Restaurant Review: Pinche Pinche, Harrogate Road, Leeds

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PICKING a name for a fledgling business must cause similar headaches to choosing what to call a new baby.

After all, what you decide will come to define everything that your entrepreneurial offspring stands for.

Oliver was left slightly perplexed, therefore, after looking up the meaning of the word ‘pinche’ online.

Apparently – and I stand to be corrected – in Mexico it is the equivalent of an Anglo-Saxon exclamation of annoyance or disgust.

The direct translation isn’t printable in a family newspaper – suffice to say that ‘fiddlesticks’ doesn’t really convey the true sense of the word.

Based on our experience, though, the people behind this venture don’t have a lot to get pinche-ed off about – they’re clearly doing something right.

I felt like I was being a little over-cautious when I called ahead to book a table. It was a week night, it was raining – I was fairly certain we’d have the place pretty much to ourselves.

I couldn’t have been more wrong. On arrival we didn’t have to ask where we’d be sitting – the solitary empty table told us that.

There’s no more promising sign than a restaurant full of diners on an unpleasant night in the middle of the week, and the place was absolutely packed.

Later on, a group arrived outside, clearly assuming as I had that there’d be no problem getting a spot, only to turn around and walk away again forlornly after seeing from the window that there was no way they’d get in.

Quite appropriate, then, that one of the handful of proverbs written in Spanish on the walls in Pinche Pinche roughly translates as ‘you snooze, you lose’.

The interior as a whole strikes the right balance between authentic Mexican diner and modern suburban bistro.

As the owners say on their website, they’ve ditched the traditional – or more accurately clichéd – motifs like sombreros, cacti and pistols in favour of a modern, bright and eclectic look that reflects Mexico today.

Pinche Pinche has replaced Salsa Mexicana in Chapel Allerton, which had been highly successful for many years but had started to become tired.

I was glad that the owners, who remain the same, had seen fit to remove the piñata that had been suspended from the roof the last time I ate in Salsa.

Instead, the orange walls are now adorned with Mexican art, Day of the Dead memorabilia, religious images and wrestling masks, as well as words of wisdom.

A bench covered with decorative cushions stretches the entire length of one wall, giving it a sociable, informal feel.

Authentic

Despite the changes, some of the staff have been retained, but that’s in Pinche Pinche’s favour.

There was the sum total of two waiters having to deal with the unexpected rush on the night we went, but the service was excellent.

One new addition is the head chef, who, we were told, wanted to bring an authentic taste of Mexico to this little corner of north Leeds.

The menu includes all the traditional favourites – fajitas, enchiladas, quesadillas and burritos.

We chose our starters from the specials board.

The king prawns in filo pastry were a kind of Mexican take on the spring roll – juicy prawns in a crispy coating, with a lime and tequila glaze and served with a sweet pepper dip. They were delicious, although the booze was barely tangible.

Also from the specials, the empanadas were punchy mini-Cornish pasty-shaped parcels stuffed with tomato and chargrilled vegetables.

They came with a tangy sweet jalapeno dip and struck a lovely balance between sweet and savoury, hot and sour.

For her main, my dining partner had the fish burrito. To call it a Mexican fish-finger sandwich would be doing it a slight disservice, but the component parts were all there – haddock deep fried in beer batter, wrapped in a flour tortilla.

It came with spicy coleslaw, Mexican rice and avocado. The fish was meaty and succulent, the flavours well thought out.

From the specials I chose the oven-baked enchilada with cheese and sour cream.

When I asked if it contained meat, the disappointment on my face at hearing that it was a vegetarian dish must have been clear – our waiter immediately went to find out if they could throw in some chicken for me.

I was delighted that they could. The dish was a gooey mixture of roasted vegetables, shredded chicken, cheese and tomato sauce.

Enjoyable, but I would have liked it with a bit more of a kick.

We also shared some nachos, which came with probably the best guacamole I’ve had.

There was a decent selection of desserts on the board, but we were happy enough after our mains to take heed of another of the proverbs written on the walls – ‘ni tanto que queme al santo ni tanto que no lo alumbre’ – which, roughly interpreted, means ‘be moderate’ or ‘strike a happy medium’. Pudding would have been excessive.

With a couple of beers, our bill came to about £44.

On the way to the restaurant, we had discussed the fact that you can occasionally feel cheated by paying for Mexican food in a restaurant that would be quite easily reproduced in your own kitchen at a fraction of the cost.

Pinche Pinche certainly succeeds in giving you more than you could expect to achieve with the help of Old El Paso.

It’s a welcome touch of central American spice in the heart of Chapel Allerton.

You can save your expletives for somewhere else.

FACTFILE

Address: 116a Harrogate Road, Chapel Allerton, Leeds, LS7 4NY

Opening times: 8.30am to 2.30pm and 6pm until late, Tuesday to Friday; 8.30am to 4pm and 6pm until late Saturday; 5pm until late Sunday

Tel: 0113 2681110

Website: www.pinchepinche.com

Email: pinchepincheleeds@gmail.com

STAR RATING

FOOD........................................................ ***

VALUE....................................................... ***

ATMOSPHERE.................................. *****

SERVICE ........................................... *****

***** EXCELLENT **** VERY GOOD *** GOOD ** AVERAGE * POOR

Roast British chicken. PIC: Scott Merrylees

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