El Capo Northern Quarter

There aren’t many places offering Mexican food in Manchester, and in a city that is spoilt for choice when it comes to restaurants, this strikes me as something of a shame.

Sombrero wearing cactus

A while back there was a quirky little place nestled behind St Anne’s Square. I can’t remember the name, but I do remember the disappointment when I realised it had closed. For a long time, the only option was Chiquitos, which is hardly a quality dining experience.

When I heard about El Capo in the Northern Quarter I added it to my list straight away. With so many restaurants opening in Manchester (28 so far this year according to a recent article in the MEN) it’s taken me a while to get round to trying it out.

The upstairs bar area has a stripped back rustic feel, styled with quirky, and sometimes sinister, artwork – I’m thinking now that taking pictures of the skulls would have made my point more successfully.

Wanted poster, El Capo

If your taste for tequila hasn’t been ruined by too many cheap shots at uni, a choice of 80 tequilas surely makes this the place to go in Manchester for the Mexican liquor. 

Drinks menu cover

On this occasion it was downstairs that we were headed, to the Cantina, which promised a menu inspired by Mexico and South America.

We managed to secure a table without a reservation even on a Friday night. It’s pretty cosy in the restaurant though, so be prepared to feel involved in the conversations of your fellow diners (or maybe that’s just me being nosy). Western films playing on a big screen add to the atmosphere, but with all the distractions, it’s not a place for a romantic dinner. 

Chips n Dips with salsa and guacamole

We both love nachos, making them the obvious choice to start. We reluctantly passed over the loaded version, favouring Chips n Dips as the sensible choice. (On another occasion, with a bigger appetite I’d give the meaty ones a try.) Accompanied by delicious margaritas, they were great for munching while we waited for our main course. The salsa let them down a bit but only because I prefer it cooked to avoid the after taste of raw onion that lingered long after we’d finished our meal.

Margaritas with the bar in background

I chose the Columbian chicken burrito for my main course. It didn’t look like much when it arrived but the chicken had been perfectly marinated, making it extremely flavoursome.

Columbian chicken burrito on a board

The boy ordered Chilli Con Carne, probably because I never let him cook it at home (I’m not a fan of kidney beans). Made with shredded beef rather than mince, even I agreed that it was delicious, and a far cry from the disappointing chilli he’d ordered the last time we visited the aforementioned Tex-Mex chain (and when I say last, I mean as in not going again).

Chilli con carne

Sadly we didn’t have room for dessert. The tequila sorbet will have to wait till next time.

Such is our love of Tex-Mex, I’m sure next time will be sometime soon.

El Capo: 12 Tariff Street, Manchester, M1 2FF, Tel: 0161 237 3154

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