Once again we found ourselves saved by the fantastic side streets of Edinburgh and on this occasion El Cartel. We’d had yet again rubbish service on George Street so hot footed it down in the hope that there was a table for two waiting for us. For those of you who don’t know El Cartel is a Mexican Street Food style restaurant and after drooling over many pictures on Instagram and Twitter we decided we really need to go. Unfortunately the first time we tried to go they had just suffered a fire and were closed but thankfully they were back up and running and actually had a table for us. If you’re planning on heading along, remember they only do walk-ins. They don’t take reservations so it might take a few attempts to dine. If you’re happy to wait until a table becomes free, we’ve heard they’ll come fetch you from Bon Vivant across the street.
The menu is pretty compact with a range of starter type dishes and tacos. The idea is you order 4-5 dishes per 2 people and then share. This is somewhat of a challenge for us as we love our food, but getting in the spirit of it we decided we could manage it.
They had a range of fresh margaritas on offer and as I wasn’t driving I opted for a refreshing passion fruit margarita. Well, this was certainly Mexican standard and was close to blowing my socks off but also very, very good!
We quickly decided that 4 dishes might be enough but the option to order more was there so we thought we wouldn’t be greedy. We had a mixture of the starters and tacos. Once your order is placed that bring it out as it’s ready. We quite like this approach as it gives you time to enjoy each dish whilst it’s still warm. Usually with tapas we end up cramming our plates full and don’t know where to begin or what we have or haven’t tasted.
Our procession of food began:
Quesadillas – chorizo, sweet potato and cow’s milk soft cheese.
Wings – achiote and orange roasted chicken wings
Duck carnitas – chipotle pecan salsa, pineapple and jalapeno
Cochinita Pibil – yucatan style pork shoulder in achiote and orange, escabeche onions
Carne Asada – flat iron steak, arbol salsa, avocado, spring onion, dried cherry tomato
Now you can see from the pictures above that we actually ended up ordered 5 dishes. We felt pretty full after 4 but thought for the benefit of our readers we would order a fifth. All the dishes were jam packed full of flavour and everything you would expect from really tasty street food. By the end we were converts of the sharing and thought it is the ideal place to bring friends along to, although the sharing may be even more difficult now we know how tasty the food is. Each dish was full of colour and as they arrived we quickly tucked in.
El Cartel is definitely somewhere everyone should visit, it’s simple, tasty mexican street food at it very best. Take advantage of their no booking system and have a drink across the street whilst you wait. The staff are super friendly, checking if it’s your first time here and explaining how it works if it is. They also have specials each night and a pretty good beer selection but we totally recommend their frozen margaritas but maybe not more than one on a school night!
El Cartel | 64 Thistle Street, Edinburgh | 0131 226 7171 |