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The Basement, Edinburgh, restaurant review

Long favoured by locals, The Basement offers laid-back Mexican food that packs a punch, finds Alistair Grant.

Published: July 1, 2016
Food: 
8/10
Ambience: 
8.5/10

Tucked away near the top of Broughton Street, The Basement is something of a New Town treat.

The Mexican eatery has built up a steady reputation over the years for its combination of decent, lively grub – and a bustling atmosphere many rival restaurants would kill for. Not quite a hidden gem, it can at least lay claim to being an unshowy treasure.

And its newly revamped menu has done nothing to change this recipe for success.

We went on a overcast Sunday evening – not, you would think, peak time for a place boasting 19 different tequilas. Yet almost every table was packed full of families, friends and chatty couples tucking into a plethora of frizzling dishes.

Our cheerful waitress attributed this at least partly to the live music set to be performed later in the evening, but we got the impression it's like this most nights.

And little wonder. While Mexican restaurants can sometimes feel a bit tired and Microwave-heavy, The Basement's offerings are fresh, bold and flavoursome.

For starters, we opted for the traditional guacamole and tortilla chips. The former is made fresh at the table to your specification – a nice touch that makes all the difference. Never ones to indulge restraint, we opted to shove everything in. The resulting mush packed a delicious punch, though we could have done with a bit more.

Next came a side of Mexican poutine – a spicy take on the gooey Quebecois classic. I'm told the fast-food original is best eaten after a booze-soaked night on the tiles, but this version more than held its own in the cold light of day. In any case, it's amazing what an obscene amount of melted cheese can do to a dish.

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A fillet steak fajita and plump enchilada stuffed full of chicken escabeche provided our main courses. Both were generously heaped, to say the least – and there was no scrimping on the taste either. The fillet steak deserves particular praise. No chewy lumps of stringy meat here; just tender, juicy chunks of sizzling perfection.

Unfortunately, the cornmeal coconut cake that followed was the only real disappointment of the night - a bit too stodgy on the base and somewhat lacking in taste. But coming after the big, bold flavours of the main courses, it probably never stood much of a chance.

The Basement
10a-12a Broughton St
Edinburgh EH1 3RH
Phone: 0131 557 0097
basement-bar-edinburgh.co.uk

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Alistair Grant can usually be found writing about anything and everything for the Edinburgh Evening News, but he also writes reviews, news and travel pieces for the Scotsman and Scotland on Sunday.

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