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Restaurant review: La Parrilla

'Best Mexican in Liverpool' or is Angie Sammons in for a shock?

Written by . Published on January 21st 2011.

Restaurant review: La Parrilla

EVEN the most innocuous looking restaurants possess the ability to shock.

Take one which is a mere spit away from our office.

“What would you recommend?” I asked of the maitre'd, when we dropped in after work last month.

“Another restaurant,” he piped, pleasantly, without missing a beat.

We ordered brow lifts all round.

Why, tapas houses, do you engulf your patatas bravas - and everything else - in a virulent, thick red gloop that tastes of nothing, and, in fact, is nothing but tomato puree?

And while, generally, nobody has a good word to say about the ornate strip that is Waterloo's South Road, it does appear to be trying to clean up its act. This is after the low in 2009 when police discovered a torture room above one of its one-too-many bars.

(Click here to add text)So when somebody pointed out that in the other South - South America - La Parrilla is a method of torture, where the victim is strapped to a metal frame and subjected to electric shock, it seemed only right and fitting that a restaurant by that very name should be at the heart of the bright lights here, on the so-called Strip.

I have avoided it many times. Well you would, wouldn't you?

Over Christmas, however, things changed. The only form of torture that sprang to mind in Waterloo was the sort the CIA (allegedly) love: water. Trickling from burst pipes, right across the neighbourhood, then stilled as the big freeze gripped once more.

Snow and ice had stopped play - as far as getting back from town or anywhere meaningful was concerned. Thus, we gritted our teeth and took to ungritted roads – part of God's plan and Sefton Council's ineptitude - to the Mexican. La Parrilla.

No sooner have we opened the door to what they boldly claim is the “best Mexican restaurant in Liverpool” (which wouldn't be hard) - than we are greeted by heat and a blare of incessant, gay, mariachi music.

(Click here to add text)The noise, mind you, is not loud enough to drown out any anguished howls from anywhere, nor conversation which is babbling like a brook from a handful of diners.

And of course nobody shines a torch into your face when you order in a South Road restaurant. Here, encouragingly, lighting is all subdued and flickering candles.

Meanwhile, a characterful chap called Paolo keeps his eye on us from among a raft of sombreros, blankets and other atmospheric tat. He is all knowing and all seeing and puts not a soft foot wrong.

He tells us that the chefs are from Mexico - one from Puebla, a place I actually visited 16 years ago. Specifically Cholula, whose eponymous fiery sauce is served in bottles here. It's a land of volcanos, earthquakes, and cantinas from which women are barred; where the roads are as thrilling to drive on as Sefton's right now. It made men of us.

(Click here to add text)“All our dishes are mild, if you prefer it spicy, let us know!” says the menu at La Parrilla.

We tell them we are men and that we like our food high voltage. In case they are going to mess around, we put our money where our mouths, definitely, are. Big fat green chillies (£4.95), loads of them, coated in crisp, dry breadcrumbs and stuffed with cream cheese to soothe the scorched flesh of our tastebuds like calamine.

Half expecting the usual industrial rubber bands, coated in wallpaper paste and straight from the freezer, we order Calamari al mojo (£4.95). What we get is hand cut squid, coated in a delicate, crumbed batter and ever so slightly al dente. The accompanying creamy garlic mayo for dipping is an equal revelation, tasting – could it be – made in the kitchen?

2011113Story-Dscf7954Once you warm to talk of rubber bands and the chamber of horrors mindset, “Albondigas” (£5.50) sounds exactly like a veiled Spanish vernacular for tying someone up. It is meatballs, spicy ones, scattered with parmesan shavings. Again, having been let down by such offerings on so many occasions, we anticipate a plate of orbs that pack the density of Doctor Who's Toclafane but with none of the zap.

These are just made. Tender, succulent, they fall apart on the fork and then melt. The accompanying sauce comprises fresh tomatoes which ACTUALLY TASTE of something. It takes five minutes to prepare, this, so why, tapas houses, do you engulf your patatas bravas - and everything else - in a virulent, thick red gloop that tastes of nothing, and, in fact, is nothing but tomato puree? Stick this on as a main course, amigos. It's a winner.

Chimichangas (£9.95), a deep fried tortilla without a trace of grease, is filled with a delicious, hot chicken chilli filling (from a choice of various meat and veg). It is the first of a parade of dishes that come drizzled with the same sour cream and snipped chives. The kitchen must be a chive of activity. Plenty of good, refried beans and a token amount of rice (they don't dose you up on filler) makes it all taste fantastically better than first glance would suggest.

Fresh swordfish is on offer but, in a nod to all those gentle folk who accompany chilli-heads to restaurants - and who bottle it at the first sign of fire - we try sea bass fillets from the specials menu (£11.95).

