Martha Ortiz’s latest addition to the London dining scene gets the thumbs up from Carole Hamilton, who was even persuaded to tuck into a golden grasshopper
Mexican food and I are not very well acquainted. Other than the occasional tortilla or burrito, I haven’t experimented much with the country’s cuisine. Step forward Martha Ortiz – the super-glamorous Michelin-starred chef from Mexico City who just opened her first restaurant on Park Lane – to educate my palate.
Restaurants in hotels are notoriously dull, but the designers behind Ella Canta, which is housed inside the InterContinental hotel, have done a brilliant job. It helps that the dining room has its own entrance on Park Lane and you don’t have to wander through the hotel to find it. The front of house team are Frida Kahlo look-a-likes with flowers in their hair, and a visit to the toilet reveals cactus arrangements and fringed lampshades in every loo. This place tries hard, and it works. The atmosphere is buzzing and you instantly feel like you’ve arrived somewhere fun.
The food and drink
The margaritas – Mexico’s gift to the world – are wicked, and a must while you mull the menu; which is split into ‘overtures’, ‘main acts’ and ‘final curtains’.
My guacamole with ricotta and pomegranate is a favourite, and comes topped with a golden grasshopper – it’s £9 to partake in your own version of a bushtucker trial. It actually tastes fine, and is gone in two crunches. My companion is more inclined to tuck into the sea bass ceviche with mango and sangrita sorbet which she declares light and very moreish.
I think I’ve drawn the short straw.
Martha is well known for saying Mexicans ‘eat colour’, so expect everything you try to be vibrant and served in brilliantly coloured plates and bowls. Our main courses, each priced at £32 to reflect the Mayfair location, are both delicious. We share the black cod with a kick of chilli, and a sweet and rather wonderful soft shell crab with hummus and pineapple purée.
To finish, you have to try the Mexican churros with caramel and chocolate dipping sauces, which are little bites of heaven. If we’d saved more room, we would have tried the pudding called ‘Maria Comes to London’ too – but with no description on the menu, we leave none the wiser as to whether it’s yummy or not.
I enjoyed the food and loved the atmosphere; and could easily become a regular Friday night haunt for those cocktails and that Mexican vibe.
Great food, great atmosphere and, if you’re lucky, you’ll glance Maria on walkabout. She looks like a supermodel in chef’s whites.
One Hamilton Place, Park Lane, W1J 7QY, 020 7318 8715, ellacanta.com