Loch Fyne Seafood & Grill, Restaurant Review, Norwich, Norfolk

Whole Roasted Gilt-Head Bream with Salsa Verde, Curly Kale

Staff that Know their Fish & their Customers

Grilled Garlic Breadcrumb Oysters, Loch Fyne Seafood & Grill
Grilled Garlic Breadcrumb Oysters, Loch Fyne Seafood & Grill

We’ve been regulars at Loch Fyne Seafood & Grill in Norwich for over 5 years, often going to the new menu previews, specials such as Burns night and wine tastings, and several birthdays. Many of the excellent staff there including Pedro and Sophie have been consistently courteous, humorous, friendly, and great advisers on specials and new dishes.

Tempura Chilli Oysters
Tempura Oysters with Chillies & Spring Onion

For instance, neither of us ate oysters until we tried their Tempura ones (sorely missed from the menu) and we even now dabble with the raw ones with Tequila and Lime, best chewed not swallowed. Again, on recommendation, we tried the new-for-2017/18 divine and warming Fisherman’s Stew with a variety of fish and seafood in it (tuned to your preferences upon request, I added Chorizo and skipped the Squid).

Converted to Fish

Salmon four-ways, Bradan Orach, Gin-cured, Beetroot-cured with pickled cucumber, roasted beetroot, crème fraîche, chives, baby capers
Salmon four-ways, Bradan Orach, Gin-cured, Beetroot-cured with pickled cucumber, roasted beetroot, crème fraîche, chives, baby capers

I once hate(d) fish, Loch Fyne and Pedro have changed that. Whether it’s the mixed creamy mash Fish Pie, Fisherman’s Stew, Grilled Cod Rarebit, Monkfish, Salmon or the King Prawn Malabar Curry – I can honestly say I eat fish now!

The Salmon four-ways is of course divine, with Classic, Gin-cured, Beetroot-cured, Bradan Orach (“Golden Salmon” in Gaelic) which is dry cured in sea salt then cold smoked for 24 hours using wood shavings from retired whisky casks, giving a fully flavoured smoke with rich flavour in traditional Highland style. I do miss the table theatre when the salmon used to arrive with an upturned smoky whisky glass over it.

King Prawn Malabar Curry, Pollock, spinach, basmati rice
King Prawn Malabar Curry, Pollock, spinach, basmati rice

The Bird’s eye chilli-hot King Prawn Malabar Curry also comes with the softest flesh Pollock that falls apart in your mouth and creamily balances out the gentle crunch of the Prawns and the substantial heat of the chillies. The combo works perfectly though and I’ve never found it too hot or overpowering of the fish. You can, of course, leave the chilli slices to one side if they are too much for you.

Pan-fried chilli & garlic king prawns with lemon in olive oil
Pan-fried chilli & garlic king prawns with lemon in olive oil

Prawns also appear in the Pan-fried chilli & garlic king prawns with lemon in olive oil, and parsley garnish. This is a dish that has locally improved over the years and comes with copious garlic chunks and slices, and a thicker sauce that screams to be mopped up by the malted bread. These taste best when the prawns remain dusted with the smoked Paprika and quite copious amounts of the dried pepper spice are cooked but not burnt in with the oil, even clumping into the sauce, augmenting the smoky and spicy flavour. 

Grilled cod rarebit with cauliflower purée, puy lentils, bacon vinaigrette
Grilled cod rarebit with cauliflower purée, puy lentils, bacon vinaigrette

The Grilled Cod Rarebit looks like a disassembled shepherd’s pie from a distance until you realise the mince is Le Puy lentils and the mash is cheesy cod! But this cheeky dish combines a bed of cauliflower purée, Puy lentils, and bacon vinaigrette, with a glorious topping of cheese and mustard cod. The creamy cod is draped in melted cheese and lightly brushed with mustard (the first time I had this the mustard was overpowering but it’s now more subtle) it’s set off perfectly by the peppery earthiness of the Puy lentils and salty bacon slithers.

