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El Cartel
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El Cartel
64 Thistle Street,
City Centre/New Town,
[View Map]
0131 226 7171
Daily 11am-1am

Edinburgh is riding a culinary Mexican wave at the moment. 

Recent years have seen Tex Mex or solo Mex popping up everywhere; whether it is a nod to the cuisine with dive bar Paradise Palms, the revamped Basement or the chain ChimiChanga. Meanwhile old faves such as Los Cardos takeaway, The Blue Parrot Cantina and perhaps the daddy of them all Lupe Pintos (Mexican and World Foods) continue to be popular. 
The newest addition is El Cartel from the owners of Bon Vivant et al and was previously Tex Mex II. 

To say the menu is pared down is an understatement. They do a sprinkling of things very well. So, despite the simplicity there is plenty to shout about. 

The drinks list for me is a joy to read; Tequila, Mezcal and associated cocktails such as Mezcal Old Fashioned and margaritas made with citric acid. There are three frozen flavoured margaritas daily and the only softies are the best, Fever Tree ginger ale, ginger beer and tonic. The three wines on offer comprise a Chilean Riesling, Chilean Carmenere and a sparkling Torrontes. Beers include Day of the Dead IPA, Hefeweizen and Porter.

The food menu fits one A5 page and lists five starters and eight soft corn tacos (all $6.50).

Simone has salmon ceviche, Mexico City style and marinated in orange, lime, soy cucumber, onion and tomato. I comment that the fish looks fine quality and she confirms it is indeed top notch and perfectly marinated and flavoured. 

I have a guacamole nacional ($5) with freshly cooked (halleluja!) tortilla chips. You can also have pork crackling. It is served with fresh feta and pomegranate seeds and the avocado is chunky. El Cartel knows the way into this woman's heart, belly and soul. 

Main courses are pork shoulder taco for Simone, lots of red onion and fresh vibrant flavour but slightly under-seasoned meat and fish tacos for me which hit the spot with their crispy batter, white juicy fish and fresh Mexican slaw. 

The one dessert on offer is the chilli chocolate ice cream with white chocolate and chipotle flaked dust. One scoop is simple and perfect. 


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