Illegal Jacks

2nd September 2015 12.30pm

www.illegaljacks.co.uk

Illegal Jacks previously was situated on Lothian Road and had rapidly become an institution in Edinburgh before it’s untimely demise through no fault of its own. I was pleased to see it was able to re-establish itself elsewhere and in a better location for me. I will declare my interest here as I did contribute to the Kickstarter campaign to get Illegal Jacks back on track.

Burrito - Illegal Jacks

Burrito – Illegal Jacks

I nipped in here at lunchtime with a work colleague. The venue is a fair bit smaller than its previous location. It has a squished service area which makes it perhaps a little slower in terms of service but this leaves a bigger dining area for the customers. We both ordered small burritos. I went for beef chilli with pinto beans, mild salsa, cheese and soured cream (all laid on a bed of rice). My colleague went for the same but with haggis to replace the chilli. I got a refillable diet coke. My colleague had wanted a bottle of water but disappointingly they didn’t have any even though it was on menu. So she opted for a refillable diet coke too.

The end of my burrito - Illegal Jacks

The end of my burrito – Illegal Jacks

I do have to apologise for the poor quality of photos as I managed to remember to take a ‘before’ photo but only remembered to take a photo of the unwrapped burrito when I’d almost completed demolishing it! The burrito is served in foil, which makes it perfect as a take away back to the office or on the way home if you don’t have time to sit in. Unwrapping the burrito and taking the first bite resulted in delicious gooey-ness. The tortilla was nice and soft and the filling was generous. All the fillings were tasty and worked really well. On the other side of the table, my colleague also thought her burrito was nice but the haggis lacked a bit of spice and was a bit sloppy. She couldn’t work out whether it was because she was a ‘haggis snob’ or whether this was a genuine improvement which could be made.

The venue itself is covered in red and black hues with chipboard to make it look all industrial. The best bit for me was the 80s music playing in the background. I couldn’t help but have the odd shimmy whilst eating.

This is a solid return for Illegal Jacks. I am looking forward to trying other menu items on a return visit.

Food 8/10
Service 7/10
Atmosphere 8/10
Value 7/10

Overall 30/40

Cost £18 for two small burritos and two refillable drinks

Illegal Jacks Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

El Cartel

2nd August 2015 6.30pm

www.elcartelmexicana.co.uk

Apple and apricot margarita - El Cartel

Apple and apricot margarita – El Cartel

El Cartel is a little Mexican on Thistle Street. As it is small you cannot pre-book so it is a gamble as to whether there will be a table available for you on arrival. Luckily we didn’t have that problem but the place was quite busy. The menu is relatively short but still full of tasty treats, all of which sounded tempting. Whilst there is some choice, the main staple is tacos. We opted for duck carnitas and carne asadas (which came in pairs) and also went for some red rice and bombers, which were jalapeño cheese bites. We also ordered the obligatory frozen margaritas. We both went for the apple and apricot version that was on offer on the specials board (although it was a bit confusing as to whether they were two separate flavours or combined until we ordered).

El Cartel

El Cartel

The food came out quickly. Firstly we got the bombers. There were four of these and were of a generous size. They sat in a small amount of sauce that had a spicy kick to it. I have to say I was expecting cheese stuffed in a chilli, however it turned out to be chillies cut up into the cheese. That wasn’t a problem though as they still had great flavour. Then came the tacos and the rice. The tacos stood in stands, although they were a little difficult to get out and onto the plate without spilling any and ended up being a knife and fork job rather than using hands. That said, these were delicious and my preferred type of taco with a soft encasing rather than a hard crisp type one. They even seemed slightly healthy with seeds adorning them. The duck was crispy and surprisingly went very well with the pineapple, which was charred to give extra dimension. The carne asadas had a bit of spice and kick but the steak was soft and cooked just how I like it. The rice had plenty of flavour and there was more than enough for two. If we had a bit more room in our stomachs we may have taken the option of three sides together.

Service had been speedy throughout but when water was topped up it was done with haste and splashed into the food, which wasn’t the end of the world but a bit of a shame. As all the food came really quickly, we found we didn’t actually spend a great deal of time in here but we certainly enjoyed the food and is great for a quick pit stop.

Food 8/10
Service 8/10
Atmosphere 7/10
Value 8/10

Overall – 31/40

Cost – £35 for two sets of tacos a side and another dish plus two frozen margaritas.

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Pinto

NOW KNOWN AS BARBURRITO

1st August 2015 – 12.30pm

www.pintomexican.com/menus/shandwick-place/

Pinto

Pinto

I was invited to try out Pinto’s Shandwick Place branch this week. As my love for Mexican food knows no bounds, I scuttled along as soon as I could. When mentioning this to a friend, she said that she loved the Glasgow branch (actually one of two in Glasgow), so that filled me with optimism and rightly so. Pinto has a surprising amount of seating considering it’s relatively small shop front and there were already several customers chowing down on their food. There was also some seating outside should the weather be favourable(!). Mid-way through the restaurant is a serving counter where you order. I was greeted by helpful staff who took my order. I knew I had to try out the burrito. The member of staff serving me explained all the different fillings and options available to create my burrito, including three different salsas catering for an increasing level of heat. So I had a barbacoa beef burrito with rice, pinto beans, medium salsa, cheese, soured cream and lettuce. This was then wrapped up in the customary tin foil to create a delightful burrito parcel. I did ask for a diet coke but they had run out that morning. Whilst a little disappointing, there were masses of other options and it gave me an opportunity to try Coke Life (verdict – not as good as diet coke). To be honest, if I’d gone later in the day, I might have taken advantage of the margaritas on offer. Anyway, I took my food and drink and settled in one of the smaller tables by the window.

