Since Asher arrived (ten months ago, almost to the day) opportunities for Samana and I to go out just the two of us have been few and far between / non-existent. It was my birthday recently though and Samana arranged for her sister (hi Sajeela) to come and babysit while we went out for a meal.
Never having been to Mexico myself, I can’t claim to be an expert, but I love Mexican food. It’s right up there for me. But the majority of Mexican restaurants in this country are very much Tex Mex, rather than authentic Mexican. All Fajitas, Enchiladas, Tacos, Burritos etc etc. Don’t get me wrong, I love all that too, but the place we chose for my birthday is a bit different. A bit better too.
The atmosphere and decor at Lupe’s Cantina Mexicana in Hyde Park, Leeds is warm and unpretentious and we felt comfortable immediately upon taking our seats.
We started with a drink as we perused the menu. I love a margarita and seeing as it was my birthday thought I’d go wild – Tuesday or not. I’d prefer less ice to be honest, but it tasted great. Samana, being the designated driver for the evening went for Agua de Jamaica, a hibiscus based soft drink and it was an excellent alternative to an alcoholic drink.
To the starters, then. I ordered Sopes Rancheros – shredded beef with avocado salad and an adobe sauce on a crispy corn base. The warm meat was melt in the mouth tender and contrasted beautifully with the cooling avocado. Samana opted for the Mango ceviche off the specials menu and that was pretty special too. With seabass, haddock and prawns marinated in mango and citrus and a big kick from some habanero chilli, this was simultaneously sharp, sweet, hot and tender – a big hit. Samana and I had enjoyed a few good ceviches in Peru some years ago and it was interesting to try a Mexican version. The crispy tortilla strips on the top provided a nice textual contrast to the soft and moist seafood and sauce. A really, really good start. I ordered a bottle of Ocho Reales ale in an effort to cool my burning mouth after the habanero attack.
Onto the mains then. It was my turn to order off the specials menu this time as I went for the belly pork. It came with black beans, a potato rosti, mixed greens and roja sauce (a Mexican chilli and tomato table sauce). The meat was perfectly tender and the skin crispy and chewy – just as it should be. The sauce was warm but not overpoweringly so and the pak choi added a slightly bitter, asian-style contrast. This is what I mean about Lupe’s being a bit different.
Samana went for Carne Asada – sirloin steak with rice, guacamole, spring onions, black beans and salsa – and she loved it. The steak was cooked perfectly; charred on the outside, pink and juicy on the inside and all the components of the dish complemented each other well.
Finally, the desert. We could only manage one between us and, after getting over the initial disappointment of being told they were out of the salted chocolate caramel cake, we opted for the flan which was sweet, rich and delicious.
So, filled to the brim with stunning Mexican food, all that was left was to go home and plan our next visit to this little Mexican gem in Hyde Park.