The gleam of fish is dulled only by a soft floury coating. It sits on a bed of stir fried veg and sauteed potatoes. I savour almost every bit. Only downside is the white wine sauce, which someone has thickened with cornflour. Cornflour?

Fajitas, in this case a big sizzling skillet of vegetables (£8.95)with flour tortillas and several excellent zingy accompaniments, including chunky salsa and guacamole, complete the deal with barely anything to fault.

With a menu of the usual Tex-Mex fare, which, in reality, you rarely see south of the border, you would be forgiven for thinking that this was going to be substandard fill-em-up and move-em-on student experience with a jug of Stella or bad margaritas thrown in for a fiver.

Of course “Mexican” food in the UK is what it is, as the saying goes, but, frankly, what this shows is how it can be so much better.

The chefs, headed by Gobal who is half Mexican and half Nepalese, seem to care and, just as importantly, they are being allowed to care. They tell me they started and then stopped making the more traditional Mexican dishes - for example the bitter chocolate-based mole stews - only because they were on a hiding to nothing with the customers.

A word about the interesting Mexican vino, Estapor Venir (£21.95), a zinfandel/grenache mix which is produced using sustainable viticulture in the Guadalupe Valley in Baja California.

2011113Story-Dscf7953Distributed here by Bibendum its vines grow with only natural fertilisers. At the "Escuelita" winery, where Estapor is produced, they have even set up a non-profit making school to promote small-scale winemaking in the area, educating local people about the traditions and teaching them the skills, thereby providing a means of supporting themselves.

After a good bottle of it - and a tequila slammer, which Paolo insists is a digestif, it is we who need a means of supporting ourselves.

Back on the lethal pavements we congratulate ourselves on an evening traversed without one nasty bump.

Torture? Well it was definitely spanking.

Breakdown:7.5/10 food
4.5/5 Service
4/5 atmosphere
Address:La Parrilla Mexican Bar and Grill
36 South Road
L22 5PQ
0151 949 0310

Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind: fine dining against the best fine dining, bars, grills and cafes compared with like. Following on from this the scores represent: 1-5 saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9 get a DVD, 10-11 if you must, 12-13 if you’re passing,14-15 worth a trip, 16-17 very good, 17-18 exceptional, 19 pure quality, 20 perfect.

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12 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Gringo StarrJanuary 14th 2011.

I like it here too. Now all we need is a half-decent Chinese in Crosby/Waterloo.

Careless HansJanuary 14th 2011.

Whatever happened to the 'Old Tyrolean' Austrian restaurant on South Road? It was run by an old Austrian called Sepp.

Clint EastwoodJanuary 14th 2011.

Was he a Nazi on the run? Nothing would surprise me about South Road

Lee MarvinJanuary 14th 2011.

Enjoyed reading that. Real Mexican food, as the writer says, bears no resemblance to Taco Bell style fare served everywhere else in the world. It is impressive that the chefs are actually Mexican so maybe it's a start.

Bunty BillerJanuary 14th 2011.

That is Safron, Little Pizza Kitchen and La Parrilla, all the best of their kind,and all within a stagger of Stamps Too, the best real ale pub for miles. Glad I livr nearby!!

AnonymousJanuary 14th 2011.

Agree with Bunty. Waterloo is on the up for restaurants and Parilla Pizza Kitchen and Saffron are starting to make posh Crosby look like the poor relative all of a sudden. It amuses me no end because I live in the middle of them all in Norma Road!

younger-than-twiggy-anywayJanuary 14th 2011.

Corrr!!! - After all that I was expecting an 8 and a half out of ten. A really positive review. You must have eaten in some pretty amazing restaurants in your time because for the life of me I would not know how to dissect these foods. The next time I eat out, I will pay more attention to the "crumb" and by the way, what were the toilets like?

Con O'SurJanuary 18th 2011.


AnonymousJune 21st 2013.

Although this is a good reveiw it doesnt give this place the credit it deserves. We have eaten here on several occasions and have genuinly never had a problem here. it's always busy, food is always excellent and cooked to perfection, it is an open kitchen that you can see is spotlessly clean. Every person we have took there has loved it and returned on a different occasion with others. Highly recommended.

1 Response: Reply To This...
Angie SammonsJune 22nd 2013.

It's my local (one of them) and I had a superb meal when I wrote this. I hoped I had reflected this in the review. But I haven't been in for some time and glad to hear that it's still performing well

AnonymousJune 22nd 2013.

Great writing. Not seen this before. Makes me want to go.

SaladDazeJanuary 29th 2014.

How does it compare to www.wahaca.co.uk/…/… Should I stump up the fare to Waterloo or stick to the Virgin Advance bargain day out?

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