The Mancunion

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Review: El Capo

On the whole a good cheap option as long as you aren’t expecting food that will set the world alight (although the diablo wings could potentially do so!)

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Hidden away in the corner of the Northern Quarter behind Piccadilly station lies El Capo, a Mexican eatery. Behind an entirely unassuming wooden door there is little that suggests what might be lying within, other than the day of the dead skull boldly emblazoned on the large front window.

El Capo is both a bar and a restaurant, with the restaurant devoted to serving up a standard UK Mexican restaurant menu, while the bar offers up a range of South American wines, tequilas, rums and Mexican-themed “cocteles” such as Mezcalita De Pina and Chicito.

The food on offer at El Capo describes itself as “downright dirty, with South American flair”, but where that flair was when I visited, I am not sure. I ordered a selection of what has become fairly run-of-the-mill Mexican food these days — think burrito, tacos, and nachos — not because I desperately wanted to try any of the above, but because the menu felt a little lacking in imagination, as if it was been based purely on what sauces Old el Paso were offering in the nearest Sainsburys.

It wasn’t that the food was bad, but I feel it can only be described as nice. I know we are taught to avoid the word nice, but I use it here not because I can’t think of a better alternative, but because I feel the word best sums up what I was served.

The pulled pork in the tacos was dry, as was the brisket on the loaded nachos. The coriander chutney on the top of the tacos was excellent, offering a real freshness which went fantastically with the margarita, but the sauce they came with was bland and uninspiring. The nachos seemed as if they were straight out of a packet, and they came without the soured cream or guacamole stated on the menu, and I still have yet to figure what the difference was meant to be between the two of the three sauces on the chicken wings. I have no doubt about the third, however, for “el diablo” goes far above and beyond the  “hot” it was described as, and that is coming from someone who thoroughly enjoys spice.

Overall, very little stood out as fantastic — though nothing was terrible, burnt or cold. I must admit I felt this review would end on a somewhat less positive note had it not been happy hour while I visited (all day every day on a Thursday, one of the many really quite impressive deals on offer at El Capo). The final positive was the excellent atmosphere and fantastic service, meaning that overall, I would say that El Capo is a entertaining and potentially very affordable establishment, which given its location is not at all bad, just don’t expect “revolutionary South American flair.”