Neon Cactus Review (published November 28, 2011 on http://www.leedsuncut.co.uk)
Neon Cactus is a charming little restaurant on Call Lane. The inviting interior and generous helpings are perfect for winter comfort. Strolling in from a Friday night chill I was warmed by the soft candlelight and a kind reception. A laid back soundtrack filled the room as I made my way over to the cushioned seats along the window.
The menu boasted a whole array of dishes inspired from the streets and markets of Mexico. The extensive drinks list included all the usual suspects and plenty of tequila cocktails. After much deliberation me and my guest ordered the Mai Tai and a Strawberry Daiquiri. Now I’m not much of a cocktail connoisseur but when these exotic beverages arrived at the table my eyes lit up. The Mai Tai was topped with fruit and had a crisp taste that was perfectly complimented by the edge of the rum. The Strawberry Daiquiri was a true highlight. A sprig of mint adorned the deep pink cocktail and the ambrosial flavour was instantly moreish. In fact they were dangerously good as I realised after giving into temptation and ordering a second.
The waitress was welcoming and was more than happy to give recommendations when we couldn’t seem to make our minds up. She offered advice, scribbled down our order then went off to share her smile with the other diners. In the end we went with a classic starter. The nachos were presented to us garnished with a selection of bright salsas and sauces. Sour cream, queso fresco and guacamole were a perfect blend on the soft and lightly warmed crisps. Scattered across the top were little red peppers which I avoided at first for fear it would blow my mouth off. But eventually, on a dollop of sour cream I bit into the fiery little fellow and was greeted with an unexpectedly refreshing burst of flavour.
After happily polishing them off we decided to try one of the tequila cocktails. For names sake I ordered the Neon Cactus Margarita. The vibrant blue colour was a spectacular sight with the addition of two glow sticks popping out from the ice. I dreaded the first sip as I’ll admit I am not a great tequila lover. But once again the bar didn’t disappoint and I was met by another crisp tasty drink. By the first few swigs I had completely forgotten that this was a spirit I had previously sworn would never cross my lips again. With beverages as delicious as these you’ll be tipsy by the drop of a sombrero (as I discovered when I attempted to use the glow sticks as straws.)
For the mains we tucked into the belt tightening large plate of chilli con chorizo. The fiery taste was complimented by an exquisite balance of spices that will tantalise any pallet. Tender pieces of beef and pork were slow roasted over a period of 8 hours for maximum succulence. It was served over fluffy red rice with tortillas on the side. I found myself wolfing it down long after my brain told me I was full just to savour every mouthful. Along with this we enjoyed a shredded duck burrito. Accompanied by orange marmalade, spring onion and cucumber it was an inspired oriental twist on a Mexican favourite. It was a simple dish that was executed to a very high standard.
After a while of letting our stomachs rest we prepared ourselves for round three: dessert. We opted for churros which, for those as unsure as we were are crispy fried doughnuts which were served with a chocolate sauce. They had a simple flavour which as a chocoholic didn’t get my senses buzzing. But for anyone who has a lack of a sweet tooth they would be an ideal end to the evening.
I was apprehensive about the banana and chocolate filled tortilla. It seemed an odd combination and after scoffing down a few wraps throughout the meal I wasn’t sure I fancied one for pudding. But as it turned out it was a scrumptious sweet which really hit the spot. The chocolate sauce managed to be rich without being sickly and the bananas added a subtle hint of fruitiness.
Neon Cactus is surely one of the best places for Mexican food in Leeds. It’s a real dining experience. The greatest asset of the restaurant is it’s intimacy and it would be an ideal place to take someone along on a first date if you’re out to impress. Although one word of advice, if you wish to avoid a moment of embarrassment when you go to freshen up remember that ‘cabrones’ means male and ‘putas’ means female. Make a note of that. It’ll save you from having to take a potentially disastrous gamble on which bathroom door to open.
For information on their Christmas menus and offers click to neoncactus.co.uk.
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