Apart from a few years during which Sandinista were voted out, they have run the country ever since and are still in power today albeit in a more moderate form. And you thought that this article would be about food. OK then.
The other Sandinista is a bar cantina in Cross Belgrave Street which specialises in smaller tasting dishes. On the menu they are classed as tapas but the portions are too big to be classed as that. I had two dishes but I would suggest that perhaps three would be about right to share between two people. The Spanish waitress’s English was just about good enough to get by but that, along with the beating sunshine outside, gave the place a really authentic atmosphere. It was she who said that two dishes would be about right but I could always order another if it was not enough. Needless to say I did not further trouble the chef when the feast arrived. I am always tempted to order from the day’s specials but that does not do you any good because they will have changed should you decide to visit so I went for the Smoked Sausage and Prawn Jambalaya at £5.95 and a Chorizo Hash Pan, £4.75 from the permanent selection. A glass of Carmenere red from Chile was a really good accompaniment at £4.20 for 175ml. Sadly nothing on the wine list from Nicaragua. Should your taste be for beer there was a good selection of draught lagers and craft ales as well as bottles.
The dishes were served in cast iron vessels, one of which had a handle which was swathed in a serviette. The waitress told me that this was because it was really hot. The pan in question held the Chorizo Hash Pan and contained what looked like cubed, sautéed potatoes with pieces of chorizo. This indeed was the case but underneath this camouflage lurked a fried egg. Had this portion been twice the size (or four times if you are American) it would have been the greatest breakfast ever. If that was not enough the Jambalaya was a revelation. The rice was perfectly cooked, not hard but not the consistency of risotto, the prawns were not in the slightest bit chewy and the smoked sausage gave an extra texture and flavour.
When it comes to flavour the spices were amazing. I spent every mouthful trying to work out what was in there; there was obviously paprika but there was a fruitiness to the heat which I could not work out. Eventually I had to admit defeat and so I asked the chef. He said that it was his own mixture of cajun spices, the composition of which he was not going to tell me as it was a secret. I told him that I had secrets far more interesting than a spice mix which I may be persuaded to divulge in return but he wouldn’t budge. What he did say, however, when I asked him about the fruitiness, was that he adds a dollop of tomato ketchup to the mix. Never has a Heinz product been put to such good use. I skipped dessert and had my usual black coffee which in this instance was an espresso at £2.00.
The only comment I would make about the room was that it was decorated to reflect the name but the music was really loud especially as I was the only customer for most of the time. As I said it was a sunny day and the windows were open so this may have been to attract the attention of passers-by. I am not complaining as the soundtrack was eclectic to say the least: everything from Harry Neilson through Canned Heat and the Doors to Delta Blues. Not surprising as it doubles as a music venue in the evenings.
In conclusion this place is worth a visit but if you like the volume of your music a bit lower then go on a sunny day and sit at one of the tables outside.