RESTAURANT REVIEW: Venetia van Kuffeler says Ella Canta brings the colour and spirit of modern Mexican cooking to London
ABOUT A YEAR AGO, InterContinental London Park Lane transformed one of their two restaurants (formerly known as the Cookbook Caf.) into a vibrant space for authentic modern Mexican cooking, hosted by culinary superstar Martha Ortiz. Ortiz is a chef and cookbook author who is celebrated for her creative cuisine, her work as a leading chronicler of Mexico’s gastronomic history and the great imagination present in her work. Following this summer’s exhibition at the V&A, Frida (Kahlo) mania is at its height, highlighting Mexican food and culture in London like never before. And there has been quite a buzz about this restaurant in its own right.
Ella Canta (Spanish for ‘she sings’) draws inspiration from Ortiz’s world-renowned restaurant, Dulce Patria in Mexico City, blending ancient cooking traditions with contemporary style, served in a space beautifully designed by internationally-acclaimed David Collins Studio.
First things first: the cocktails. I love a margarita. (For this reason, the Mexican national day reception has a special place in my heart). The bar at Ella Canta is a destination in itself, offering a carefully-sourced collection of rare mezcals and tequilas, alongside signature cocktails entitled Mexico’s Gifts to the World. Stunningly presented, I chose the Daisy-Do, created with kaffir lime leaves-infused Patron Silver Tequila, pear puree, lime, homemade ginger syrup, egg white and sage. As much as I adore margaritas (it disappeared in a matter of minutes), the mezcal-based concoction that I tried was too powerful and left mostly untouched. My husband was happy to dive into the wine list that had a strong Central and South-American focus.
Theatre takes centre stage on Ella Canta’s menu, which comprises OVERTURE (appetisers), DRAMA (starters), MAIN ACT (mains) and FINAL CURTAIN (pudding). It features several dishes that have made Ortiz one of Latin America’s most celebrated chefs, while working with produce from across the British Isles.
Dishes include the fiery vampire ceviche with mango and sangrita sorbet, while Pato al mole negro is a balance of duck, plantain puree, red rice and a black mole sauce that incorporates up to 50 different ingredients. We began with Ortiz’s signature Guacamole Nacionalista, a zingy combination with ricotta and pomegranate, and garnished with a crunchy grasshopper dipped in gold dust. He was delighted with the sumptuous lamb shank barbacoa style, served in heavy rich gravy – a salsa of morita chile and chickpeas – and my colourful lobster a la diabla was quite the contrast, served with a herby salad, chipotle mayonnaise, cucumber mojod and edible flowers. Both dishes came with soft tacos produced using masa, which was ground on the premises. A great combination. Attempting some kind of balance for pudding, we opted for fresh fruit and citrus sorbets and chilli piqu.n powder, along with Fantásticos churros Mexicanos, light and fluffy churros served with caramel and chocolate dipping sauces. The sublime to the ridiculous.
Martha Ortiz’s unique blend of visionary artistry and excellent food shines at Ella Canta. Presentation is spectacular, flavours are bold, and, best of all, it’s a riot.
ELLA CANTA, ONE HAMILTON PLACE, PARK LANE, LONDON W1J 7QY
E: RESERVATIONS@ELLACANTA.COM T: +44 (0)20 7318 8715