What? Spanish for ‘she sings’, Ella Canta is part of the Mexican wave sweeping through London this year. The work of one of Mexico’s best chefs, Martha Ortiz (whose Mexico City restaurant Dulce Patria is on the list of the World’s 50 Best Restaurant), the restaurant like its Mexican sibling is full of colour and artistry, which is to be expected given Martha’s mother is the famous artist Martha Chapa.
New? Yes, after quite the build-up Ella Canta opened up at the start of September.
Where? Adjoined to the InterContinental London Park Lane, you’ll find Ella Canta in the former Cookbook Café, not that you’d recognise it, it’s been completely transformed.
Ella Canta, One Hamilton Place, Park Lane, W1J 7QY, www.ellacanta.com
On the Menu: Split into overture, main acts and final curtain, the menu is both adventurous and accessible. Starters include Mexican tamal with cheese and cream and octopus rubbed with smoked chile sauce and burnt onion; main courses feature creamy poblano chile rice with chicken thigh and pumpkin seed dust and traditional Michoacán style pork carnitas with arbol chile salsa and for pudding there is a warm cacao and corn cake and pinole ice cream.
The Look: Ella Canta is feminine, strong and elegant. The work of renowned interior architects David Collins Studio and Creative Director Simon Rawlings, there are bold shapes, big lines and curved banquettes all in tones of pale pink, terracotta, blues and tans. The work of Mexican furniture designer Eugenio Escudero inspires the walnut installations which run from floor to ceiling. We also need to talk about the look of the staff, because they look great, we had serious style envy. Dressed by British label 1947, they wear dresses, jumpsuits and suits in shades of burnt orange, teal and duck egg blue with the women wearing elaborate floral head pieces in the style of Frida Kahlo.
What We Ate: If you’re ordering starters to share then we recommend the guacamole punctuated with jewels of pomegranate and ricotta cheese and topped with crunchy, gold grasshopper. Who knew that Caesar salad did not originate from Italy but from Mexico? We certainly didn’t, but it did and so has earned its spot on the menu with anchovies and an intense smoky sauce. Equally good is a colourful, delicate dish of seabass ceviche served with dried pineapple and refreshing mango and sangrita sorbet.
Ordering another round of guacamole, we then went on to try the black cod, beautifully cooked with ajillo guajillo chile and pastor style soft shell crab with a guajillo hummus, sweetened with pineapple purée and wrapped in tortillas.
Puddings ranged from the fantastic: incredibly light churros with goats’ milk dulce de leche and chocolate, and the delicious, a warm cacao and corn cake with fondant and moulded chocolate whisks to the more acquired. We’re talking about the corn and huitlacoche (a maize fungus) cake, served cold it had an interesting congealed texture and a savoury taste which we were not expecting at all. So, what did we do? We ordered pudding number four (naturally) a plate of ice cream and sorbets served in a mysterious swirl of smoke, the coconut is particularly good.
What We Drank: Described as Mexico’s Gifts to the World, the cocktail list makes the most of mezcal, tequila and agave. There is, as you’d expect to find a whole section dedicated to margaritas. Always one to try an Old Fashioned, at Ella Canta, their take on the classic is the Ol-Mec Fashioned, (the Olmec being the first population to inhabit Mexico) made from coconut fat washed Olmeca Altos Añejo tequila, agavero tequila liqueur, agave syrup, coffee beans and Ella Canta special batch bitters. Served in a stoneware cup, which was decorated with hardened chocolate, it unfortunately was rather weak and watery. If I had known, I’d have gone for the Café Azteca, which tasted just like a tiramisu. Made from vanilla infused Pelotón de la Muerte Mezcal, El Ultimo Agave Almond liqueur, Kahlua coffee liqueur, cinnamon syrup, espresso and Aztec chocolate bitters. If you don’t have space for pudding then have this in its place. Fans of tequila and mezcal can head to the separate bar, or if you’re unsure on the difference, the bartenders can give you a quick masterclass.
Go With: Wait for a birthday and then go for a big catch up with plenty of mezcal and tequila.
Final Word: It seems as if our waitress toned things down, because talking to a friend who had also visited, he said that the idea of being on a Mexican experience and what they were going to achieve through said experience was so overdone that it became rather gimmicky. That certainly wasn’t what our evening entailed, our Mexican experience was entertaining yes, but overdone, no.
Ella Canta: One Hamilton Place, Park Lane, W1J 7QY