SUGAR, DARLING?

BY NANCY WHITTINGTON-COATES

BODEGA CANTINA LEICESTER REVIEW

Bodega Cantina Leicester

I can't help but think how lucky we are in this country to have access to such diversity of cultures living among us. I know my life has been enriched by my friends from all around the world and the fact that Leicester is one of the most culturally diverse cities in England makes me very proud. Selfishly, another joy that this brings me is that we have access to such a wide range of cuisines in this country now. Obviously I'm a food fan and have been brought up by 'foodie' parents who took my sister and I to all manner of restaurants and always encouraged our trying new things. I have learnt over the years that one of my favourite cuisines are those that come from South America and so when I learnt that a new branch of Bodega Cantina was due to be open in my beloved St Martins Square I was pretty ecstatic and even more so when I was asked to review it!

Bodega Cantina Leicester
Bodega Cantina Leicester
Centinela Tequila

Upon our arrival we were greeted by our lovely server Kirby and we started perusing the impressive menu before a little surprise arrived in the form of the manager with a bottle of extremely good tequila! I'm not a huge tequila fan but believe me this was lovely stuff for sipping - no acrid burn to the tongue but a super smooth and almost creamy taste followed by a lovely warming of the throat. This is the kind of stuff that you want to actually taste rather than just do a shot of, we thought it would be lovely with just tonic water and a lie wedge as a long drink on a hot day.

We decided to get three of the 'Small Plates' to share as a little starter and enjoyed each picking a cocktail to test as we waited.

Bodega Cantina Leicester Negringo

My husband is a big fan of a Negroni so I was not surprised when he decided to try the 'Negringo', Bodega's own version. This lovely drink was concoted from mezcal, Aperol, sweet vermouth and orange bitters so it was a perfect, deliciously bitter cocktail that was perfect as a pre-dinner bevvy.

Bodega Cantina Leicester Brum Runner

I do love me a fruity drink and so I went for the 'Brum Runner', half because of the ingredients list and half because it sounded like Blade Runner which we all know is my favourite film. This frosty little treat mixed rum with banana and blackcurrant liqueurs, pineapple juice, lime juice and intriguingly some molasses. It worked perfectly and was a lovely sweet start to my meal.

Bodega Cantina Leicester Red Wine Chorizo

The first dish we tried was the Red Wine Glazed Chorizo. Generous chunks of chorizo were sizzled with onions and peppers in rich red wine and chilli, freshened up by a final sprinkling of fresh coriander. This is a dish you often see on tapas menus but this stands apart due to the fabulous quality of the chorizo itself. Lovely caramelised crisp edges gave way to a juicy flavourful centre and the fat from the meat also infused the vegetables. I think a flat bread of some sort would be a grand addition with this as you could mop up all the juices at the end but even without this was a real treat.

Bodega Cantina Leicester Empanadas

The Beef and Chorizo Empanadas were our next dish to try. I will be honest and say that this was my husband's choice, I have in the past not been too keen on empanadas because whenever I have tried them they have been more tasteless pastry than filling and just been too bland HOWEVER it turned out that these were one of my favourite dishes of the night! No thick stodgy pastry here, the lovely little bundles were wrapped up expertly in dreamily crisp, light, flaky pastry and filled with a gently spiced blend of minced beef and chorizo. Believe me when I say I could have just eaten a few platefuls of these and been very very happy! They came with a fiery hot habanero ketchup on the side which I must confess was a bit too spicy for me, but Pete really loved it.


Bodega Cantina Leicester Coxinhas

The last small plate that we tried was the Coxinhas which I was very keen to try as they are new to me. A street food from Brazil they are balls of shredded chicken mixed into a light cheese sauce along with finely chopped chilli, garlic, spring onion and parsley and then breaded and fried. They were served alongside a lime mayo and were an absolute dream! The crispy coating gave way to a moist, meaty centre that was seasoned to perfection and the lime mayo was the perfect zingy accompaniment to the rich filling.

Bodega Cantina Leicester Grilled Swordfish

Then it was time for our mains. I chose the Grilled Swordfish which was served with arroz rice and topped with a little mountain of mango salsa, freshly chopped chilli and spring onion and a big wedge of lime. The fish steak was grilled beautifully, left tender and juicy and the delicate but meaty flavour teamed up perfectly with the juicy sweet mango and hot chilli. The arroz rice was light and fluffy and flavoured with I think saffron, stock and a little chilli and onion.

I must confess that greedy guts here thought it looked a bit small when it arrived but when I had finished I was full and satisfied so this wouldn't concern me again.

Bodega Cantina Leicester Hallolumi Burger
Bodega Cantina Leicester Halloumi Burger

Pete's choice was the Halloumi Burger which was actually served wrap style in a toasted tortilla as opposed to in a bun. Generous slices of halloumi cheese were breaded and fried and then wrapped up along with lime mayo, salad leaves and salsa. Alongside was a spicy slaw and sweet potato fries.
I really liked my few bits of this dish and I want to head back to eat a whole one to myself sometime soon! It was a great vegetarian option with a nice mix of textures and flavours and it didn't feel at all like it would benefit from the addition of something meaty! The sweet potato fries were crisp and flavourful with fluffy inners, just as a good fry should be.

Pete said that the spicy slaw was his favourite part of this dish and in fact of the whole meal which really surprised me. It was crisp and fresh and best of all unusual, I can't say I've ever had a slaw flavoured with chilli sauce before but it really really worked! Shout out to the chef for the magical slaw!!!

Bodega Cantina Leicester Churros

Of course we couldn't leave without trying a dessert and so I went for one of my favourite things on earth - Churros! They were dusted with warming cinnamon and served alongside rich dulce de leche caramel for dipping. Crisp and light and decadent and delicious, they were indeed a very good representation of a churro! I just wish I had also had room to try the White Chocolate Mojito Cheesecake, but I'll save that for our next visit!

Bodega Cantina Leicester Chocolate Cake

Pete chose the Pastel de Chocolate Pegajoso which was a warm brownie-esque cake with pistachio praline served alongside cool creamy ice cream. He wolfed it down in seconds and I barely had a chance to get a bite but it was nice and rich and the pistachio came through at the end elevating it from a standard choccy cake to a more special dessert.

Bodega Cantina Leicester
Bodega Cantina Leicester
Bodega Cantina Leicester
Bodega Cantina Leicester

I was also a big fan of the decor at Bodega, it was vibrant and bright and fun just as you imagine a cantina should be. They even have an in house graffiti artist who has decorated the bathroom doors and done the most amazing mural in the soon to be opened private dining room! I can imagine many a good evening going down in there and I may just book it for my birthday in a few months time.

We had a great night at Bodega, everything we tried was fresh and tasty and the staff were lovely. All the other guests both dining or in the bar area were obviously having a great time too and it was just a really great bubbly, friendly atmosphere. We'll most definitely be returning very soon so expect to see more of Bodega on my social media in the very near future!

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*Our meal was complimentary in exchange for this review, however all content is original and my own and I am always 100% honest in my reviews. Thank you so much for the invite Bodega!

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