It’s opening night at Ella Canta and we’re immediately
entranced. Can magical realism be
translated into a menu? In the kitchen of chef Martha Ortiz it seems thrillingly possible. No wonder, her restaurant translates as ‘She
Sings’: this is truly a diva addition to
London. It’s as if we’ve entered the world of Like
Water for Chocolate author Laura Esquivel (a close friend of Ortiz).
Tellingly, the menu is billed as drama, main act, final curtain
and its details are relayed as if the staff are telling fables. It’s all
The star-turn is vampire ceviche: sea bass turned dramatically
deeply pink with a mango and angrita sorbet with sour-sweet nuances of chilli
and coriander. Equally original is the irresistibly tender octopus with burnt onion and smoky chili sauce. Generous salmon tostadas have a brilliant
crunch and freshness, and are among the best we’ve ever tasted. Flowers adorn many of the dishes adding a sensual, almost painterly finish.
El pastor tacos are usually made with pork, but here the dish is superbly
re-imagined with spit-roast soft shell crab, a delicate pineapple salad, and
chili hummous. Only black cod with
ajillo guajillo chili, though beautifully textured, underwhelms and lacks
punch. Her cactus salad has a whisper of slime; we’re
not totally convinced it's an ingredient that will catch on.
We'll need to return to try the duck with Ortiz' renowned black mole.
Churros are totally outstanding, extraordinarily light with a
richly fruity chocolate sauce and exceedingly special caramel sauce. What blows us away is corn and huitlacoche
(Mexican black truffle) cake with a chamomile sauce, like a corn take on a rice
pudding with melting centre. It’s
unexpected and utterly delicious.
Ortiz is known for her edgy take on chef jackets. Her sense of style has been extended to the
staff, who dazzle in vibrant tailored dresses and sharp suits. The women all wear exquisite paper flowers
in their hair; a stylist was brought in specially to teach them how! Their earrings from Mexico are equally
dazzling. We’re already clamouring for
an Ella Canta fashion range.
is that service is a little confused and slow.
Our wine arrived when we’d almost finished our main dishes. However, we’re confident that once in full swing, the charming and knowledgeable staff will be up to speed.
Interior designers David Collins Studio bring the heat and colour of Mexico to life, paying homage to Modernist
artists and designers. The dining space
is separated into sun-blanched blush pink, red, tan and blue spaces separated
by an extravagant floor to ceiling walnut installation, table tops are finished
in handcrafted eggshell-like lacquer, handmade wallpaper glints with gold. It does suspend belief that, despite the
separate entrance, we’re in a restaurant that is part of the Intercontinental
Hotel, just. Do be sure to visit the cactus and artwork in the very gorgeous loos!
Ortiz talks of how making tortilla
makes her think of conjuring sunshine and the glass ceramics on the wall encapsulate this passion. The sun is rising on a golden age of Mexican
cooking in London.
Price: Expensive Three course meal for two including cocktails and a glass of wine £150 +
|What||Ella Canta review, Mayfair|
|Where||Ella Canta, One Hamilton Place, London, W1J 7QY | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Hyde Park Corner (underground)|
15 Sep 17 – 31 Dec 18, Open 6-11.30pm every evening, Monday to Friday lunch from 12-2.30pm, Saturday and Sunday lunch 11.30am-2.30pm