After years of saying I wanted to go to Lupes Cantina, I finally made a trip over to the family-run Mexican restaurant on Cardigan Road this weekend with my foodie friend.
After living in the deep south in the US, I was spoilt by incredible Mexican food on a near-daily basis, so it was high time I visited that food experience again.
Lupes Cantina looks unassuming from the outside. It is a small, brightly coloured building with some outdoor seating. The inside is larger than expected, but still cosy. It reminded me of a restaurant that I would come across whilst wandering the streets of a holiday destination, with its simple furniture, open kitchen and Mexican regalia.
We’d heard some great things about the humble Cardigan Road establishment. My friend and I both agreed that no Mexican meal would be complete without guac and salsa, so we ordered a round of multi-coloured tortilla chips and two types of salsa, and a bowl of toasted pepita guacamole.
The salsas were smoky and certainly had a kick. The guacamole was delicious – I loved the addition of toasted pumpkin seeds and creamy cheese. However, we both thought that for £5.65, the serving size was small. The tortilla chips were tasty and I loved the crunch and variety of flavours, but it would have been even better if they had been homemade.
We wanted to try some dishes that we hadn’t eaten before, so for our next round of dishes, we opted for the cactus salad, queso fundito with chorizo and poblano and tacos de carne. The cactus salad was fab. Neither of us could describe what the cactus itself tasted like, but it was fresh and crunchy and we agreed that it was a great side dish to our meal.
The queso dish was unusual and certainly not what we had expected. We loved the rich, creamy cheese and the swirls of smoky homemade chorizo. I would have liked it to have been served on a hot plate to keep the cheese bubbling, but it didn’t deter from the flavour.
Finally, the tacos. Unfortunately, I felt they were a little underwhelming. Whilst the beef was well cooked and melted in the mouth, the sauce was mild and fresh, and the onions added a nice crunch, neither of us enjoyed the taste of the corn tortillas, and that reduced the enjoyment of the overall dish.
The service at Lupes was good. Whilst the waiters and waitresses didn’t spend much time talking with us (possibly owing to COVID regulations), the food came quickly and was served with a smile (behind plastic visors). We were also checked on a few times during our meal, meaning that we didn’t go thirsty and were able to order more dishes if we had wanted to.
After we’d eaten, we looked around to see what others had ordered, as we always do when eating out. We were intrigued by the different smells, the bubbling plates of colour and the stacked tacos. I was particularly keen to try their enchiladas after seeing the people at a neighbouring table enjoying them so much, and after not having found a good enchilada dish since returning from the US.
My friend and I both agreed that we would have to go back to Lupes to try out more of their dishes, and to do so soon!
The Mexican authenticity of Lupes Cantina lifts the humble eatery to one that should not be missed. Add it to your list of places to visit in Leeds!