La Cantina at Leith’s Commercial Quay was tasked with satisfying my latest Mexican food craving. La Cantina bills itself as a Cafe/Restaurant Mexicano and it takes pride of place at the start of a Commercial Quay line up which includes The Kitchin and Daniel’s Bistro. The long narrative on the front of La Cantina’s menu states “More to Mexican food than Tortilla and Chiles”. Judging by other diners’ plates and the nachos, fajitas and enchiladas infront of us, the more authentic dishes such as Albondigas Enchipotle (beef meatballs) and Calabaza de Butternut might not always be a customer’s first choice.
La Cantina has an conservatory area, which was drafty when we visited. So we sat in the larger area where La Cantina’s bar is situated. The decor screams Mexican restaurant with every touch; wooden chairs and tables, green and yellow paint and wire meshed cacti. Service was definitely with a smile and utterly faultless. Frozen raspberry margarita was our drinks choice at ¬£3.90 a glass. This was luminous blue in colour and both the machine it came from and the tumbler it was served in evoked childhood memories of Slush Puppies. Such a chemically coloured, mass produced margarita was a disappointment. I soon switched to bottled Dos Equis XX lager (¬£2.85). Unfortunately La Cantina only had the amber version of this beer; though it was an improvement over the bland margaritas.
For food we shared a plate of beef nachos (¬£4.90). The portion size was generous and it would have been a struggle to eat La Cantina’s nachos and a main course, if we hadn’t been sharing this starter. It’s hard to go wrong with nachos, but the smothering of melted cheese, generous portion of beef and the toppings of sour cream, salsa and jalapenos really hit the spot. The beef had a fiery taste which furthered my enjoyment of the nachos, but might isolate those of you with plainer tastes.
My main of chicken enchiladas (¬£9.95) and my dining partner’s chicken fajitas (¬£11.95) were vanilla Mexican cooking. All the food had been prepared to a good standard, but for these prices I would expect nothing less. The largest complaint of the night was the meagre inclusion of only four flour tortillas! That’s a ridiculous number and La Cantina should definitely add at least a couple more tortillas with all fajita orders (additional tortillas cost ¬£1.70). Also it would have been nice for my enchiladas to be served with guacamole, sour cream and salsa, but again this was a ¬£1.50 supplement.
La Cantina also offer pasta dishes, salads, steaks and hamburgers. Therefore a trip to La Cantina need not exclude non-Mexican food fans. An interesting dish for La Cantina to add would be a mixed platter main course: smaller enchiladas , tacos, etc on the traditional front and meatballs, casserole, etc for something different. My most enjoyable Mexican meals have included such a mixed dish option as the main course. Please make sure the excellent refried beans are prominent though!
I think the best way of describing La Cantina has already been used: vanilla. That’s not saying La Cantina is a bad Mexican restaurant (far from it), but it’s not great either. If you’re in the Leith area and a Mexican meal takes your fancy then La Cantina will do a good job. I think the restaurant layout is well suited to cater for large groups, whose custom is a always a feature of Mexican restaurants.
La Cantina is located at 72 Commerical Quay, Edinburgh, EH6 6LX.
Telephone: 0131 538 0022 or e-mail La Cantina: infoXlacantina.org.uk, where X is @