Mercado Bar and Cantina 26 - 30 Stoke Newington Church Street, London, N16 0LU T: 020 7923 0555 http://www.mercado-cantina.co.uk
Left: Queso Fundido Right : Burritos
Somehow we managed to avoid food altogether until after 7pm today. It was one of "those sleep late, walk directly to computer, loose 5 hours" days. When our bodies finally triggered the alarm, we realised we had no food in the house and we opted to stroll through Clissold Park and enjoy the sunny evening, heading for Mercado, our local Mexican cantina.
When Mercado opened, it struggled with a lot of negative feedback from patrons, who (I felt) didn't have a real appreciation of Mexican cooking. The British palate associates Mexican food with what I would call Tex-Mex : nachos, fajitas and chimichangas. Mercado was dishing up more authentic fare : mole , pasilla and salsa verde sauces for example. Eventually the restaurant conceded and added fajitas and burritos to the menu. It seems to be working for them - the restaurant was nearly full on this Sunday evening.
Unfortunately on this visit I have to say I was not impressed. It was the third time I've eaten there. Last visit I had Coctel de Camaron which I found too sweet (but put that down to my taste) and the Carne Asada which I found a bit unexciting. On this visit things didn't improve.
I started with Queso Fundido - basically a bowl of melted cheese - or a kind of Mexican fondue, if you will. Usually the recipe involves several types of cheese (Monterey Jack, Mozzarella or Manchego typically), some poblano chiles, maybe some red pepper, and some wine. Mercado's version was a duller affair - simply cheese with a few chuncks of chorizo thrown in. It did the job but it didn't bear repeating. Damon had what the menu called "Quesadillas", which were not made with tortillas as expected, but instead were more like an empanada. Filled with cheese, they too were quite bland, but saved by the addition of some guacamole and warm salsa on the plate.
They were out of my first choice - Chiles En Nogada (poblano chiles stuffed with beef or vegetables) so we both opted for Burritos. Though the menu described them in the plural, it was really one large burrito cut in half. The filling was a very bland mixture of ground beef and onion, wrapped in a flour tortilla and topped with some guacamole, lettuce and sour cream, and accompanied by a dull tasting red rice. We had to ask for a bottle of hot sauce just to give the burrito a bit of flavour.
Add to this that our margaritas (we tried the Fallen Angelita) came served with a rim of sugar, not salt, and it was not a meal to write home about. Had we not been so rampantly hungry I'm sure our disappointment would have been greater.
Service was okay: not good, not bad. Two margaritas, two beers, two bottles of water and the bill came to £48 for two. We won't be rushing back again.