Let's Cook with Meg and Ted

Mexican

El Mexicano - When I first read the sign outside this restaurant that says "Brighton's only authentic Mexican restaurant", I didn't believe it. Not the implication that the other Mexican restaurants in Brighton are unauthentic, because that's perfectly true and painfully obvious. But rather, that this one would be any different. Well I take all that cynicism back. Because although there is an unfortunate preponderance of carrot in some of the vegetarian dishes, El Mexicano really is good stuff. My favourite so far is the vegetarian fajitas, with strips of red and green peppers, mushrooms, courgettes and carrots, chargrilled and served hot with excellent spice, along with guacamole, a little refried beans, and tortillas. The vegie enchiladas are let down a bit by the density of carrot (NOT a mexican vegetable! NOT!), but are surrounded by good black beans. Ted likes the chicken enchiladas, and says the organic beef tacos are also good. The starter of chilli and garlic mushrooms is spicy and not the usual watery, tasteless mushroom entree found in half the restaurants in Brighton, and I also like the bean quesadillas. Finally, we very much recommend the margaritas - they are small but very powerful. New Road, Brighton (beside the Theatre Royal). (01273) 727766. Open Mon-Fri 6-11pm, Sat 12-11pm, Sun 12-10.30pm. (July 2003)

Cactus Canteen - I have only two things to say. (1) It's Mexican, right? So what is this cabbage, cauliflower and carrot doing in my food? (2) See this little red thing? It's called a chili. Why don't you try using it? Located somewhere in the Lanes, I can't even be bothered looking up an address for you, let alone a phone number - I'm too worried about the fact that my stomach has died of boredom. (January 2002)

Dig in the Ribs - And I thought nothing could be worse than the Cactus Canteen. God, the food here is dreadful. We ordered a starter of chilli poppers - supposedly hot chillies stuffed with cheese, then fried. In reality, your 5 gets you a plate with four things which look a lot like chicken nuggets (and, according to Ted, they don't taste so different to chicken nuggets, either). Biting into a nugget-thing, you discover that, far from containing a stuffed hot chilli, it consists of a weird, rectangular fillet of chilli, from which all heat has been removed by boiling or some chemical process, topped with a flat slab of tasteless cheese, all wrapped up in nuggetty breading. I suppose that these things were probably cooked at some stage. Certainly when they arrived at our table they might just have been classified as lukewarm. And to complete this classy dish, they are served with a sweet, apricot-coloured mayonnaise. Gee, are we looking forward to our main course or what! My vegetarian enchillada and Ted's chicken enchillada differed in that he had a pile of tasteless chicken stew ("Possibly the blandest thing I have ever eaten") under a bit of tortilla, while I had a ratatouille-like mound of tomato and vegetables (including carrot - God forbid there be a vegetarian dish in the UK which doesn't contain carrot) which had obviously never come within 10 metres of a chilli. In both cases, the mound of inappropriate mush was flanked with a pile of tasteless, overcooked white rice mixed with sweetcorn, and a bog of beans. Man, these beans - they tasted like someone had rubbed them on their arse, then stored them for six months in a musty attic, and then lightly warmed them before serving. Disgusting. And we couldn't even try to help it down with the aid of a stiff drink - Ted is a very delicate alcohol-detecting instrument, and he drank a Corona and a margarita in quick succession without getting tipsy, suggesting that the margarita was very weak indeed. I would possibly be less pissed off about this meal if the bill hadn't come to 45. The sooner this place goes out of business the better. 47 Preston Street, Brighton. (01273) 325275 (September 2003)

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