Good Venue, Dreadful Food
Mercado Cantina (London)
Member Name: nilo0901
Mercado Cantina (London)
Advantages: Good service, fun decor, relatively good value, OK cocktails
Disadvantages: Food is dreadful, music too loud
Mercado is a Mexican restaurant on Stoke Newington Church Street in Stoke Newington, London. Competition for restaurants is fierce on this street but this is currently the only Mexican... And it's lucky for them that they are because if there was any decent competition, they might go out of business.
The restaurant itself is bright and colourful and stands out on the block it's in due to it's vibrant yellow frontage and hand painted colourful signage. The theme is continued inside where the restaurant is bright, jolly and breezy. It has an exotic feel aided by the array of south and central American music constantly playing on their hi-fi consistently at a volume that is a little intrusive. Fun it may be, conducive to conversation it is not.
The service is also pretty jolly and always friendly, efficient and with a broad smile. On the whole it feels like a happy place to be both as a customer and if you work there. Friendly banter between staff is always around and helps to create an atmosphere of sunshine and good times. The restaurant is clean and well kept as are the bathrooms which were immaculate if a little basic.
The problem comes with the food, which is incredibly bland. The menu is a classic blend of mexican favourites from burritos, tacos and enchilladas to chilli. We ate there once and order a chicken and a beef burrito. Seldom have I ever eaten anything quite so bland and tasteless. It was utterly void of any flavour. The meat was mixed in a brown sauce which tastes of nothing. There was no kick, hint of chilli, flavour... Anything. Moreover, the chicken was very dry as if it had been cooked for hours... or more likely sitting on a hot plate for hours. The beef was incredibly tough and chewy, each mouthful being a struggle. The meal came with rice, guacamole and salsa as sides making for a portion fit for two people rather than one so value for money can't be questioned... it's just whether you actually want to eat what you get? As far as the sides were concerned, the guacamole was fine, the salsa again had no fire an the rice was dull as dishwater.
As for drinks, it's apparently quite highly regarded for it's cocktails but sad to say that again I was disappointed. the menu consists a fairly broad array of cocktails from alcoholic to non-alcoholic, plus some Mexican beers and wine. We had Mojitos that were passable although a bit watery. The beer and wine list was OK but not exhaustive. I also ordered a Mexican beer that was cool but not ice cold, again, a little disappointing.
As mentioned above, the portion size was good and as such the value for money is OK with a burrito at around £9 which had it been any good would have been fine but given it's distinct lack of anything I wouldn't be willing to pay that again.
Perhaps we had a dud meal where the chef forgot to add any flavouring as there really is no justifying such poor quality food. It's a real shame as this restaurant has everything else going for it other than unfortunately, the main reason you would go there.
Summary: Everything is working except the food, which wasn't good!