I tried to make guacamole last year. I was at my parents’ house, with my sister. We were attempting to put on a Mexican feast for our family, and homemade guacamole seemed like the touch of authenticity we needed to make the meal complete. After about twenty minutes of effort, we had some kind of green sludge that tasted a bit like someone had squeezed a lime into a bowl and told you to eat it. It was a disaster. At Cantina Laredo, if you ask for guacamole they make it in front of you in about thirty seconds. It tastes amazing. Every member of staff there has already achieved in life a key culinary skill I know will forever elude me.
But let’s not talk any more about my life failures, let’s talk some more about the meal I enjoyed at Cantina Laredo, which included the freshly made guac. The restaurant offers modern Mexican cuisine in the heart of Covent Garden, accompanied by a selection of drinks to make you wish your feet were in a swimming pool. We selected something strong from the wonderful margarita menu and got down to eating.
The menu encourages you to select an array of dishes, which makes it ideal for sharing. We started out by splitting some costillas adobadas – baby ribs that come with a spicy chilli honey. The sauce is layered on thick, and the powerful taste lingers on the tongue long after you lick the bones clean. A strong start.
We sampled the ribs alongside the chicken flautas, crispy rolls served with a combination of sauces to complement the meaty interior. These are kind of like Mexican spring rolls, but spicy and with chicken. So not really like spring rolls, but definitely good.
The ribeye steak was incredible – the cut of meat was really superb. The steak fell apart, and provided a taste that I’ve had all too rarely from a steak since moving to London. Served with a sweet, smoky sauce that the meat soaked up, this was a real highlight of the meal.
The esparragos con crema mostaza consisted of grilled asparagus skewers glazed with a creamy mustard and garlic sauce. Served in a lattice formation, the asparagus skewers oozed with sauce, providing a wonderful little dish to turn to between its larger counterparts.
The papas con crema y queso, or creamy scalloped potatoes with cheese, was a homely treat. Face it, even the name of this dish makes you want to eat it. Yes, it tastes just like that – the way you think it does. Like home. If your home was in Mexico.
The camarones al ajo con tomatillo, tiger prawns sautéed in a garlic and tomatillo sauce, was the much loved surf to the ribeye’s turf. Fleshy prawns surrounded in an expertly prepared marinade, served up on an attractive grey plate.
The arroz verde, or green rice with garlic, onions coriander and lime, rounded off our assortment of mains and sides. Thick, sticky rice infused with a thick, sticky taste.
The apple pie Mexicano kicked off our desserts in extreme, volatile style. Served on a searing hot metal pan, with a scoop of ice cream on top, the dish provided a real spectacle, bubbling away on the table. The chunky apple pieces, freshly heated, were a lovely sweet treat.
The tequila lime cheesecake, served with avocado ice cream, didn’t come in a searing hot pan, but that’s probably for the best. The cheesecake was rich, smooth and creamy. The avocado ice cream (yes, avocado ice cream!) acted as a cool companion to the towering cheesecake. After kicking off our experience with the guacamole, it seemed fitting to bookend the meal with another avocado surprise.
Modern mexican cuisine according to Cantina Laredo seems to consist of a mix of mexican classics, alongside global food staples given a Mexican twist. This mature take on Mexican (only one burrito on the menu, and we didn’t even order it!) is bold, and sheds new light on the wonders that Mexico can offer.
10 Upper St Martin’s Lane, St Martin’s Courtyard, London, WC2H 9FB