only recently become a fan of. The potatas bravas covered in a spicy tomato sauce was lovely too and just spicy enough to add a slight warmth to the dish. Both were incredibly flavoursome and came covered in fresh coriander, which was great as both myself and my fiance are both big fans. I know quite a few people who can't stand coriander and it doesn't specify on the menu that it comes with it so if that sounds like you then perhaps order it without.
Now here's where I feel we were slightly let down on the night we visited. Our experience wasn't particularly bad, but it wasn't that great either. Both of us work in fields where we work face to face with customers and customer service is something that I, in particular, prize highly. So when a waitress comes across as a little too carefree and laidback, and so much so that you have to call staff over from other parts of the restaurant, it does put you off a little bit. I do want to mention though, that all of the other staff we spoke to on the night were fantastic.
Would I return to El Capo? I'd like to say I would despite being left a little unsure by our waitress. The food was generally of a high standard and I'd love to bring a few friends there for drinks and a bunch of 'small plates' to share. Have you been to El Capo yet?