Bodega is a must visit for fans of Mexican cuisine, finds Lynn O'rouke

BLINK and you might miss it, which would be a shame as Mexican taqueria Bodega is a little gem tucked away on Leith’s Elm Row. With its Spanish name simply referring to a shop selling wine and food, Bodega keeps it simple, serving up a selection of starters and tacos (using gluten-free corn tortillas) which offer street-style Mexican food with inventive fillings.

It is also BYO (with a corkage charge of £2 per person) so no wasting time poring over a drinks menu.

I’m meeting two friends for a midweek catch-up, and this sounds like the kind of relaxed, informal place that invites wine drinking and easy chatting along with good food. Helen and Alison are already seated when I arrive (although they had to hang around for a bit outside as our booked table wasn’t quite ready). We had tried to eat here before but failed to get a table, and once inside I realise why.

With just 14 covers, this is one compact eatery. Don’t let that put you off though; with cantina-style wooden tables and banquette seats lining one wall, the space is cosy but doesn’t feel cramped.
One wall is a mix of slate-coloured wallpaper of trompe l’oeil tiles and vivid movie posters. French bistro glasses double up for beer or wine, all adding to the unfussy, local diner look.

The sole waiter (who is one of two co-owners) talks us through the menu, explaining that the idea is to order two tacos each for £6, or four for £12 (he recommends four tacos per person), which can then be shared, depending on how accommodating your dining companions are.

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Luckily mine are of a generous nature and we all dive into house guacamole with corn chips (£4.50) from the standard menu and choose two options from that day’s specials, salmon ceviche with chilli, lime and avocado (£6), served with a separate lime and chilli hot sauce (we are warned that this is a hot one) and quesadilla with chorizo and caramelised peppers (£4.50) to start.

The texture of the guacamole is smooth and creamy, but it has a surprising kick to it, not mule-like by any stretch (that’s what the hot chilli sauce delivers) but heftier than you might expect.

The salmon ceviche has a hint of zingy tartness and delivers a light, fresh taste. It doesn’t need any additional spice or sauce. It also works well alongside the quesadilla with its rich, smoky chorizo teamed with peppers for a delicious sweet contrast.

When it comes to the mains, you do have to be a fan of tacos, but we feel the variety of the fillings keeps things interesting. I would never have envisaged an avocado tempura taco – and I confess it doesn’t top my hit list, although it appeals hugely to my avocado-loving compadres – but the tempura is wonderfully light, with the wasabi adding a welcome, mustard-like heat nicely balanced with creamy slaw.

“You do have to be a tacos fan, but the variety of the fillings keeps it interesting”

The soft tortilla wrap embraces our slow-roasted lamb shoulder with Moroccan spices and feta equally well – the meat falls apart and is perfectly seasoned (it very much reminds me of the traditional dishes I had on a trip to Marrakech).

Next up is smoky roasted mushrooms with butternut squash, chilli and charred onion relish, but this is our least favourite combo, with little flavour other than mushroom.

The pulled pork with Mexican slaw and soured cream, on the other hand, is a delight – the marinated pork moist with a rich, slightly sweet tang.

Continuing with the meat feast, the carne asada steak is equally moreish, with that charred, barbecue taste so reminiscent of eating outdoors. The crème fraîche that accompanies it complements the spice of the chipotle glaze.

You might think we’d be all avocado-ed out by now, but the crocodile pie and its creamy topping of smooth lime and avocado mix on a dense, biscuit base is too good to pass on – snapped up and devoured in no time. We also dive into a serving of churros con chocolate, which sadly doesn’t light anyone’s fire around our table.

Overall, this is exactly what we were looking for in our evening – good, well-priced food in a relaxed environment. Our only complaint is that by the time we had worked through our taco mains (they all pretty much arrived together) the last few were cold. The food is fresh and tasty though, with inventive flavour combinations that work. And the bill, totalling £60 for three people, is purse-friendly too.

Rumour has it that a new location is planned for later in the year, so if you want to experience this authentic little place in its current format, you’d better hotfoot it over there rapido.

ALSO ON THE MENU

I liked the sound of the taco of baja-style crispy cod bites served with fried potato matchsticks and chipotle mayo, which apparently is a Bodega favourite and was sadly already finished the night we ate there. I would also very much like to try the scallion fries with South Carolina mustard sauce and the spicy black bean and melted cheese dip.

HOW MUCH?
Starters £4.50-£6
Tacos two for £6
Puddings £4.50

Bodega, Edinburgh, restaurant review
80%Overall Score
Reader Rating: (1 Vote)
99%

About The Author

Lynn O'Rourke

Lynn O'Rourke is atHome editor at Scotland on Sunday and a lifestyle editor for Spectrum magazine. She has been working for the magazine since 2003, editing the weekly property and interiors pages, and more recently also covering food and drink, travel and lifestyle news.

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