Great Places to Eat in Scotland
- Tequila Joe's, Hanover Street, Edinburgh
For a lively night out, whether a visitor to town or a local resident, this Mexican bar and Grill could not be more central. Located on Hanover Street in the heart of the drinking and eating out district between Princes Street and George Street, it has a discreet entrance leading down a steep flight of steps into a basement dungeon. Just look out for the lime green sign outside. (Note - unfortunately there is no access for disabled or wheelchair users). A very different Latino world awaits as you open the door at the bottom of the steps. Welcome Amigos ….
My partner Ken and I arrived on one of the wettest nights of the year during the dark, cold winter of 2008. Opening that door we were indeed welcomed by the vibrant blue and yellow décor, soft red lighting, cool salsa sounds and smiling staff. Wet coats and brollies were swiftly taken away and we were ushered over to the bar for a stiff drink to warm the blood. This is the place to sit on a stool, chat to the bar tenders and sample the real Tequila with 47 different types and brands. We opted for our favourite cocktail, a classic Margarita, with the rim of the glass dipped in lemon juice and salt for that exotic sour-sweet taste which gives a momentary shiver down the spine but that first sip is a delicious hot shot! The bar at Tequila Joe's runs virtually along one wall, crammed with distinctively different and unusual imported beers and spirits.
The entrepreneurial owner Hector Lazcano behind this new venue also owns the popular and well established El Barrio, the Latino dance club on Rose Street. The aim behind Tequila Joe's is to offer the complete night out from cocktails and beers, moving on to quality Mexican food and finally leading on to late night dancing. From around 10pm, as people are finishing dinner, the music tempo jazzes up, the DJ comes on board and couples take to the dance floor. The underground setting is ideal for this purpose, with separate areas for the bar, dining tables in an alcove at the back and central disco dance floor. For groups of friends (10 - 15) you can reserve a separate room for a private dinner party.
After our aperitif we moved over to the far side where a couple of neat rows of tables are covered in traditional red and white check tablecloths with rustic country style basket wicker chairs. There are vintage Tequila posters, decorative terracotta floor tiles, artwork and menu blackboards all adding to the atmosphere of an authentic Caribbean-style Cantina. The lime green menu is divided into starters, sharing plates, Main courses, Joe's Steak and Grill, Salads and Sides. To start we shared a platter of Tequila Joe's Prawns, big juicy and pan fried, and a bowl of nachos smothered in melted cheese, jalapenos and salsa - the perfect appetisers to tempt the taste buds.
The Grill menu offers a wide range of hamburgers, cheeseburgers, king prawn starters (see illustration) and steaks - more Texas USA than Mexico - so to experience true Mexican food, we chose from the appetising selection of Tacos, Beef chilli, Wraps, Quesadillas and Fajitas. We were informed that a speciality house Taco is Chicken or Beef Mechada, a method of traditional slow roasted meat "made in the same way Joe and Guadalupe did in their Taco Shack in Mexico". I sampled a Chilli Taco, a traditional flour tortilla stuffed with beans, spices, peppers, tomatoes and vegetables. Most main course dishes automatically come with a complimentary "Fries, Mexican rice or salad), but not for some reason not the Tacos, so I requested a side order of rice. Ken selected a Burrito filled with veggi chilli, which is then deep fried and topped with sour cream guacamole and salsa, served with rice. Portion sizes are generous and we each were presented with a feast of two huge fat tacos and burritos. Surprisingly, the bean chilli was not at all spicy and rather bland. Perhaps on this particular night, the chef forgot to add the jalapeno peppers. But what the food lacked in flavour was made up by the lively atmosphere of this unique Mexican-style diner. This did not feel like the centre of New Town Edinburgh but more like a cantina in sunny Cancun.
The Wine list is short and sweet: house white, house red, Pinot Grigio, Carmenene, and a Rose (no details of vineyard or vintage) and at £ 14- £ 16, wine here is palatable but not good value. What could work well here, especially for a party table, would be a litre carafe at say £ 12 - 15, popular in cheap and cheerful Italian restaurants. For dessert, there are the usual suspects of ice cream
Starter: £3.50; Sharing plate: £7.95; Chilli Bean Taco: £8.50 + Side order rice, £2.35; Burrito, £8.50 (including rice); Hamburger in a bun with fries and salad garnish: £7.95; Desserts: £3.75.
Bottle of house wine £14; small glass: £ 3.30; San Miguel beer: £ 3.30.
Tequila and classic cocktails, around £6 - £6.50.
Tequila Joe's is at 47 Hanover Street, Edinburgh EH12 2PJ. For reservations, phone 0131 220 6818. For further information see the Tequila Joe's Web site.
I was totally taken by surprise when arriving in this colourful underground restaurant which has a brilliantly designed and themed setting. This is not simply a bar and restaurant, but a Club for couples and groups of friends for a party night out. Offering Drinks, Dining and Disco, it's probably the superb "hit the spot" authentic Tequila cocktails, music and entertainment rather than the food, which will draw the crowds. For a taste of sunny Cancun lifestyle in the centre of New Town Edinburgh, head to Tequila Joe's for a warm and friendly welcome.
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