We had been wanting to visit El Cartel for so long, it was starting to feel like my whole life (ok, a slight exaggeration maybe, but I’m not known for my patience!). I’m on Instagram quite a bit and day after day I would see their photos and ALL the people that were getting to eat there, when I wasn’t. I won’t lie, I was a little jealous.
Ok, a lot jealous. We’d made an agreement with my brother and sister in law that we’d go for our birthdays, but time and again we had to cancel for various reasons. FINALLY we managed to relieve ourselves of the kids and made it into town.
You can’t book at El Cartel so you take your chances. We arrived at 7pm and didn’t manage to get a table until until 8.45pm. We weren’t about to get this far and give up though, so we waited in the Bon Vivant across the road – a very nice cosy bar with a good drinks menu. They are owned by the same people so they have a great little system in operation. I didn’t hear my phone call to say our table was ready so one of the staff popped across to give us the nod.
By the time our table was ready we were ravenous and inebriated. Would the food live up to the self created hype? I was a little nervous.
We ordered everything.
Well, not quite everything, but almost.
Ribs. Chicken wings. Drunken refried beans. And ALL the Tacos.
The dishes began to arrive. The conversation stopped. The eating began. It was good, very good. Excellent actually. As with most meals, it’s not until after that you really assess the experience as a whole, and let’s just say I’ve found it difficult to get El Cartel out of my head.
As previously mentioned I was a little drunk, so I do need to go back and have another taste, y’know, just to be certain it was as good as I remember.
Here’s the thing: you can’t book, it’s a bit of a pain but if you want to eat great food, suck it up and plan for that. The tables and chairs aren’t particularly comfortable, if you want comfort, I can recommend a whole ton of places. The music? It’s all hip hop. If you don’t like hip hop take your own earphones and Spotify and have a silent disco to yourself. I enjoyed these aspects of the experience, it’s all part of what makes El Cartel what it is. Even if you don’t, it’s still worth it for the food.
I spy a serious contender for our favourite restaurant of 2017, it’s early days though…
Location: 64 Thistle Street
Price: £140 for dinner for four with plenty of drinks! Tacos £6.50 for two.
Good for: Authentic Mexican food and drink with hip hop vibes