“ 129 High Street / Rayleigh / Essex / SS6 7QA „
I recently realised I was overdue to perform by regular nieceing duties and visit by Aunt and Uncle in Rayleigh, Essex. Usually when I visit we visit the local pub chain and have a nice lunch, but as it was a hot day and we thought their garden would be busy, we took a chance and decided to try Pancho's Cantina in Rayleigh High Street.
We parked in a nearby public car park which is free on Saturday afternoons ands walked around. The glass front of the restaurant was opened up so we got the benefit of the fresh air whilst sitting in the shade at the front of the shop. The restaurant has wooden tables and chairs in rows, with simple wooden placemats. The wall décor fits in with the theme with Mexican style pictures and sombreros, but manages not to look cluttered or over the top. We were also very impressed with the cleanliness on the restaurant. All the tables were clean without smears, glasses and cutlery were sparkling.
They have an extensive menu of Tex-mex cuisine but our eye was caught by the lunch special of two courses for £7.95 everyday, and we decided to go for this option. The a la carte menu is more extensive. For starters we all selected Viva Mushrooms (£4.95 on the a la carte), which is basically deep fried breaded mushrooms with a garlic dip. The portion was generous and well presented with a colourful side salad with a slightly spicy tomato dressing. I like the fact that the salad was made a feature of the starter rather that an after thought with unimaginative ingredients plonked on a plate. We all enjoyed our starters and found them quite filling. Other starters included Jalapeno poppers (jalapenos stuffed with cream cheese and deep fried), ribs and Buffalo wings amongst other items, all priced at £4.95.
For mains my aunt went for Smothered Chicken which was served with a cheese and Creole sauce, which she chose to be served with rice (she could also have had salad or fries). She enjoyed it but felt it was too much at lunchtime, particularly after the large starter. My Uncle went for chilli con carne and he seemed to love it. I don't think it was a very hot one (I would have heard about it if it was) but he certainly tucked into it with gusto. It was also served with Mexican rice. I went for a Vegetarian Burrito, which was served with Mexican rice, refried beans and salsa, guacamole and sour cream on top. There was a good mix of veggies in there, which I liked (some Mexican restaurants just stuff in peppers and onions) such as courgette, carrot and sweet corn alongside the onions, peppers and tomatoes. All were finely chopped and seasoned with a mild spicey sauce. I noticed that they also do a chicken or beef version on the a la carte menu. I really enjoyed it and managed to eat nearly all before being defeated. If I was being picky I would have liked more sauces with mine. Mains were priced normally from £9.50 (for the burgers) to £17.95 for the steaks. Most Mexican dishes (chilli, Burritos, enchiladas etc) were about £12.95 and barbeque dishes (chicken, ribs) were £13.70.
To drink my aunt and I had a glass of wine each and my uncle a Sprite. They also offer a range of cocktails. We passed on desserts or coffees in order to waddle back to the car whilst we were still able to move. I visited the Ladies, which was typically clean and well stocked; it would also serve as a disabled toilet. We were served by a lovely girl, who was obliging, friendly and polite. The restaurant seemed to serve a variety of people whilst we were there, from young families (there is a kids menu - but mainly suited to younger ones), to friends looking for a casual lunch, to solo shoppers stopping for a coffee. Judging by the posters they also serve large groups and can cater from Christmas parties. I didn't see the final bill as I was being treated (yay!) but I gather it was very good value. We were all thrilled with our food, and at £7.95 per person for two courses, I don't think it could be beaten on value for lunch and all of us would be happy to eat here again.