30/04/14 - Exploring Liverpool: Lucha Libre

I've been really busy with commuting and working recently (bet you didn't know that, did you?  Because I never mention it...I promise I'll stop whining about it soon!) so when I realised that the third part of this little series was well overdue, the chance to have a social life and chow down with one of my besties was exactly what I needed after a long Monday at work.

After a little wander up and down Bold Street in search of somewhere that took our fancy, Heather and I ended up settling on Lucha Libre.  Nestled just off the main street and right next to FACT, this little haven of Mexican street food is somewhere I'd heard a great deal about but never had the chance to experience myself.

The atmosphere inside is lovely; really relaxed with very friendly and approachable staff.  The decor is sort of quirky and nicely thematic, featuring among other things a wall of hot sauces with names like 'Muerte' which look absolutely terrifying.  Also, mega props to whoever created the playlist that was playing because there were some serious tunes on there!

Even the mirrors in the toilets warranted a photograph!

A quick perusal of the menu brought us straight to the cocktail list which is abundant with different varieties of margarita.  Now, while I may not be able to handle the Mexican spice, I am a tequila girl through and through.  An extensive selection of tequila-based drinks is guaranteed to set my heart aflutter and it took a really long time to choose which we wanted.  In the end I opted for a frozen pomegranate margarita, while Heather chose the tamarind flavour (£6).  Mine was very sweet and Heather's was nicely tangy, both were delicious and made even better by being served in those red cups you see in American movies about frat parties.  That was more exciting to me than it should have been.

Margaritas in hand, we could turn to the very serious business of choosing our food.  There was a lot of choice and it all sounded absolutely delightful, so it was really tough to narrow it down.  After much deliberation, we decided to share tiger prawns flambeed in tequila, caramelised in agave and lime syrup (£6.50) and a big old plate of the most incredible nacho-type things I have ever experienced.  Their actual name was chilaquiles and apparently it's something that people sometimes have for breakfast in Mexico?  Nachos for breakfast is something I am definitely on board with, especially when they're this good.  Tortilla chips with mild salsa, melted cheese, fresh coriander, jalapenos and...a fried egg on top?  Sounds bizarre but it totally worked (£7.50).

For my main dish, I went for a veggie burrito containing beetroot puree, sweet potato, roasted peppers, red onion, cherry tomatoes and goat's cheese (£6.75) and my word, it was good.  I was surprised by what sounded like typically Mediterranean-influenced ingredients, but there was a distinctly Mexican smokiness to the roasted vegetables and the goat's cheese added a really nice depth of flavour without being at all overwhelmed.  It's more like you can tell something else is going on but you can't really pinpoint what it is.  Heather ordered the tacos served with beer-battered white market fish, caper aioli, radish, cabbage and tamarind salsa (£5.50).  The fish was really gorgeous and flaky, and the other elements added a lovely combination of flavours and textures to the dish.

Alongside all this food, we decided to take a little risk.  As I mentioned before, tequila is clearly a major element of this particular restaurant and the menu has a whole section dedicated to all the different kinds.  Apparently, most meals in Mexico are accompanied by tequila in one form or another whether that is as a shot, in a cocktail or sipped with a little glass of what is called sangrita.  Despite both being fans of the concept of tequila slammers - personally, I really like the sense of camaraderie that comes from a group of people knocking back their shots and then simultaneously shuddering/wincing/groaning as they desperately attack a paltry sliver of lemon or lime - neither of us are exactly connoisseurs of  the spirit.  We decided to change that.  After asking our waitress for her recommendation and learning a little more about the different varieties, we braved the idea of sipping tequila the way some courageous souls sip whiskey.  Glasses of the Calle 23 Anejo (£4 a shot) were delivered to us along with fresh pineapple juice, coriander, mint and green chilli better known as green sangrita (50p a shot).  In all the different brands of tequila, there tend to be three varieties and the distinctions between them is in the aging process.  'Anejo' is the most heavily aged and this supposedly results in a much smoother flavour and a slightly deeper colour.  I won't pretend that I didn't still have to brace myself before each sip and that I didn't wrinkle my nose a little as the liquid burned its way down, but I have to admit that it's the first time I can say that I've actively enjoyed and properly appreciated the taste of tequila.  The sangrita was a great addition; the pineapple sweetness ramped up with the kick of chilli really offset the alcohol and was much more effective that sucking the living daylights out of a slice of lemon. Perhaps this first foray into the world of proper tequila will pave the way for a new interest in my life.  I can think of worse things to have as a hobby.

For once, we actually ordered just about the right amount of food rather than totally overstretching ourselves...see, we're learning!  Originally, we thought we were perfectly full and could forgo dessert...until we looked at the menu.  No way could we skip over a whole course when we looked at the options on offer and all for very reasonable prices.  We shared a key lime and hibiscus cheesecake (£3.50) which was utterly amazing.  The lime was perfectly sharp, the hibiscus added a gorgeous fragrant note and it was beautifully light - the perfect way to wrap up the meal.

Unfortunately, the quality of my photographs deteriorated over the course of the evening and that wasn't due to the tequila before anyone asks.  We arrived when the lights were still fairly bright in the early evening and as the night wore on, the lights were steadily lowered to that atmospheric level restaurants favour and bloggers hate.  After nattering for ages about everything under the sun, we settled the bill and headed for our favourite post-dinner port of call.  We can't stay away from Alma de Cuba for too long!

I would definitely head to Lucha Libre again in order to sample a wider selection of the menu.  According to their website, there's one in Manchester as well so if you fancied sampling their wares and you're not in Liverpool, you do have that option!

Where is your favourite place to go for Mexican?  Let me know in the comments, I'm always looking for new places to eat!

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