Friday, 18 June 2010

Mexico V France: The Ultimate World Cup Pub (bar & restaurant) Crawl

By Cat McGovern

As I make my way through the streets of Soho the mood is quite buzzy and it gets me in the mood for some more football. Having watched it all day, I thought it best to complete the set. There are flags swinging in the breeze, many signs in front of bars and restaurants beckoning for you to come in and watch it at their establishment, but tonight I am heading to El Camino Mexicano for a Mexican themed evening.

I walk inside and try and decide where to watch the match. Upstairs is the restaurant part and it is very cool. The doors open out onto the street giving it that European alfresco feel. Looking at the tables, they are brightly coloured with striking flowers or temptingly juicy oranges on them. On the back wall there is a huge selection of assorted hot sauces, some familiar others just look plain nasty. It’s bright, fresh and clean looking making it inviting. I sit at the table in the restaurant and even though there is a screen here, it doesn’t seem that practical as only one of us can see it comfortably and the boyfriend apparently gets priority; downstairs it is.

Ah, that’s better. In the bar there is a large HD projector screen with big white comfy booths and a dedicated bar and jolly staff. One asks, “Are you here for the football?” and we reply “Damn right!” and take our seats right in front of the screen in prime position. Above the booths are flower shaped fairy lights and a menacing skull looking down on you. I try my best not to make eye contact and sip my beer, which is Negra Modelo, to stay with the Mexican theme.

This is a much better place to watch the game, the lights are low, the much needed air conditioning is on and the atmosphere is really quite fun. El Camino Mexicano have got it exactly right. It has a lounge effect making it really laid back and relaxed. It’s good to see both Mexican and French supporters in here and they are all girls. Splendid, I like it when there’s more girls interested in football than boys, it makes for a calmer ambience.

Whilst waiting for the delicious burrito I ordered, I snack on some tortilla chips with guacamole and salsa. I pick up a chip and dip it in the salsa and I’m instantly impressed. The salsa is thick with quite a kick to it and I like it. Guacamole next and I have to say it’s the best one I’ve ever had. It’s fresh, creamy and quite simply wonderful. If this is how the snack is, I now can’t wait for the burrito.

Seven minutes in and Vela makes a shocking shot that goes zooming over the bar and sounds of ‘Ohhhhhhh!’ are echoed around the bar. Mexico are doing quite well and exhibiting both their usual strengths and their usual weaknesses: their build up play is excellent, but their finishing poor. France are still a bit subdued and are playing a lot better than they did against Uruguay. It looks like it’s going to be a good game.

At last, the burrito arrives. I grasp my cutlery and tuck in excitedly and in one bite I’m in heaven. This is a top burrito; El Camino Mexicano has done well. It’s very succulent and bursting with spices. Black beans spill out and I quickly scoop them up and eat them. Even the salad is tasty with a rich vinaigrette and I normally hate salad. Hot sauce is placed on the table and I decide to go with the one that’s not green and scary looking and go with the milder Valentina, which has a smoky intense flavour. Brave boyfriend goes for the green stuff and doesn’t flinch. Whoops, there’s football on and I haven’t noticed it’s half time. Better start concentrating.

Mexico are dominant and still passing well. France on the other hand look completely out of ideas. 63 minutes in Mexico scores and everyone stands up, claps and screams “Yeeeeessss!” Abidal trips Barrera in the box and shouts of “Penatly!” are heard in the bar. Blanco takes it, he shoots, he scores, bam, 2-0.

In summary, El Camino Mexicano is a brilliant place to watch the World Cup. The screen is decent, the sound is great, there’s dedicated table service, superb atmosphere and sensational food. What more could you want for your viewing pleasure? I will definitely be returning.

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