Not on the regular menu but a rare treat is the occasional Monkfish special. Recently we had it wrapped in ham/bacon, with Mussels and cream on a bed of Dauphinoise potatoes. Monkfish is great for people that don’t like fish! Once described as poor man’s lobster, it has the texture and even taste of a large Crustacean lobster/giant prawn meat – in fact, it could be described as meat not fish, like the tenderest of moist chicken flesh. The fish on the plate looks nothing like the somewhat scary Lophius in the wild – which maybe becoming unsustainable, so responsible fishing is required to preserve the numbers of this delicious creature. Many years ago, Loch Fyne did a deliciously divine Monkfish and Chorizo Risotto.

Not everyone likes Fish

Fish isn’t to everyone’s taste, though good fresh fish can taste somewhat meaty. Ask the waiter which fish is most meaty if you want to try. If a fish smells fishy it’s probably not fresh! Similarly, the best salmon has the least smell bringing out instead the flavours of the curing. 

Loch Fyne offers food from the land as well as the sea, including Aberdeen Angus burgers and 28-day Rib Eye Steak.

The random timing of the eggs arriving with my Flaked British Ham Salad has been more amusing than annoying, particularly when it was first on the menu. Given that I’m not mad keen on eggs, that’s not a biggie! It’s become a game there now to get that dish perfect for me, runny yokes, warm heritage spuds, the right (in my case extra mustard) amount of dressing, crisp lettuce leaves.

Outstanding Customer Service

I occasionally hear of someone with a less than perfect experience, but I have to say I’ve never had anything that the best from the staff at this branch of Loch Fyne. When they were advertising for a new job there top of the list was this:

“Our customers are our guests so you will have a passion to be the ultimate host, leaving them with everlasting memories and an experience they looking forward to returning to.”

That much I’ve always felt there and why we keep going back, at least once a month and sometimes for breakfast at a weekend! Only once did we ever have a poor service night – the place was beyond packed and any dishes that were inconsistent were always replaced or compensated. Having eaten probably 300 dishes there over the years, complaining about or sending back just 3 means we can honestly say that on a long-term review they are 99% great! If you’ve ever been there just the once, and had a poor experience, say something to them, and try them again. Tell Pedro, Laslo or Kevin that “Katy sent you”!

Ratings summary

Quality: Fresh ethically sourced and sustainable fish delivered daily
Rating 10 out of 10

Choice:  Wide range of fish choices and good drinks, 8-9 starters, ham, steak or burger, limited vegetarian options
Rating 9 out of 10

Speed: Fresh food cooked to order, so if busy allow extra time for mains, but speedy starters
Rating 8 out of 10

Service: Attentive, courteous, friendly, knowledgeable
Rating 10 out of 10

Value: Excellent value, set menus and regular offers
Rating 8 out of 10

Atmosphere: Bustling when busy otherwise spread out, some intimate seating locations
Rating 9 out of 10

Access: A wide doorway, pavement level, disabled parking on the street, and a disabled access toilet.
Rating 9 out of 10

Restaurant details

Loch Fyne Seafood & Grill
30-32 St Giles Street

Telephone: 01603 723450

Opening times: Mon-Fri: 12:00-22:00; Sat: 9:00-22:30; Sun: 9:00-21:00

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Bishops Dining Room, Restaurant Review, Norwich, Norfolk

Bishop's Dining Room, Norwich

Fair-priced Fine Dining in Beautiful Boutique Setting

Exquisite fine palate and yet fair priced dining is consistently to be found at Bishop’s Dining Room on a historic old hill (well lane, this is flat Norfolk after all!) with 14th and 15th-century remnants opposite St Andrews Halls in Norwich.

Run by effusive and welcoming Italian, Allessandro (Alex) Tranquillo, Bishop’s has developed a deserved reputation for great tasting, not overfilling, dishes that show off local produce and well-chosen wines. 

Bishop's Dining Room and Wine Bar, Norwich
Bishop’s Dining Room and Wine Bar, Norwich

The welcome at the bar before being seated is service at its best and always an opportunity to chat with the passionate food and wine-loving owner, and lively but courteous staff. It’s an unrushed moment to down an aperitif or crack open a bottle with some complimentary olives and dried spiced broad bean snacks. You feel as relaxed as being in someone’s front room before a private dinner party.

