Arriba, abajo, al centro, pa’dentro! @ Cartel, Battersea

13 Aug 2017

I don’t know about you, but at the moment I dedicate any rare night-in I have to the new Netflix series, ‘El Chapo’; therefore, it seems only fitting that here I am writing a review on ‘Cartel’, the latest Mexican joint to nestle its shoulders among a bustling Battersea.

Over the past year I’ve become one of those people who dresses head-to-toe in Lycra, slight belly bulging, desperately trying to shave 0.531 seconds off my morning lap around Richmond Park. I know what you’re thinking, “wait, you voluntarily decided to cycle one evening, to Battersea, to a place that serves beer, tequila and mezcal?” I’ll answer that later.

I met up with my housemate, George, and luckily for us the sun was shining and the folding doors that adorned the façade were flung wide open, as if beckoning us in with a boozy, amorous hug.

It had to be a beer. Nothing else. My thirst was instantaneously quenched as soon as the sweet Modelo nectar kissed my lips. We ordered a selection of wings to kick things off, alongside a portion of nachos and a Kilimanjaro-sized mound of fresh guacamole. George had had a tough day at work, you see.

As a couple of growing lads, we opted for every taco under the sun, having been told passionately that each tortilla had been hand-pressed that very day using Masa Harina corn flour: the real McCoy.

We were showered in tacos left, right and centre, ranging from ‘Chilli Garlic King Prawns’ with crunchy slaw and chipotle mayo through to ‘Baja Fish’ with avocado salsa, pico de gallo and lime mayo. The lead singer of this cacophonous band of flavours had to be the ‘Pulled Pork’, which was accompanied by black bean purée, white onion, coriander and mango. Yes, mango. Priced at, on average, £6 for two, I couldn’t possibly think of a better bite to pair with an ice-cold cerveza.

The beers slipped down my throat faster than my 95kg self (and that’s being kind) on a lubed-up toboggan down the perilous Kitzbühel ‘Streif’ run in the Austrian Alps. This very much foreboded the way of the mezcal.

As I embarked upon yet another delectable taco – this time the ‘Lemon, Garlic & Mezcal Chicken’ – we were kindly brought a myriad of drinks. The eponymous ‘Cartel’ was up first, and it was comprised of Patrón Blanco, citric acid and crème de peche, presented ostentatiously in a Patrón bottle. I can’t tell you how delicious this was.

Following that, an onslaught of mezcals navigated their way to our table, including a personal favourite called ‘Oaxaca’ from Mezcales de Leyenda, boasting fresh celery and gentle spiced notes but with a fruity, smoky taste. And if the flurry of mezcal wasn’t enough, we were both kindly presented with an ‘Orendain’, made up of Arette Blanco, crème de cacao, dry vermouth and Peychaud’s Bitters served straight up with an absinthe mist. Phwoar, that one certainly hit home.

For pudding, a ‘Chorizo and Potato’ quesadilla filled the gap and we were again urged to choose from the 70+ tequilas and 100+ mezcals a nightcap, as it were, before quite literally stumbling off into the night.

“But you cycled there, Xander, what about your bike?” I hear you question in a caring, motherly tone. Well, I forgot about my bike and got an Uber home. I was so content with the plethora of tacos, mezcals and guacamole I had inhaled, there was only one place for me to rest my weary self: bed. I think I got about 25 seconds into the next episode before nodding off with the lights on, still dressed in my bloody Lycra.

Xander

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