Burrito - Pinto

Burrito – Pinto

I unwrapped the top of the foil surrounding my burrito and took a hearty bite and then another and another. This burrito did not disappoint. The tortilla was beautifully soft and the meat was full of flavour. The pinto beans were not too hard or too mushy and gave a good amount of texture to the burrito. The salsa worked really well. The medium option had a lovely little kick without setting my mouth on fire. The soured cream and cheese complemented this, evening out any chance of the salsa becoming the overpowering element. The rice was also very well cooked. I was utterly full after this but in a good way.

The atmosphere isn’t stellar but I wouldn’t really expect anything more of a fast food type establishment. The Mexican music seemed a little awkward (and coincidentally was being drowned out somewhat by a bagpiper across the road). Anyway, I imagine Pinto has a larger demand for take away rather than sit in. This is borne out in the speed in which they are able to complete your order. It was nice to see that they do encourage for you to separate your rubbish for recycling. On the way out, the woman who had served me earlier mentioned their burrito buddy scheme and gave me some cards. Essentially with these, if you bring along a friend and buy one burrito and two drinks, you will get a second burrito free. I already liked place and intended to come back but this just sealed the deal.

Food – 8/10
Service – 9/10
Atmosphere – 6.5/10
Value – 9/10

Overall – 32.5/40

Cost – complimentary but cost for a burrito and a soft drink just over £7

Please note that whilst this meal was complimentary, views expressed are my own. Thanks to Lizzy for arranging.

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Miros Cantina Mexicana

22nd June 2015 – 6pm

www.miroscantinamexicana.com

Frozen Margarita - Miros Cantina Mexicana

Frozen Margarita – Miros Cantina Mexicana

Miros Cantina Mexican is situated on Rose Street and is a relatively small restaurant. That doesn’t stop them making the most of the space and managing to fit in a decent amount of diners, both inside and on the few tables they have outside. This place was packed for a Monday night and it wasn’t all tourists. A group of us had gone for a get together and had a table of four by the window. Before we even looked at the food menu, we knew we were going to make a start on the jugs of frozen margaritas. We went for the plain lime version but you can order flavoured versions which include mango, raspberry and coconut amongst others. These were very good value for money at £20 and we got about 10 small drinks out of each jug. Whilst not overly alcoholic, they were just right to go with the food and we ordered a second jug later in the evening. As a few of us had been before, we knew that the starters were massive, so we decided to opt for two starters between the four of us. We went for a trio of dips with corn chips and some olives. Unfortunately the olives weren’t available so we just got a second lot of dips. For mains, three of us went for exactly the same dish from the specials menu which was steak strip tacos. The fourth (a vegan) went for the vegetable and bean fajitas and it was no problem to remove the cheese and sour cream from the order and they offered more salsa in place, which was nice.

Trio of dips - Miros Cantina Mexicana

Trio of dips – Miros Cantina Mexicana

It wasn’t too long before the dips and corn chips arrived. The corn chips were nice and warm. The three dips were guacamole, salsa and chile con queso, which is a warm cheese and pepper dip. The salsa was fresh and the coriander gave a nice element to it (and even won over the coriander hater at the table). The guacamole was nice but was a bit bland and maybe needed a little more seasoning. However, this could have been because it was sitting next to the most amazing dip I think I have ever had. The chile con queso was delicious. The warmth was a surprise but the taste was so moreish I could have eaten them all night. Everyone managed to polish off all the corn chips with much satisfaction.

Fajita and tacos - Miros Cantina Mexicana

Fajita and tacos – Miros Cantina Mexicana

Onto the mains, the tacos weren’t too over facing in size, which was good. A soft taco (which I prefer to the hard ones which shatter upon eating) wrapped up steak pieces, onions and peppers with a sweet chilli jam, which really brought the dish together. The steak pieces were a little small but it did make the dish much easier to eat. The taco was covered in guacamole and sour cream. The sides of rice and salad were ok but nothing special. The salad was fresh but the rice was a bit lacking. Maybe it was because it had sweetcorn in it and wasn’t as fluffy as I liked. I’ll mark that down to personal preference. Although I couldn’t quite finish mine (I think I was full of frozen margarita by this stage) the other two who had the same dish polished off their plates and left not even a scrap. The vegetable and bean fajitas were enjoyed. It arrived on a sizzle plate and the dips and warm flour tortillas were provided on a side plate.

We didn’t have room for any desserts but there were some good ones on offer, including churros and pineapple kebabs. We weren’t hurried away from our table and were left to finish our cocktails. We all had a great time with lovely food, drink and a bustling atmosphere. I look forward to going back.

Food – 8/10

Atmosphere – 8/10

Service – 8/10

Value – 9/10

Overall – 33/40

Cost – just over £100 for two starters and four mains plus two jugs of frozen margaritas