Somehow, Bishop’s combines the friendly and the formal with the single-room restaurant decked out in crisp white linen, silver and crystal chandeliers yet with an adjacent laid-back front-of-house bar that feels both intimate and relaxed and where it is easy to spend half-an-hour before and after, just chatting among yourselves or with the staff – and of course, drinking.

Like the time taken to present perfect plated dishes, Bishop’s never feels rushed, and even when full, is neither noisy nor pressured. On each occasion we’ve been it has been a clock-stopping evening of sybaritic serenity and savouring of beautiful food and wine that feels like an oasis in our hustle bustle world.

Beef fillet with triple cooked chips, watercress, lemon roasted cauliflower
Beef fillet with triple cooked chips, watercress, lemon roasted cauliflower

The presentation is exquisite without being ostentatious. The excellent chef knows exactly when to stop rather than go over-the-top. The food is closer to just about perfect rather than in-your-face pretentious, as Jay Rayner said back in 2011:

“The simplest things done well and with proper attention to detail. All of which describes Bishop’s perfectly.”  – Jay Rayner

Pan roasted breast of wood pigeon with burnt orange purée, smoked apple, sage fondant potato, watercress
Pan roasted breast of wood pigeon with burnt orange purée, smoked apple, sage fondant potato, watercress

One cannot fault the perky pinkness of the meats we ate and varied styles. On one occasion (Dec 2017) duck, pork, lamb and venison, but pigeon and beef have been equally divine on other visits. The Spring 2018 menu includes beef, venison, pigeon and guinea fowl, as well as cod and turbot.

Previously, for a 50th birthday visit, we devoured three 3-course combos between two of us so that we could try more dishes! It was more that the menu descriptions sounded so delicious than that they were small portions. One does not leave stuffed, but rather, satiated from having fed all of one’s senses.

Venison loin with pickled blackberries, artichoke petals, celeriac gratin, kale, Shiraz reduction
Venison loin with pickled blackberries, artichoke petals, celeriac gratin, kale, Shiraz reduction

We ate at Bishop’s four times in 2017 and the service and food were consistently good.

Our first visit of 2018 in March was as good as ever with three game and four fish dishes on the menu and depending upon what you order, blackberries with every course!

A 3-course dinner is priced at £36.95, lunch just £19.95. Themed nights may include 4-8 courses with wines and be priced £70-£110.

Wine and Spirits List

Eclectic drinks bar at Bishop’s Dining Room and Wine Bar, Norwich

The wine was fairly priced at £6.50 – £8.50 a 175ml glass, and even the economical Trebbiani d’Abruzzo, Cantina Frentana 2015 (henceforth the friendly Joey Tribbiani wine thanks to my Dutch dining partner’s joke) offered up a refreshing buttery citrus as a light aperitif. Sherries, bubbly, and a Champagne & Crème de Cassis (blackcurrant) Kir Royale, are also pre-dinner options from an eclectically stocked bar that also serves up a range of ports and dessert wines.

The La Mancha and Rioja reds, and Mendoza Malbec, are also great once warmed and mellowed in the glass. The French Sauvignon Blanc by the glass was perhaps overly subtle to the point of being dull in comparison to NZ Sauvignons or an upmarket Sancerre.

Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso, Alpha Zeta, 2014
Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso, Alpha Zeta, 2014

Having previously tried the excellent Morellino di Scansano (Sangiovese), on two visits, we set out to try the “R” Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso, Alpha Zeta, 2014 at £37, on another occasion. The Ripasso technique, passing the wine over the grape skins of Amarone wines for a second fermentation turns the lighter Valpolicella from a medium to a fuller-bodied dark cherry/subtle tobacco nosed wine that is not heavy or overly intense and which superbly accompanies beef and game. It is smooth and quaffable with good legs, swish and swill it around mouth and glass, and the bottle will easily last the meal. Like the environment and ambience, a wine not to be rushed.

