Pinche Pinche, an unassuming little Mexican eatery in Chapel Allerton came about, so the website says, when owner Simon Heath returned from a year working in Mexico City and was determined to create the street food he’d grown to love, for the people of his home city.
Securing a last minute early evening booking and once we managed to tuck the car away down a side street, we locate the restaurant on Harrogate Road after a couple of false moves.
Pushing open the door we are met with a blast of delicious aromas and the sound of people who are clearly enjoying themselves: couples with or without babies and children, groups of older women, students - a wonderful cross section of the community. Some groups have clearly finished eating and are enjoying a chat over drinks under no pressure to leave.
A waiter dashes about, taking orders, delivering food and clearing tables like a whirling dervish, clearly enjoying himself as he maintains a broad grin at all times.
After a bit of a mix up over the name on the booking he locates us on a scribbled sheet and his colleague explains that our table is not quite ready and would we care for a drink at the tiny bar while we wait.
There’s a great range of cocktails and, after seeking her advice go for Tommy’s Margarita - tequila and lime on the rocks (£6.95) which takes a while to be created as she keeps having to dash off to deliver food to a table. Beer is a bit pricey though at £3.90 for a small bottle of San Miguel.
Now, I’ve never been to Mexico City but I also love Mexican food and, over the years, have experienced the best, and usually the worst, of the country’s cuisine. I was hoping for great things from Pinche Pinche.
But first the name. We ask our waiter, who has to confer with a colleague but comes back with the translation of ‘kitchen porter’ which is Mexican street slang and is generally used as a swear word or term of rebuke best described as ‘the bloody kitchen porter’.
The decor is simple, cosy and eclectic and very welcoming. Brightly coloured walls filled with photos and artwork, comfy cushions on the settle on the back wall. It’s only a small restaurant but good use is made of space and it doesn’t feel unduly crowded.
Easy to read menus are printed on sheets of glossy paper which double as place mats and there is a good selection of recognisable Mexican classics: tapas,enchiladas, tacos and burritos and some unfamiliar dishes including tlacoyas - mini black bean and maize flatbreads with either a meat or vegetarian topping and barbacoa lamb - pasilla chile marinated lamb with a spicy salsa.
And Simon clearly knows his customers. The use of soft corn tortillas means the majority of the dishes are suitable for those on a gluten free diet and vegetarians and vegans are treated with respect rather than marginalised: there’s plenty of choice with something on all sections of the menu.
The nachos (£5.95) with homemade cheese sauce we begin with have now become the benchmark against which all other nachos will be judged. They are quite simply delicious, the cheese is smooth, the nachos crisp and flavoursome and the accompanying tangy avocado salsa, diced tomatoes, sour cream and jalapenos work together in perfect harmony.
We also try ceviche - a cold dish of citrus cured fish with mango and orange (£6.25). Although it doesn’t have the same wow factor as the nachos the orange balances out the sweetness of the mango and it is light and refreshing on the palate.
Mains are beef enchiladas and a Mexican surf and turf platter for one which we reckon will give a good cross-section of what is on offer.
The beef in the enchilados is tender and full of flavour and the dish is beautifully cooked and well presented.
The platter looks impressive with a plump piece of cod on a taco; a chile prawn sope, mini beef burrito, deliciously gooey black beans, a handful of salad and more of the tangy avocado salsa with slices of avocado included.
The side order of Mexican fries with a spicy topping and more of the nacho cheese is probably us being greedy but we manage to polish off all but a few scraps from the bottom of the dish.
We try to summon up enough room to indulge in one of the desserts which are almost too tempting to resist but common sense prevails and we decline with regret. So I’ll list them instead to whet your appetite.
Mexican churros, plantofee pie, pistachio and caramel brownie and tequila, chocolate and almond milk ice cream, all at a reasonable £4.95.
Never mind, it gives us an excuse to make a return visit and perhaps lay off the fries next time.
Address: 116a Harrogate Rd, Chapel Allerton, Leeds LS7 4NY
Opening hours: Tues – Thurs 5pm – late; Frid – Sat 11.30am – 3.30pm then 5pm – late; Sunday – Monday closed
Telephone: 0113 268 1110