When a keen-eyed regular reader spotted the arrival of El Paso, just beneath The Table, on Dundas Street, he was quite insistent that I visited at my earliest available opportunity.
Labelling itself a tapas bar offering Mexican Latin fusion food with cocktails, the exterior is brash to the point of garishness. I suppose lively would be the kinder term, but it looks a little out of place with the more elegant surrounding businesses.
Despite its dazzle, for now it seems to be struggling to attract customers. I was a solo diner in the middle of a Festival Friday evening and only one or two additional parties joined during my stay.
Part of the issue may be that it’s not a tapas bar as such. It has strong Venezuelan influences and features hearty dishes from there and the surrounding region rather than Spanish sharing plates.
They do have a strong selection of tequila but don’t seem all that clued up on cocktails. The margarita I had was fine but little beyond that.
While I took in the surroundings and worked out what to eat, I munched on citrusy guacamole and decent corn chips. I settled upon giving their tacos a go then followed with the pabellon criollo, the traditional Venezuelan dish of beef stew, beans and rice.
The soft tacos were not available as it seemed they couldn’t get the right flour or they did have the right flour but hadn’t got the right recipe. Whatever the case, hard tacos it was.
I’d opted for the sweet potato and refried bean filling with pico de gallo. These were pretty good and served with more of the bright guac.
The main course was typically hearty fare. Pabellon is a lovely dish full of warming charm. The beef was slow cooked and packed with flavour and the rice and beans were as expected. The fritter things on top had a strange texture and didn’t add much.
So overall, El Paso is hard to judge. What I had was fairly good but I’m not sure it displayed a huge amount of skill. They need to grow into the space and make it a little cosier, but mainly they need to attract more punters. The place has a sort of kitsch appeal so if they were to up their cocktail game a little and refine their food offering they could find a place in the heart of the natives alongside the likes of nearby Garibaldi’s.
Blythe scores El Paso
3.5/5 for food
3/5 for presentation
3.5/5 for service
3/5 for setting
giving an overall 13/20
I ate: guacamole, tacos, pabellon criollo
I drank: margarita, water
I wore: action footwear
Total bill: £31.35
Address: 3A1 Dundas Street, Edinburgh EH3 6QG