Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Full of Beans!

Fri 23 Jun 2006

Somehow we managed to escape work and find the energy to indulge in some Mexican. We've been planning on going to the Cactus Lounge for what seems like ages and, after a quick beer at the Wardrobe (also on the list), we actually made it.

The Cactus Lounge is tucked away a bit - hidden behind the Wardrobe and West Yorkshire Playhouse, and it's also downstairs, so in summer it's lovely and cool. It is sparsely decorated, with plain wooden tables and some rather odd, bright orange, plastic tub chairs. The service is cheerful and efficient and the menu covers the usual suspects of Mexican food.

I last went to the Cactus Lounge about four years ago, and had really enjoyed my meal. However, I was a bit cautious on Friday night because various people had said that their last meals there had been something of a disappointment.

Happily, there was nothing to worry about. We were at the Cactus Lounge in plenty of time to take advantage of the pre-theatre menu - 2 courses from a pared down menu, plus a drink, for £11.90. In the end, my selection ended up being from that menu quite by accident - starting with a goats cheese and red onion marmalade tart, followed by a spiced pork and bean sonoran. Following the a la carte menu Andy chose the stuffed jalapenos followed by a chicken chimichanga. We drank Lindeboom, which is a bit incongruous in a Mexican restaurant, but was deliciously cold and served in chilled glasses.

The mains were the big winners in the food stakes. Both the starters were nice although not really that much to rave about. Admittedly, it's pretty hard to wax lyrical about stuffed jalapenos ... and I did really enjoy my tart (topped with a round of goats cheese, so it looked very impressive) although the pastry was a bit on the hard (rather than crisp) side.

The main courses were both delicious and massive serves. Both were served with generous salads and the chimichanga came with generous piles of beans and rice. I find it a bit difficult to say too much about Mexican food - some meat, padded out with plenty of beans and a good dose of various spices. It's not complicated food, but should be very satisfying. And it was. We both made very solid efforts at polishing off a large amount of food.

I was very impressed with the salads too - they actually had a lot of flavour and crispness, and a good mix of onions and peppers, as well as assorted leaves.

We didn't stop for puddings - there was no way we could have fitted them in!

So - for just over £30 we had two courses each and four beers between us. That sounds like almost bargain basement material to me. And given the quality of the food and the friendly service it was definitely excellent value for money. The lunch menu comes in at £6.90 for two courses (also from a short menu) - though I suspect you may need a siesta aftewards!

The Cactus Lounge, St Peters Square, Leeds, LS9 8AH, phone 0113 243 6553

How to find it: make your way to the bus station, and cross the road, heading towards the new BBC building.
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