April 2017 saw us attend an Italian-themed dinner with wine tastings. It was one of around a half-dozen sell-out themed events that Bishop’s runs throughout the year to tie in with themed wine flights such as New Zealand Sauvignons, Bordeaux, Spanish, or just Champagne! The atypical colour and unusual tasting organic Vino di Anna Palmento, made from Nerello Mascalese grapes which were grown on the north face of Mt Etna – picked by hand and crushed by foot, was an interesting viticultural experience. 


Passion Fruit Bavarois with Orange madeleines, pomegranate seeds
Passion Fruit Bavarois with Orange madeleines, pomegranate seeds

A range of 3-4 dishes plus a great cheese board option presented on a wedge of wood or slate square. The cheese boards come with half a dozen grapes with their bottoms sliced off so they stay on the board/slate they are presented on – no embarrassing rolling off when served!

Italian Dinner Zabaglione with grilled fruits and almond biscotti
Italian Dinner Zabaglione with grilled fruits and almond biscotti

Past and present desserts tried there have included a zesty Zabaglione with grilled fruits and almond biscotti; Passion Fruit Bavarois; Scotch Bonnet Chilli and Fudge Brownie with salted caramel ice cream which was light on the chilli but warm on the palate; Carrot cake with orange gel, honeyed yoghurt, blackberries and refreshing orange sorbet.

Turkish delight
Turkish delight

Despite a 1970s fear of Turkish Delight, Bishop’s twist on the dessert was, well uh, delightful. Squishy blackberries, jellied apples and calvados, tasty apple terrine, apple purée, oat tuile, and cinnamon ice cream atop a crumb base as if it was a one-person spherical scoop of cheesecake.

Ratings summary

Quality: Fresh local produce cooked, or in the case of the meats – barely cooked, to perfection
Rating 10 out of 10

Choice:  Good range of food and drink, comprising 5-6 dishes per course, very limited vegetarian options, but a perfect range of in-season game
Rating 8 out of 10

Speed: Attentive and efficient serving
Rating 8 out of 10

Service: Attentive, courteous, friendly
Rating 9 out of 10

Value: Good value within its fine-dining sector, probably the best value of the top-5 restaurants in Norwich
Rating 8 out of 10

Atmosphere: Boutique dining in intimate surroundings
Rating 9 out of 10

Access: A double-step-up to the dining area from the street-level pre-bar area but no ramp and narrow access would prohibit wheelchair.
Rating 6 out of 10


Restaurant details

Bishop’s Dining Room & Wine Bar
8-10 St Andrew’s Hill

Telephone: 01603 767321

Opening times: Tue-Sat: 12pm-2:30pm; 6pm-9:45pm (last orders)

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Chorizo and Stilton French bread pizza toasties

Chorizo and Stilton French breads
Chorizo and Stilton French breads

After the Twelfth Night of Christmas festivities and food hangovers, we were left with well over a dozen cheeses from an Argentinian soirée at New Year. What to do with them on a lazy Sunday?

One leftovers fallback plan is a quick French bread baguette pizza, with or without the tomato, but certainly with the cheese. Item one was easy, spinach and Brie (with added red onion slices) in a hot oven for 10 minutes – also a great warmed Croissant filling, and then some sliced grapes and caramelised red onion chutney on top to finish. Item two was an experiment. A successful one.

Chorizo and Stilton Oven-baked Baguette Recipe

Chorizo and Stilton French breads

Some thinly sliced spiced chorizo ring was laid atop some halved French bread, a drizzle of garlic and chilli sauce optionally splashed across. Next some crumbled Stilton cheese. Bearing in mind how salty and strong flavoured both cheese and chorizo could be in this case, considering chorizo is more often paired with hard Manchego, it’s worth being restrained rather than generous with the topping depending upon the strength of the Stilton.

To finish, add an optional slice of tomato and a few more sprinkles of Stilton crumbs on top. Barely 5-8 minutes in the pre-heated oven set to a high temperature and the cheese has melted down and the orange-red chorizo fat has spilled its juices too. The melted Stilton pairs perfectly with the crisping oven-cooked Chorizo. Don’t overcook the Chorizo, if sliced thinly you just want it to curl up creating a concave spoon shape holding its leaking oils for the stilton to melt into.

