You can’t beat a bit of Mexicana. Think of all that tequila. That sun. That suspicious meat inside a burrito the size of a small child. Those big wobbly hats. Everything about the place is fun, so it’s no surprise that Manchester’s been dabbling in bringing a little slice to town, most recently with bar and cantina El Capo.
Perched on Tariff Street between Whiskey Jar and Kosmonaut, El Capo has already been through a few tweaks since it first opened a couple of years ago. Gone is the fussball table (which admittedly got turfed out into the cold at weekends anyway) to make room for long wooden benches, and the place has been gradually spruced to feature more skulls, more neon and more floral décor, aiding the authenticity and making it a cosy little spot.
The bar area isn’t gigantic but still has seating for a good 50 or so, and the drinks offerings are decent. The star of the show is the tequila menu featuring over 100 different varieties and it’s complimented by South American bottled beers, cocktails and a few usual suspects such as San Miguel, Mahou and our old friend “Generic NQ Lager” on the taps. You can also take advantage of the daily 4pm-7pm happy hour too and nab a couple of wines, tequilas or bottles of Sol for a fiver, or cocktails at two for £10.
Controversy arrives in the form of the food. Some of us love it in El Capo; you can order cheaply (especially on Taco Tuesdays where it’s unsurprisingly £1 per taco) and it’s a fun, casual dining experience. Some of us have had slightly ropey experiences though; when it first opened, the cantina downstairs was so full and the tables so poorly laid out you couldn’t get an enchilada in your mouth without elbowing a fellow diner, and the service left a lot to be desired, waiting ages for each course as well as the bill. The food itself though is good. Maybe not as gluttonous as the portions seen in Liquor & Burn or some of Manchester’s other burrito establishments, but there’s still plenty on the menu to give a more wide-ranging choice than the others. From chilli to nachos, wings to tortas, there’s a lot to pick out. Only a little peckish? Get a few small plates, Mexi-tapas style. Looking for a good stuffing? try the £30 giant burrito, featuring 24 inches of your own choice of fillings.
The variety encourages a mix of clientèle and on our recent visit, a middle aged couple enjoyed a couple of drinks in a booth whilst a post work crew stretched across two tables and a small family with two young kids still in school uniforms sat next to us in the upstairs bar. As you can probably tell, all these signs point towards El Capo being a good casual spot suitable for all shapes and sizes, but at weekends the bar does get busy with the usual party crowd and the restaurant gets busy; this is where online booking, a great and rarely-seen-in-the-NQ plus point, comes into its own. We’d still recommend El Capo though for one of the more unique and laid back spots in the NQ to enjoy a drink on any day of the week.
Classification: Mexican bar and cantina
Drinks: Cocktails, lager, wine and tequila
Related City Centre establishments: None
Bongo rating: 7/10