Hotels have been getting into the destination dining scene as long as there’s been one. It sometimes seems a bit attention-seeking, but then you get a restaurant like Ella Canta, which deserves any and all attention it gets.
The service was impeccable. I say that to get it out the way more than anything, as at the Intercontinental it’s pretty much a given. Anything else would be blasphemy. We were ushered into the quiet, dimly lit, David Collins Studio-designer décor with just the right pomp and ceremony; the rest was left for the light-filled wall of Mexican sunshine and the kind of elegance you don’t expect from what is basically street food given a haute cuisine makeover.
A tequila-laced daiquiri made deciding on the night’s theatrically-themed menu all that much easier, although I was a little nonplussed by our simple Overture of chips and guac coming with a side of grasshoppers. I’d tried them before so wasn’t put off – they were perfectly, delicately crisp – and they worked nicely alongside our tostadas. Just you know… be prepared. Then came dry-aged beef with frijoles – typical refried beans – and tuna with chilli peanuts and pickled rhubarb; good, intense flavours.
The Drama course was dominated by the prima donna that is the ceviche vampire. Imagine eating fresh seabass fished minutes prior out of a pool of bloody Mary. Add in a baseline of sweet, mellow mango and you have what I can only imagine is on most room service bills at the Intercontinental. If not, it should be.
Then it was time for the Main Act, and what a show did they put on. Meaty turbot and pistachio mole with asparagus and green olives; perfectly-balanced duck with black, chocolate mole and plantain puree and carnitas. How can you not order carnitas at a Mexican restaurant? It was pretty much as expected: succulent meat you could shred with a spoon and an avocado and arbol chilli salsa.
There was almost no room for the Final Curtain but I do not live in a world without dessert. ‘Maria from Mexico’ was an intensely creamy cheesecake, topped with a tangy crunch of crystallized guava.
If we hadn’t been escorted (read lifted) back to the hotel lobby, I’d have had to roll myself out. If that’s not a sign of a fantastic meal, what is?
Bookings at: www.ellacanta.com