“ 1 Battersea Rise / Battersea / London / England / SW1 1HG / Tel: 0207 978 7900 „
They say that variety is the spice of life, and when it comes to food I could not be more in agreement. When I am at home or even away on holiday/business, I love to have a good choice of different places to eat. In fact I would say that having more than one of every culinary type in a particular area is best. Firstly it gives the consumer choice and secondly it means that establishments have to maintain high standards so as not to lose business to direct competition.
The Clapham Junction area has a good choice of Chinese, Thai, Indian and more than enough Italian restaurants alongside the obligatory McDonalds and Nandos. Until recently, however, there was something missing - a good quality Mexican restaurant.
I was delighted when Cucarachas rose from the ashes of a former patisserie in late 2009. Having googled the name, I was slightly concerned as the name (Spanish) translated to English means "cockroaches". Despite this, I decided to give the place a try and have since returned on many occasions.
The restaurant is not the biggest place and can seat probably around 60 people at full capacity. The décor, whilst warm and welcoming, doesn't feel authentically Mexican, rather North-African souk. The lighting is fairly low and each candle is table-lit which sets the mood nicely. I have been here on a romantic night out and with a group of friends and the venue has been suitable for both.
The menus really are something to behold. Both the food and drinks menus are A3-sized and double sided. Gordon Ramsey would turn the airwaves blue if he was presented with a menu this size. I personally think it is very excessive to have this level of information overload as soon as you sit down. Most restaurants will have a licensed bar, but very few deem it necessary to list every liquor located behind said bar. On top of that there are a mind-blowing array of cocktails all individually listed with their constituent ingredients. I have to say that their cocktails are actually very good, but if you are not a decisive as I am then you really could be sat staring for hours!
The decisions on food are not made any easier. 2 sides containing more or less every conceivable Mexican, or even non-Mexican dish. The usual suspects are there such as Burritos, Tacos, Fajitas and Nachos. But then they have things liked mixed grills and Chile Con Carnes. It really does seem like no ideas for the menu were turned down when it was being decided what to serve.
Am I saying less is more? Well not being a learned critic nor an established restaurateur, far be it for me to criticise the size of a menu. I know Gordon has gone nuts on Kitchen Nightmares when he feels the menu is oversized, but then again he does like to have a strop. I'm quite decisive as I said, and I know what I like so the menu could be the size of a napkin or the size of the wall in front of me and I wouldn't have much trouble choosing. The only problem I have is that with so much on offer, I often feel I am missing out on something. I've been here about once a month since first discovering this place and so by that logic, I should have tried everything that "I would eat" by about 2013.
What I have managed to try I have been very impressed with, both in terms of size and quality. The Nachos should really be listed as bottomless as I am yet to finish the amount that is served. The mains are no different with plenty of flour tortillas and enough filling to make each one burst. The meat is always of a high quality and cooked to a real melt-in-your-mouth perfection and with each dish you have a choice of meats. Most dishes come with refried beans and rice which offsets the burrito/enchilada/taco etc very well.
As for the sides, the fries and garlic bread with cheese are both very good although if you can eat a starter, main and sides then you have a larger food intake capacity than I.
The service is usually good, although can be hit and miss at times. The food is usually exactly what we ordered right but the bill has either had something missing (yay) or something added (boo) on more or less every occasion. It is always quickly rectified with a smile and to be honest it has become one the quirks of this place. On the first occasion we went they had not got their card machine set up and so we were offered a round of shots to make up for the fact that we all had to traipse outside to the Link ATM.
The bill is always very reasonable (once we've made sure it's correct of course). I don't recall dinner coming to more than around £20 a head. This will always be after we have had a couple of drinks, a starter and a main course. You really can't argue with that (well you could, but you'd be wrong).
So in summary, if you ever find yourself South West of the "dirty old river" then you could do a lot worse than give this place a try. When we first visited about a week after opening we were convinced it would be closed within a month due to the massive menu and difficult economic environment. The fact that it is seemingly still going strong 6 months later, and often busy enough to require a reservation, shows how little I know about the restaurant business. But hey, I know what I like, and I definitely like Cucarachas.