El Cartel Casera Mexicana
- Telephone 0131 226 7171
- Seasonal times Open to midnight during Fringe.
- Food served Sun–Thu noon–10pm; Fri/Sat noon–midnight.
- Average price £13.50 (lunch); £17.50 (evening meal)
- Website elcartelmexicana.co.uk
Fresh Mexican street food, tequilas, mezcals, frozen cocktails and lively vibes.
A city-centre gem, El Cartel is paving the way for Mexican street food in Edinburgh. This compact cantina is bursting with hole-in-the-wall charms, and succeeds in drawing in the crowds while maintaining a seriously laid-back vibe. Food is served tapas-style, arriving throughout the meal, making sharing almost mandatory. The menu is brief, focusing on doing those dishes extremely well. Start with the antojitos (snacks), including spicy corn topped with crema and sprinkled with melted cheese, or frijoles, the deliciously ‘drunken’ refried pinto and kidney bean dip. Guacamole is served with crispy plantain and topped with feta and pomegranate. Hand-pressed tacos are the main event, including the tasty (and mild, for those avoiding spice) baja cod, or the veggie-friendly sweet potato with sheep's milk cheese, pomegranate and pumpkin seeds. Check out the daily changing specials board to see where the chefs have been shaking things up. Homemade sorbet or ice-cream wraps up proceedings – try the mango infused with tequila. To drink, it’s got to be one of their highly Instagram-able frozen margaritas. With menu changes every quarter, there’s an added excuse to visit every few months. Long may they continue.
- High point: Excellent and authentic Mexican food in trendy setting
- Low point: Elbow-to-elbow dining may not be for everyone
- Notable dish: Sweet potato, red onion, sheep's milk cheese, chipotle crema, pomegranate & pumpkin seed taco
- Provides: Vegetarian options (at least ¼ main courses), Children's high chairs, Free wi-fi
- Music on stereo: Hip hop, upbeat tunes, chilled-out music
- Capacity: 40
- Largest group: No bookings
- Open since: 2014
- Number of wines sold by the glass: 2
- House wine: £23 per bottle
- BYOB: £5 corkage (Must be purchased from The Bon Vivant's Companion across the road)
Reviews & features
Restaurant review: El Cartel3 Jun 2015
El Cartel is back from the dead, following a disastrous kitchen fire and lengthy refurb
There’s something folkloric about the tale of El Cartel which perfectly suits this taqueria’s atmosphere. A young, vivacious upstart, cruelly cut down in its prime by fire and smoke. There were tears, sadness and mourning for a time, but then whispers…