I was invited down to try Nottingham’s newest Mexican restaurant, El Capo. Considering we were let down with the promise of Troperio turning into a Mexican I hadn’t heard much hype about this opening, which was a shame. It was safe to say I knew little about the venue or what I would be expecting.
First Impressions of El Capo
My first surprise was that The Rum House had gone and El Capo had taken over, that happened quietly. As you walk in the layout is the same, there’s a small entrance with two options: go right to the upstairs area, which was closed, or go straight ahead through a door to enter the restaurant/bar. Previously the upstairs was Bad Juju so I don’t know if El Capo have taken the whole of this venue over? If you know leave me a comment please, I’m curious!
The renovation looks minimal when you first walk in as they’ve still got the wooden floor and exposed brick, however, it’s the decor that’s the main change. They have added a lot of tiles to the walls and the bar area and kitted it out with lots of new seating, wallpaper and trinkets. There’s a large bench against the wall to the right of the bar, which is where we were sat – the bench is filled with cushions to keep optimal comfort. The wall above us was filled with crucifixes of all shapes and sizes which definitely added the cartel feel!
I arrived early so ordered a couple of beers which were on happy hour (2 Sol for £5) and some nachos for the table. Nachos are served with sour cream (eurgh), pico de gallo and guacamole, they arrived just as my boyfriend arrived so we snacked on them whilst looking at the menu. The menu is pretty extensive with tacos, burritos, wings, tortas (sandwiches) and giant sharer plates. For starters our eyes went straight to the jalapeno poppers and adobo chicken drummers. I was happy to share so I could try both along with the added finger food of nachos, in fairness I could have opted for any of the starters as they were all a little bit different.
The chicken drummers came out as a trio, fried and with a red sauce covered with jalapenos. Even smelling it I could tell it was going to be a spicy one. I checked on the menu and there was no mention of spice (no little chillis next to the name). I’ve never had adobo sauce before so I apologise if this is an obvious spicy dish. We dug in after a few minutes as we were still finishing the nachos and the food was ridiculous hot. They were good! I’m not usually a fan of fried food but these weren’t greasy so I didn’t mind, they were crispy on the outside but juicy inside. The sauce had a proper kick to it, a lot more than I was anticipating so it caught me off guard at first and it did numb my lips until the mains came. Luckily my Sol helped me out with the cooling!
The poppers were good too although they had no spice to them considering they were jalapenos. I don’t know if it was because the chicken was spicy that it over-powered the spice of the other dish but for that reason I preferred the chicken.
For mains, my boyfriend knew straight away he was having a burrito, he chose the pork carnitas with rice, guacamole, black beans and cheese. I opted for tacos, which are served in either 3 or 5. I went for the 5 so that I could try as many flavours as possible.
The burrito arrived with more nachos and in a small tray. The burrito itself was wrapped in branded paper and delivered in a SubWay-style, I think this was to make it easier to eat and stop it going everywhere once you bit into it. My boyfriend’s favourite burrito is from Barburrito, the takeaway place on King Street and he said that El Capo’s was better. This is probably the highest compliment you could get from him in relation to Mexican food! With this dish we didn’t need the tacos to start and he didn’t end up eating them in this dish as it was too much. There was no mention of the burritos coming with tacos on the menu either so this would be a good thing to add on, just to avoid duplicating food!
For tacos I opted for:
- pulled beef roasted with agave nectar
- chicken dry rubbed in seven secret spices
- pork carnitas in orange and smoked paprika sauce
- chipotle panga of white fish shallow fried in herbs and sauces
- smoked chipotle sweet potato and mushroom
We went to Cancun earlier this year and I had some tacos from a beach BBQ and they were awesome – soft shell and filled with juicy and spicy meat so I was hoping for something similar. I find it strange that all the tacos we have in the supermarkets are the hard shells ones which are incredibly difficult to eat without getting it everywhere.
One of the tacos had 2 chillis next to the description on the menu so, considering the chicken had none, I was expecting my head to be blown off. I went for a bit of a lucky dip, picking whichever one shouted out to me at the time. All tacos were really good and matched the flavours of what I had in Mexico, however, there was zero spice. Nada. All tacos have a different flavour due to the meat and their garnishes but the one which stood out the most was the fish as it was fried with spring onions sprinkled on top, it had a fresh flavour and different as I would never normally consider putting fish into Mexican food!
Although these tacos looked quite small when they came out I was stuffed by the end of it. I don’t know whether 3 would have been enough though so my recommendation would be to go for the 5. One thing I noticed was that there wasn’t any spicy condiments on the table which, considering the lack of spice in some of the main foods, would be an easy way for customers who want some added zing to put some into their food.
I had no complaints here, the service is like a bar setting so don’t expect full on restaurant standard. We had everything we needed and were given the chance to get extra drinks and food as needed. There was a couple next to us who didn’t like where they were sat so when another place opened up the waitress remembered and offered them the new table which I thought was good service (the little things).
When the waitress asked how everything was I asked where the spice was and she said they don’t really have spicy food there. I explained the chicken was and that one of the tacos (I found out later it was the sweet potato and mushroom) had 2 chillis on the menu. The waitress ended up grabbing a menu to have a look and the conclusion was that the menu was wrong. It seems like a bit of teething problems as she was explaining a couple of other customers have complained about the lack of spice, especially in their El Diablo burrito which is far from spicy. To remedy this they’re doubling the chillis they put in this dish and looking at other ways to improve the menu and fix mistakes. I can’t argue with that…so long as they do it.
el capo rating: 7/10
£18 pp/£36 in total for 2 people to have 2 beers, nachos, starters and mains.
It was a really good venue and so cheap! Less that twenty quid for a full on meal in a decent venue in the city centre, you can’t get much better than that. As I mentioned, the menu could be improved but the staff were well aware of the issues so make sure you ask for spice if that’s what you’re after and I’m sure they’ll point you in the right direction. I’d like to go back and try their desserts at some point but I’d have to skip the nachos to start in order to fit them in.
Recommended for: trying proper Mexican food
Not recommended for: non-adventurous, extreme spice lovers, vegans
Why not try: a dessert as I didn’t get the chance!
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Love for you all x