The relaxed, buzzing atmosphere of Mexican street food restaurant El Cartel in Thistle Street makes it a restaurant I frequently recommend to friends and I was delighted to discover that the vibrancy travelled so well to their sister restaurant in Teviot Place.
A crisp Friday evening in the late autumn saw my dining partner and I cosily settled with a punchy marguerite accompanied by one of the best guacamole dips I’ve ever had. The soft avocado, jeweled with sweet pomegranate seeds and sprinkled with crumbled sheep’s cheese, is served with salty plantain chips making it ideal for grazing whilst perusing the kind of menu where you can’t make up your mind because everything sounds so tempting.
I’ve been delighted by many of the dishes at the Thistle Street restaurant and opted for my favourite, chicken wings with tamarind and apricot. The sweetness of the apricot is a rich and warming contrast to the sourness of the tamarind, creating a flavour reminiscent of, but far more sophisticated than, Chinese sweet and sour. The wings themselves are lightly crisped on the outside and tender in the middle – a real crowd pleaser.
My dining partner chose the chestnut mushroom quesadillas. The earthy mushrooms, wrapped in a soft tortilla were served under a blanket of queso blanco cheese and boasted a depth of flavour and firmness of texture for which I send my complements to the chef.
Even though we’d already had more than enough to eat, the sweet corn cob in crema and spiced cheese was a temptation too far. The creamy tang of the mayonnaise and cheese, coupled with the smokey yet subtle heat of chipotle, create a beautiful balance with the sweetness of the tender sweet corn and proved to be another winner.
As anybody who knows me will testify, I struggle to resist tasting every dish served at a table, and the sharing menu, with each dish being substantial enough for at least two people, is not only a really sociable way to eat, but is a great way to taste multiple dishes.
The restaurants offer a good selection of vegetarian options and great value for money in a vibrant and friendly atmosphere with attentive service. We’d definitely recommend El Cartel in Teviot Place or Thistle Street for a fun night out.
El Cartel Teviot Place, 5-16 Teviot Place, Edinburgh, EH1 2QZ
Telephone: 0131 370 8189
El Cartel Thistle Street, 64 Thistle Street, Edinburgh, EH2 1EN
Telephone: 0131 226 7171
Website: El Cartel