The Mancunion

Britain's biggest student newspaper

Review: El Capo

El Capo are bringing the authentic taste of tapas and tequila to Manchester.


For most Brits, Tequila conjures up flashbacks of  ritualistic style initiation ceremonies involving salt, lemon and several shots of the much-feared substance, taking place somewhere on a tacky, beach holiday – not exactly the best premise for a classy Northern Quarter situated bar.

Despite this reputation, El Capo is setting the record straight, bringing the craft, passion and experience of one of the world’s most infamous drinks to Manchester. Bar manager, Adam Sr. has plucked four highly trained and innovative staff to bring El Capo’s vision to life. Providing authentic tequila and tapas cuisine has already proven a hit, surpassing targets for their first year in only four months, a feat partially due to the hugely successful opening night which saw 10 crates of tequila polished off.

Experienced owner Peter Skelton wants the customer to feel like a guest in his home, a place where everyone and anyone can bring their friends and do some serious consuming. With over 70 tequilas and mezcals on the menu, the later shouldn’t be a problem, with flavours ranging from chilli-infused concoctions to rich caramel and cinnamon tequilas; smoked in-house and served in style. Speaking crassly, the reason cheap tequilas are positively repulsive is due to the fact they scrimp on the most important ingredient – the blue agave plant. Find yourself a reputable brand and not only do you have yourself an authentic taste of South America, but also a jimadors blood, sweat and tears in there too (not literally of course).

This spirited, old fashioned toil brings me to perhaps the most rewarding aspect of drinking tequila – the rich tradition and culture  that surrounds it. With a hand painted, skull shaped bottle, Peru’s Kah Tequila can seem a little daunting, even before you discover it’s 55% proof. The theme stems from Mexico’s Day of the Dead tradition, where prayers are offered to Satan as most of the mining population spend their days in the depths of the earth, far from the glow of the heavens. But it’s not all doom and gloom as this reposado is wonderfully smooth and oakey, with fruity high notes that round the edges of this potentially intimidating tipple. And if you can’t handle the hard stuff then mercifully there is a vast selection of imaginative cocktails as well as a healthy selection of bottled beers.

El Capo is forging its own path based on the quality of its product and service, with ambitious owners and a niche stance it seems set to draw custom from the stagnating Tiki bar trend, which appears to be losing its magic. If you’re looking to be informed, surprised and delighted that there’s drinkable tequila out there,  look no further than this Northern Quarter hidden-gem.

12 Tariff St. NQ Manchester