New Mexican Knockout Shows Chaotic Competition How It’s Done

New Mexican Knockout Shows Chaotic Competition How It’s Done

Surprisingly Good: The Cavita's Main Dining Room (Adrian Lourie)

Surprisingly Good: The Cavita’s Main Dining Room (Adrian Lourie)

Look, this review was not supposed to start like this. After weeks of tapping into the operational turmoil that every new restaurant seems to be experiencing in some form – namely, the overworked staffs, poorly trained servers, and hastily set up rooms that mean even good meals threaten to fall into prank show calamity – I had I personally forbade myself to refer to him. Everyone is fighting. We all know that, as it stands, the hospitality world is in a rictus race to recreate pre-pandemic bonhomie without the necessary staffing capacity to do so. There’s no need to push myself at this point every week.

But then, in Cavita, Marylebone, I went straight to the bathroom to be greeted not only by the overpowering smell of freshly applied paint (a week and a half after the place opened), but by two abandoned paintbrushes balanced on a urinal. . It felt like a perfect encapsulation of the current crazy, churning panic to be ready; the ideal visual metaphor if this ends up proving to be another well-meaning overture that felt a bit rushed and failed.

Well, as it turns out, there’s a considerable problem with that last bit of logic. And the problem is, this place — which is Mexican chef Adriana Cavita’s long-awaited debut restaurant — is already absolutely fine: a confident, knockout combination of Abuela-level domestic generosity and first-rate chef technique that produces flavors that, all at once, it has as much familiarity as a vividly drawn and shaken flash of unforeseen.

That glow became apparent early on. Nestled in its dimly lit inner courtyard of a space, surrounded by decorative masks and a ceiling full of hanging plants, we started with aguachile rojo: a beautiful oceanic frieze of uncured kingfish, sashimi-style, crispy-giving rainbow radish, crushed grasshopper salt and an unassuming puddle of thin, smeared chili sauce that hit like a freight train of thunderous heat. The pork head tamal brought the usual steamed corn pudding, extracted with huge chunks of pork and with saltiness carefully fermented by a tightly rolled cabbage blanket. And the smoked mushroom tetela – dense, rich mushrooms plus baked potato and other intensifying ingredients piled into what is almost a grilled triangular tortilla – was like the filthiest of muttered vegetarian comments.

Prodigious Talent: Adriana Cavita (Adrian Lourie)

Prodigious Talent: Adriana Cavita (Adrian Lourie)

Cavita, the person, is a prodigious talent: a chef who worked at El Bulli as a teenager, has a degree in gastronomy and has explored her country’s underappreciated regional foods. However, what’s most impressive about her restaurant is how he isn’t afraid to bring the celebratory spirit and a fresh look to roadside combinations that appeal to the crowd. Which means you get a “Cesar” salad (a Mexican dish that was invented in the 1920s by the chef-owner of a Tijuana hotel) where robustly charred greens boost the smoky umami to a frankly inappropriate level of desire; you get attractively messy Baja fish tacos and beef shin quesabirria with a lacy ruff of fried, bubbly cheese; and, of course, shareable main courses – a whole octopus roasted in a wood-fired oven or (our choice) a juicy whole chicken wrapped in smoke, placed on a green mole that can easily feed four people, and comes supported by a stack. of hot and palpably fresh tortillas.

Its immense quality and composure penetrates the little things that turn a meal into a pleasure.

“I love it,” my brother said, shaking the ice in his rum cocktail and pickled beetroot, referring to nothing more than the general, glamorous crackle of the room and the rare, steady warmth of the hospitality. This is the other thing to note about Cavita. Its immense quality and composure penetrates the little things that turn a meal into a pleasure. Cheerful and knowledgeable staff carry pudding de pan de elote (corn cake); Mexican folk instruments bubble in the background. There is undoubtedly a frantic effort (and any number of lost brushes) hidden from view. But Cavita feels, against the shaky chaos of many other current overtures, like a shimmering, fully formed reminder of exactly how it should be done.

60 Wigmore Street, W1U 2RZ. Meal for two plus drinks approx £170. Tuesday to Sunday 5pm to 10:30pm; cavitarestaurant. with

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