I added a delicate blob of fruity Coriander & Dutch chilli jelly on top but my culinary partner-in-dine preferred theirs without. The chilli jam goes perfectly with the Brie or Stilton, in this case, and can be purchased from Chilli Fundamentals.

The snappy 15 minute dish washed down well with a smooth peppery 2011 Lagunilla Rioja Reserva fine wine, available for around £9. 2011 was a year that created some intense powerful concentrated Riojas.

Other Chorizo and Stilton Recipes

Why not try Broccoli, Stilton & Chorizo tartChorizo and Stilton soupChorizo and Stilton risotto, or Chorizo and Stilton pasta, or make your own ground Beef burger with either Stilton and Chorizo in the burger or layered on top, melting down.


Restaurant Discretionary Service Charge v Optional Staff Tipping

Tipping, Gratuity and Discretionary Service Charge

Discretionary Service Charge

I was recently on Talk Radio discussing the disreputable “discretionary service charge” in restaurants and the record of some food establishments of not always passing on the whole amount to waiting staff. Now there are UK Government plans to prevent its automatic inclusion on bills so that customers don’t feel obliged to pay it – particularly if after a bottle of wine or two they have less capacity for even noticing it, and may end up tipping twice and with no guarantee that it will even go to the staff that served them. Wine is not the explanation for the #TipsForJesus trend in the USA of excessively generous tipping running to many times the bill total.

The very phrase, discretionary service charge, seems oxymoronic when it is hardly discretionary or optional – some places use the phrase “optional gratuity included”. The British, especially, may feel driven by guilt to pay it, or by a desire not to make a scene in asking for it to be removed.

A survey by the Daily Telegraph found that 88% thought the practice of confusing discretionary charges should be banned in favour of greater transparency as to who gets what from a tip.

Restaurants taking a hidden service cut

Last year, it was revealed that several well-known chains including Ask Italian, Côte, Giraffe, Pizza Express, Strada, Zizzi, and more, were holding back part or all of customer tips and taking a cut, or charge, or redistributing it, removing the personal element of the tip direct to the staff one is served by. Several of these restaurants subsequently changed their policies after campaigns to boycott the worst culprits. A Unite campaign against Pizza Express attracted 10,000 signatures and saw them drop their 8% admin fee on tips. Giraffe, similarly, also decided to drop their 10% administration fee.

“Research published in 2009 found that one in five restaurants did not pass tips to their staff, yet the vast majority of customers said they wanted waiting staff to receive tips left for them. More than three quarters wanted to see the restaurant’s tipping policy clearly displayed.” – Daily Telegraph

A recent survey by OpenTable found that 87% of UK customers always leave a tip, and which averages 9% of the bill. One could argue that “optional service charges” of 10-20% (typically 10-12.5%) aim to raise staff tips, but when restaurant deductions are taken into account any transparency of motive seems suspect.

HM Government Review into Tipping

After a Government evidence-based review, proposals for change to make tipping fairer for waiting staff and customers alike, are being considered with a further consultation until 27 June 2016, and include:

  • Updating the current voluntary code of practice and putting it on a statutory footing to increase employer compliance
  • Increasing transparency for consumers to make it clearer that suggested discretionary payments for service are discretionary and that consumers are free to choose
  • Preventing or limiting any employer deduction from discretionary payments for service, except for those required under tax law
  • Whether to ban or restrict the levying of table sales charges on staff – a fee paid by waiting staff based on their sales during a shift
  • How to incentivise and increase the prevalence of well managed tronc systems.

“…we want workers who earn a tip to be able to keep it. That’s why I, like many others, was disappointed by the tipping practices of some of our well-known chains. This has to change. Today I’m setting out our proposals to make tipping fairer, clamping down on unfair practices and securing a better deal for the millions of workers in the service industry” – Business Secretary Sajid Javid

Tronc tips

A tronc scheme, originally from the French tronc des pauvres meaning “poor box”, is a pooling of tips for redistribution. They can offer tax efficiencies for staff and employer alike. The Government is keen to see more well-managed tronc schemes in place.

