Ella Canta, Mayfair: restaurant review
Martha Ortiz's Ella Canta brings a slice of contemporary Mexico to Mayfair, with fierce flavour combinations and an upbeat atmosphere to match
What's the draw
You've taken on Soho's taco trail too many times to count (Breddos? Corazon? Wahaca? Completed them, mate) and you'll no doubt have dipped some chips into the Cool Chilli Co.'s tomatillo sauce last time you skipped past its Borough Market stall, but if you thought Mexican food was always fast, casual and dripping with spicy salsa, then Ella Canta is about to prove you wrong. This experimental fine-dining restaurant at the InterContinental Park Lane hotel comes from one of Mexico City's top chefs Martha Ortiz. It's rich in authenticity and everything from the new Frida Kahlo-inspired tasting menu, extensive drinks list and the beautiful interior sings of Mexico.
What to drink
Cocktails. No, seriously. Ella Canta's offering does not disappoint and as you'd expect, the list makes the most of Mexico's greatest exports: tequila and smoky mezcal – with loads of other ingredients native to Ortiz homeland thrown in there, too. We got into the swing of things with the Yu-ka t'ann, a punchy, avocado and honey-washed tequila cocktail built around a square of ice with a jaguar stamped into it. But if that's not your kind of thing, then the Allende beer isn't a bad way to go either: it's a malty brown ale flavoured with agave, and its subtle sweetness is the perfect counter to any heat you might come up against.
What to eat
Ortiz might be Ella Canta's chef patron, but it's head chef Elias Silva Resinas who you'll find behind the pass day-to-day. Together with Ashley Wells, executive chef of the InterContinental London Park Lane, the team have devised an a la carte menu that's ladened with plays of texture and colourful, theatrical twists. Dive straight in and use your blue corn tortilla chip to scoop up a healthy helping of signature guac – bonus points to anyone who manages to get everything on their chip, including a scattering of pomegranate seeds, chunks of tangy cheese and the, er, golden cricket that sits pride of place on top. Then, before your octopus arrives – charred, rich and smokey, with dark spice and fresh flickers of sweet, juicy tomato – grab a tostado or two. We went nuts for the crunch of the tuna and chilli peanut tortilla, and you'd be foolish to pass up the jungle of fresh greens and summery, citrus zing that comes hand-in-hand with the shrimp ceviche. You'd be even more of a fool, though, to try close the main act with a whole main to yourself. It's back to sharing plates, here – you need to save room for a round of caramel and chocolate churros, after all. We got stuck into the traditional Michoacán-style pork carnitas, but if we were to do it all again, it'd be the turbot with its mint and pistachio mole all the way.
Mains from £18; cocktails from £15. One Hamilton Place, Park Lane, W1J 7QY; ellacanta.com