Don’t dismiss Mexican cuisine thinking it’s all tacos, quesadillas, burritos and enchiladas, the usual suspects found on high street Mexican menus.
It’s as complex as any of the great cuisines in the world created mostly with ingredients native to Mexico as well as those brought over by the Spanish conquistadors.
Staples embrace corn, beans, chilli peppers, tomatoes, squashes, avocados, cocoa and vanilla. Edible flowers, vegetables such as huauzontle and papaloquelite or small criollo avocados with edible skin are in the mix too. The conquerors chipped in with pork, chicken, beef, cheese and other dairy produce, herbs and spices.
But when it comes to Mexican food in this country, restaurateurs slip easily into the tried-and-tested – Chichester’s Muchos Nachos far from being an exception.
The tone is set in the car park with a ‘Don’t Siesta, Let’s Fiesta’ sign, the ‘award-winning’ décor continuing the stereotypical Mexican theme with murals on every wall including the ceiling with cacti, cantinas, moustachioed hombres, ponchos and a sombrero on every table in the three-section restaurant.
Once the Crown Inn, vestiges of its previous incarnation remain.
And, yes, the menu is all tacos et al married to the usual suspects: guacamole, sour cream, chillies, tomato salsa and pico de galla (rooster’s beak), another salsa with herbs, serrano chillies and lime juice. Start with maybe patatas bravas with cheese, a Spanish-Mexican combo; Cajun sombrero mushrooms; calamari Vera Cruz or spring rolls, a non-Mex novelty.
Fajitas come with either steak, chicken, fish or vegetables; nachos with cheese, Texas spicy beef, chicken and other choices, all with tortilla chips, salsa, sour cream and jalapeňo chillies. The same ingredients are peppered throughout the menu but there are also steaks, BBQ dishes, fish, ribs and burgers. Prices? Starters from £3.95, £5.50 for nachos, £12.95 (fajitas), £17.95 (T-bone steak).
A Texas beef chilli con carne with – yup, tortillas, sour cream, guacamole, pica de gallo – was one of those moreish dishes you wished you’d ordered as a main, the seasoning and chilli content excellently judged.
It was served in a brown bowl on an oval green and pink rustic plate, the same type of plate home to chicken nachos with the same ingredients as the chilli but with shredded chicken, the lot brought together with melted cheese on those tortilla chips. Only the chillies brought this to life. The chicken was bland. It’s difficult to escape those combos unless going the non-Mexican route via steak, fish or a burger.
Desperados beer – oddly, the tequila-laced lager is brewed in France, not Mexico – was an excellent, non-gassy, lime-in-the-neck drink marrying well with these dishes, a real find.
Desserts? Banoffee pie, Belgian waffles and cheesecake, anyone?
If you’re looking for a mostly satisfying, filling meal served with charm – my waiter was Turkish and completely on the ball – Muchos Nachos offers our take of Mexico on a plate. My bill came to £14.40 not including a tip.
Muchos Nachos, 140 Whyke Road, Chichester, PO19 8HT 01243 785009. Open all week from 12–10 pm (last orders), 10.30 on Fri-Sat.
Take the A27 to Chichester exiting at the Selsey roundabout towards the city on to Whyke Road. The restaurant’s on the left. Car park.
Disabled access: fine
A fortnight ago we published an incorrect phone number for Mammalena, North End, Portsmouth. You can reach it on (023) 9217 8820.