One tip, is to always pay a gratuity in cash, and if using a voucher code or dining club card discount, try to tip on what would have been the pre-discounted amount.

Divine Generosity? Tips for Jesus!

Over in the US, some better-off diners where tipping is more commonly 15-20% anyway, are going the extra mile, and paying-it-forward with large super generous tips of $100-$6,000 with up to 4,000% tips! Often noted as “Tips for Jesus” on the bill, they are not intended to be religious in nature and started out agnostic, though their use and tagging has spread since, with the server’s delight at the huge tips being shared on Instagram and Twitter. The anonymous philanthropist has doled out over $250,000 in tips in just two-and-a-half years.

A photo posted by tipsforjesus (@tipsforjesus) on

Trip Advisor Top Fish and Chips at Grosvenor Fish Bar in Norwich, Norfolk

First for Fish & Chips in Norwich

The Norfolk local EDP newspaper recently reported on an interesting Top Ten of Trip Advisor restaurant reviews in Norwich. To locals, it was probably unsurprising that a fish and chip shop came first, namely, the renowned Grosvenor Fish Bar.

I once saw a queue of some 100 people stretching back 50 yards from their entrance down the street on Fireworks night.

Grosvenor Fish Bar, Norwich
Grosvenor Fish Bar, Norwich

It has attracted over 1500+nearly faultless Trip Advisor reviews, consistently rating it 4-5 out of 5 (1200+ gave it top marks), ranking it #1 of over 600 restaurants in Norwich!

Fish & Chips have been served for 90 years on the site. You can even bring in your own drink without corkage charges or have your fish and chips delivered to you at the Birdcage Pub opposite. Alternatively, you can enjoy your take-out in the summer and sit on the St Gregory’s green alongside or enjoy the 1940s reminiscent 70-seater vintage decor dining area downstairs.

Hints of humour and twists on tradition have been injected into their menu which includes Bass with Sass or Big Mack, Shark Bites or Loony Toony tuna, from their Specials menu, priced at £3.50-£5.50. More familiar items like battered saveloy sausage, pies, peas, burgers, chip butty, or chips and curry sauce are there too. Vegetarians and pescatarians need to be aware that the chips are fried in beef dripping, as many chefs recommend:

“Beef dripping or lard … is the ultimate chip cooking fat because it gives a crisper, tastier result” – The Guardian, ‘How to fry perfect chips

The limited space in the old building would make offering a separate meat-free fryer option for veggie chips difficult. Salads and steamed fish are on the menu, though. The current proprietor is the son of an Italian-born, Welsh-raised, lifelong restaurateur, whose father also ran a fish and chip shop in South Wales,

The current proprietor and co-owner with Duane Dibartolomeo is the son of an Italian-born, Welsh-raised, lifelong restaurateur, whose own father also ran a fish and chip shop in South Wales, frequented by Tom Jones. Christian Motta says:

“We try to place importance on service and ambience as much as the food, along with trying to keep prices down”


Grosvenor Fish Bar

2014 – Best fish and chip shop in Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire

2017 – Co-owner, Duane Dibartolomeo, as 2017 VisitEngland Awards for Excellence Tourism Superstar

Ratings summary

  • Quality: 9/10 – Consistent quality without pretension, no ‘posh’ chips here!
  • Choice: 9/10 – Good range of food and drink, plenty of choice
  • Speed: 7/10 – Can get very busy so only let down by its popularity
  • Service: 8/10 – Friendly staff
  • Value: 9/10 – Great value and portion sizes
  • Atmosphere: 8/10 – Downstairs dining takes you back to the War years!

