Restaurant review: Pinche Pinche, Chapel Allerton, Leeds

Pinche Pinche, Chapel Allerton.
Pinche Pinche, Chapel Allerton.
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A cosy spot off the main thoroughfare of Chapel Allerton, this Mexican eatery lured us in off the street on a cold evening with its softly lit interior and twinkling fairy lights around the bar.

A square room with three rows of tables, it’s tightly packed without feeling impersonal and I was pleased to be able to view the chefs hard at work in the kitchen through a serving hatch at the back of the room - a touch that always gives me a measure of confidence in the food on my plate.

Pinche Pinche, Chapel Allerton, Leeds.

Pinche Pinche, Chapel Allerton, Leeds.

Somehow I had conspired to pick this venue on a night when it was overrun with a massive party of young children, here marking some special occasion. It made for a loud setting and was almost full; the staff busy when we entered.

We had to approach the bar to ask if there was anywhere for us to dine, and we were offered the last remaining seats, a choice of two perches on tall chairs and bistro bar tables - we elected for the pews against the front windows so we could people watch.

I had emailed ahead that afternoon to book and mentioned that I had not heard back. Their answer was that they don’t always check their emails, which was disappointing - so ring ahead if you’re anxious to ensure a table.

Despite the initial din - the noisy children gradually left as the evening wore on - this was a warm, cosy spot with character; framed Mexican-themed pictures scattered on the walls and a lamp with astronomical shapes hung above our heads.

The menu had plenty of choice with lots of interesting takes on traditional favourites from the South America country. Our waitress explained that it was best to either order a ‘big meal’ - enchiladas or burritos for £10.50 each - with a smaller dish or to pick a selection of two or three of the smaller dishes each - tapas style and priced between £3.75 and £6.50.

We opted for the latter, choosing spicy marinated pork ribs, prawn and cod ceviche, sweet sticky pork sopes and a Mexican-style chile con carne.

The sauces on the ribs and sopes was satisfyingly sweet but the ribs had a tad too little meat on them, although it did slip off the bone nice and easily, and the sopes could have done with a little extra sauce, leaving it a bit dry.

The con carne was served on a bed of yellow rice adorned by a thin crispy popadom-like cracker, topped with the spicy mince and kidney beans, and drizzled with cooling plain yoghurt, raisins and nut shavings. It was delicately delicious and came in a hearty portion that offers plenty for two diners to share.

The ceviche was equally tasty. It was served cool and fresh; a sweet sharpness that revitalised the palate.

Thrown in with an orange juice and table water, the bill for our full bellies came to about £22 - I’d steered clear of the organic wine, mezcal and tequila on the menu!

Overall, it was an innovative take on Mexican dining set in comfy surroundings. A response to my reservation request would have earned it a higher score.

Rating: 3/5

PIC: Tony Johnson

Restaurant review: Cantinho do Aziz, Sovereign Place, Leeds