It's been years since I tried eating Mexican food in England. I gave up after a few tentative tries out of disappointment. When I wanted some, I bought the ingredients and made tacos at home. This tells you a lot about how little I've experimented with Mexican cuisine at home.
aca, however, had tracked down a Mexican restaurant with a good review and, after a couple of years of having it on his to-eat list, suggested it as a convenient venue pre-Lancashire Hotpots concert. The four of us arrived at Mestizo early enough in the evening that the spacious modern space - it would be industrial chic if there wasn't so much dark wood - was still relatively tranquil. The table held a small pile of tortillas and a bowl of salsa, neither having the depth of flavor I was raised to expect, but decent enough that aca asked for more. We had time enough for improvising our way through courses and service which, when not quite with it, figured it out itself and apologized.
We passed over the two densely-packed pages of tequila options in favor of beer or mixed drinks. easterbunny's Blue Island was full of fun; C.'s piña colada disappointed; They were out of kiwi dacquiri, so I settled for a reasonable strawberry version, a little too strong on the alcohol for my tastes. Eventually, most of us moved on to water.
The main food menu is divided into two parts: appetizers + tacos, and soups+salads+mains. We weren't sure how hungry we were or how big the portions would be, so we started cautiously with an array of starters and a taco platter for 2, all to share. The deep-fried jalapenos stuffed with cream cheese with possibly the best I've had; they were served with a light, herbed, liquid sour cream sauce. The ceviche was very under marinated, with firm shrimp; not ideal. The flautas with light, creamy sauce went rapidly, but their flavor isn't particularly memorable. The taco platter was spectacular, an array of perhaps fifteen little dishes of fillings to accompany eight soft, steamed tortillas. Four of the fillings we'd picked, including Nopales - cactus leaf; Pollo Pibil with an orange juice-based sauce; and Pastor - marinated pork with pineapple. Other dishes included everything which ought to be there, from sour cream and guacamole to chopped onions.
After all that, and some time spent contemplating, we figured we were up for a modicum of mains. aca and easterbunny shared the house special, Molacajete 'Metizo', a mix of meat, cheese, chorizo, and vegetables cooked and served in a stone bowl. It smelled absolutely amazing. C. and I shared an order of enchiladas filled with chicken, toped in a light mole. It was pleasantly competent. The mains, alas, left us no room for dessert, by which we'd been previously tempted. No flan or dough fritters for us.
The food at Mestizo is decent, competent, often interesting, sometimes quite tasty, always at least decent. I would happily go back there. Service was generally attentive, decor pleasant, and even when packed and busy, we could still hear each other talk. But the flavors were restrained, on the whole, less vibrant than how I remember the Mexican food I've usually eaten in the States. If this is as good as Mexican food gets in England, it still has a long ways to go; then again, I've only just begun looking.