Restaurant details

Grosvenor Fish Bar
28 Lower Goat Lane

Telephone: 01603 625855

Opening times: Mon-Sat: 10:45am – 7:30pm (or later); Sun: closed

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Cafe Pacifico, Mexican Restaurant Review, Covent Garden, London

Cafe Pacifico Mexican, Covent Garden, London

Traditional Mexican fare in London’s West End

We managed to arrive unbooked at Cafe Pacifico, a long-established, former banana warehouse, Mexican restaurant/cantina despite it being 6pm on a Friday and get a table. Within half-an-hour, the place was packed and the bar buzzing. We sat straight down at an, unfortunately, poorly-lit table, the last between the main floor and the people drinking at the bar, waiting for tables. Fortunately, the drinks list was enticing from the well-stocked bar.

Diverse Drinks Menu

Pear Ocho Reposado Tequila cocktail, Cafe Pacifico Mexican, Covent Garden, London
Pear Ocho Reposado Tequila cocktail

We polished off quick Margaritas and a Mexican CabSav/Malbec (2014) which was very smooth and drinkable, meaning I had 3 fairly-priced glasses (although the size was not mentioned on the drinks menu) whilst my fellow diner had a cold Corona, followed by a house cocktail special – the Pear Ocho (Ocho reposado Tequila with peppery mulled spices, cloudy apple juice, triple sec etc), whilst I finished with an Añejo Tequila. Oh, we also ate!

Good food, but not aspiring to greatness

Whilst there was certainly a great drinks list, the Mexican food was good too. It wasn’t pretentious (dressing-up street or cantina food as a la carte) but nor was it an amorphous merged mess either, which some Mexican chains and low-end independents can be, thinking that piling it high in poor lighting under the shadow of a free sombrero will disguise a lack of originality and care in plating-up. Instead, the dishes were cleanly presented and clearly separated, either on the plate or in accompanying small bowls.

Quesadilla, Cafe Pacifico Mexican, Covent Garden, London
Quesadilla, Cafe Pacifico Mexican

There were fun sharing options too, with the Antojitos platter for two at £13.75 including Quesadillas, Flautas, Empanadas and crispy crunchy Prawns Tempura in a nice light batter. The Jalapeño Poppers filled with cheese were only mild rather than a medium-hot that I prefer but still tangy with the melted cheese inside complementing the pepper’s bitter skin and breaded crunch.

The roughly £11-each Burrito and Chimichangas, that we had, were both very pleasant. I felt the ground beef burrito had a more robust flavour, but the chicken chimichanga was, nevertheless, fresh and tasty, and a contrast with other stronger flavours. Nothing was too hot (though I perhaps should have asked for optional increased heat and spice), and there were plenty of sides and sauces to dip or daub to add heat or coolness, as desired.

Next time I plan to try the Boquerones Fritos al Chili and the Pan-fried fresh Sea Bass on banana leaves with sun-dried tomato salsa sounds like a fresh option on a Mexican menu.


We finished with Churros dipped in a rich spicy chocolate sauce that had a gentle kick. The waiter spoke Spanish, as did I, so the service was friendly and bilingual; when we needed another member of staff they were easy to get hold of and friendly. The staff looked very busy and quick on their feet. Despite being sat next to a family table with several kids, it was not disturbing as the overall atmosphere was loud and bustling, but not so that you couldn’t hear yourself.

Ratings summary

Quality: Nothing to complain about, nothing to rave about, just reliably good food
Rating 8 out of 10

Choice: Good range of food and drink, plenty of variety including from 20-60% vegetarian options per food category
Rating 8 out of 10

Speed: Quick and efficient serving
Rating 8 out of 10

Service: Courteous and friendly
Rating 8 out of 10

Value: ‘Optional’ 12.5% service charge added to bill even for 2 people dining. Pear Ocho felt overpriced (albeit with ‘free’ mug). 25% off and 2-for-1 selected Margaritas on Sundays &  Mondays (check offer is current)
Rating 7 out of 10

Atmosphere: More of a bustling cantina than up-market romantic dining, great for an after-work do, or birthday party
Rating 6 out of 10

Access: A half-dozen steps up to raised-ground floor entry but no lift or ramp, narrow mobility passage between tables.
Rating 6 out of 10


Restaurant details

Cafe Pacifico
5 Langley Street
Covent Garden

Telephone: 020 7379 7728

Opening times: Mon-Sat: 12pm-11:45pm; Sun 12pm-10:45pm

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