Down Mexico Way
7th July 2019
Richard Williams experiences a taste of Latin American cuisine in a quiet corner of Tunbridge Wells
The Mexican Kitchen on Castle Street straddles both London Road and the High Street in Tunbridge Wells, making its central location ideal for either a quick lunch or relaxed dinner.
While Tex Mex and other variations of Mexican cuisine are readily available in the area, owners Jamie Tsui and Fiona Berg want to offer an authentic Central American dining experience.
Stepping inside the Mexican Kitchen early one Thursday evening, the bright and colourful restaurant offers an informal, relaxed atmosphere. There’s a clever use of green and red accessories dotted about in a nod to the Mexican flag, and an even cleverer use of mirrors which gives a real sense of space, making the relatively small space feel roomy.
It’s ideal for a fun lunch with friends but there are a few intimate corners for those coming for a romantic dinner too. Upstairs there’s a private room which is ideal for functions or a work do.
Thursday night is an ideal night to go along because the restaurant offers a buy one, get one half-price deal on its fajitas. Not only was this a pleasant surprise for us as diners but when we walked in we were also treated to the mouth-watering aromas coming from the sizzling skillet.
Under starters orders
There’s a friendly, welcoming atmosphere here and the staff are attentive. After a quick selfie in a sombrero to get into the swing of things, my guest ordered a Marguerita and I went for a bottle of native Mexican Corona which we enjoyed while we perused the Central American delights on the menu.
Starters range from taquitos (crispy rolled tortillas) topped with avocado, sour cream, cheese and a choice of chicken (£7.75) or sweet potato and feta (£6.95). Then there’s empanadas – fired pastry filled with either vegan cheese and refried beans (£6.95), or chicken, cheese or chorizo (£7.95). Or you can go for baby calamari (£6.95) and jalapeno peppers stuffed with cheese (£6.95).
We enjoyed the garlic prawns (£7.95), fried in olive oil and chilli and served on a bed of sliced garlic, beautifully presented and wonderfully succulent and spicy, served with floury tortillas.
The quesadilla, a folded tortilla with a choice of fillings, which in our case was the chorizo (£6.95), would have made a good lunch just on its own, especially as there was large variety of nibbles, nachos and dips on the menu too.
The main event
Mains here are just as plentiful. There’s a choice of tacos, with fillings including marinated pork shoulder (£7.25), slow cooked brisket (£7.95), chicken (£6.75) and pulled jackfruit cooked in paprika as a veggie option (£5.95). The enchiladas (filled tortilla) have a similar range of fillings (£10.95-£12.50), as do the burritos (£10.95-£13.95). And there is a choice of burgers (beef, veg, chicken or jackfruit, £10.95-£13.95), chilli dogs (£10.75) and steaks (£17.95) for perhaps the less adventurous.
Being fajitas night, it would have been rude not to have indulged, and our rump steak fajitas (£17.95) arrived as a sizzling platter of beautifully cooked meat, served with an assortment of peppers, mushrooms, onions and a good selection of dips. It was a big enough meal for two, let alone one.
My guest ordered the chilli beef (£14.95) which was well presented in its own ceramic pot, served with rice, tortilla chips and an accompaniment of black beans and sour cream. This was not your typical minced beef chilli, but made with succulent slow-cooked brisket with a subtle chilli spicing.
We never quite made the pudding menu, since there was nowhere either of us could have put it! One thing the Mexican Kitchen does not scrimp on is portion size.
Mexican Kitchen’s USP
Most people will have tasted Mexican before, and even assembled their own fajitas at home, but the real thing is something else. Whatever your expectations of what a chilli or a burrito should be like should be left at the door. The authentic flavourings and combinations of the real Mexico are a world away from the packets of faux Tex Mex which are all too often offered out as Mexican cuisine.
The restaurant also caters for the takeaway and delivery market, offering Deliveroo for the people of Tunbridge Wells. But if you want my advice, you’ll make a reservation for lunch or dinner and enjoy a real taste of Mexico in comfortable and welcoming surroundings.