Mezcal and tacos are achingly, unavoidably ‘in’ at the moment, so it was a surprise that Cartel – a Battersea joint specialising in both – was near empty on my Thursday night visit. That might be because the box of a room (dominated by a spacious bar area) is clearly designed for buzzy weekend boozing. But it was more likely down to the dreamy alt-country music being blasted out at high volume, courtesy of a guitar-twiddling chap on the floor. A shame really, as it’s a pretty nifty place: bare-brick walled, with faux Mexican ephemera dotted about, and party-ready.
This is primarily a place for knocking back cocktails (or straight spirits – there’s a hidden mezcal tasting room that staff can grant permission to), and the drinks are good. Pasión del Mezcalero was warming, citrussy and heady with alcohol while a Tommy’s Margarita (with agave in place of triple sec) was a zesty foil to the food, the highlights of which were moreish chorizo-stuffed quesadillas and brilliant mango-topped and pulled-pork-piled corn tacos. Excellent booze food, basically. Modish it might be, but Cartel mostly hits its target.