Stan is lunching again, and this time he headed to Caracas Grill on Duncan Street, for some South American inspired street food.
This week I am combining two of the trends of last year: street food and South American fare. It is a bit early to pick up on a trend for this year. I have travelled quite widely in my life but one thing which is still on my bucket list is to dance the tango with some raven-haired beauty in a dimly lit bar in Buenos Aires. Unfortunately what with the arthritis in my knees I will be lucky to get to do the hokey cokey at the local Derby and Joan Club. Luckily, my teeth are still in good working order so I can at least give the nosh a good run for its money.
Caracas Grill is what looks to be a small unit on Duncan Street, but there is a seating area upstairs so plenty of room for everyone. The decor is pretty basic with odd chairs and tables but this is a street food place so it adds to the atmosphere. If the furniture is basic then the menu is even more so, again in line with a street food outlet. Everything on offer comprises steak, chicken or pork sausages. It reminded me of the ‘Spam Sketch’ from ‘Monty Python’s Flying Circus.’
I selected my meal from the ‘Express Lunch’ menu which has the choice of either pepitos, which are Venezuelan sandwiches, or parrillas, slices of marinated meat. With either dish comes a soft drink and a side along with a selection of sauces. I settled on steak and chicken parrillas at £8.50 which came in an enamel dish, as did the large coleslaw side. Looking at other peoples’ orders I surmised that pepitos are just parrillas in a baguette. In the condiment rack which was delivered to my table was a selection of sauces. For the less adventurous there was mayo, ketchup and mustard but for the rest there was a choice of guasacara, a mild concoction of green peppers and herbs, tartar, which is mayonnaise with herbs and onion or thirdly, the more explosive picante, a lethal combination of chillies, red peppers and herbs.
In the name of research I tried all three of the latter group. They were very tasty with the picante being hot enough to challenge most palates. Had I not opted for the coleslaw I could have had a side of fries or hallaquitas described on the menu as ‘boiled corn flour dough in red pepper water.’ The steak looked to be skirt which is good for this type of dish as it is full of flavour but needs to be cooked in small strips as it was here. It is the cut of steak usually used in fajitas as it keeps a hint of chewiness. The chicken was done in the same way and was equally flavoursome. For my soft drink I had a black coffee.
I must end the review by mentioning the service, which was excellent. The waiter who took my order was very pleasant and efficient; he seemed genuinely interested in whether I was enjoying my lunch but was not over intrusive.
I may return in December for a festive lunch, a sort of Christmas Caracas. Look, if it’s good enough for Thai restaurants…
Editor’s note: Since this article was published, Caracas Grill has moved to Britannia House, York Place, LS1 2E
Photograph by Stan Graham