24 November 2014

Tequila; It Makes Me Happy

I'm willing to admit that I much prefer going out to quieter places these days. I've never had amazing hearing but shouting "pardon" over and over again or pretending that I'd heard what a person had said when I hadn't became rather tiresome. When I meet up with friends, I like to be able to have a proper conversation and catch up with all the gossip. Well, at least for the first few hours...I'm not adverse to moving on to somewhere a little more lively later on when a few drinks have been enjoyed and everyone's voices have got naturally louder! But before that time, it's all about those great venues that can capture atmosphere without the ridiculously loud music. 

Yes I know I sound old.

  I had a feeling I was going to love Mexican bar and restaurant El Nivel before I'd even arrived. It looked the real deal from what I'd seen online; authentic, intimate but trendy. Based on the amazing reviews, they would definitely know what they were talking about when it came to all things tequila and tequila is a drink I've recently grown a bit of a fancy for.

My friend Alexa was running late because of disruption on the tubes but luckily for me, El Nivel was an ideal place to be left on my own with a forty minute wait on my hands. It was lively but not noisy and I was given a nice little candle-lit table right next to a window where I could merrily peer into the flats opposite. Nosey neighbour - maybe - but it passed some of the time!

 I also poked my nose into the corporate tequila tasting lesson going on at the table next to me.

Alexa told me to order myself a drink on her while I waited so that I did. I decided upon the 'Lost Steps' - a blend of Ocho Blanco tequila, sweet cardamom tea cordial and Chartreuse Elixir (a vegetal liqueur). 

Many write-off tequila as almost a dangerous drink associated with falling over, crying and awful hangovers; just a shot you down with salt and lemon on a inevitably messy night out. This delicate concoction showed that the above doesn't have to be the case at all. It was sweet, light and easy to drink. 

So easy to drink in fact that I had another soon after Alexa arrived!

Another fantastic tequila drink I tried was the sangrita. Not to be confused with the Spanish wine-and-fruit based drink sangria, a sangrita (meaning "little blood") is a traditional accompaniment to a neat shot of tequila; a non-alcoholic tomato and orange juice sipper that cleanses the palate between each fiery dose of agave.

If you enjoy a Bloody Mary and getting tipsy quickly, you'll definitely enjoy a sangrita! 

There are also long drinks on the menu if that's more your thing. Alexa - who's not usually a tequila fan - loved the colourful El Furibundo; a herbaceous sipper of winter berries, pomegranate and hibiscus. 

After a couple of hours chatting and sipping, we decided to turn our attention to the tapas menu; small plates inspired by Latin cuisine, especially Mexican. 

We chose the deliciously naughty Pork Belly Chicharones (pork crackling with teriyaki, sambal & sesame seed sauce), Tres Chiles Colorados (beef cubes in a three chilli sauce, huitlacoche cream & mezcal on the side) and the Portobello Road Mushrooms (baked mushrooms, sun-dried tomato sauce with Portobello Road gin & topped with Taleggio cheese). 

Fiery, flavorsome and each dish wonderfully unique. The food was almost as good as the drinks! I particularly enjoyed the mushroom dish which tasted like a smaller, spicier veggie lasagne. That melted cheese on top was heavenly. 

We ended up staying in El Nivel much longer than originally planned but we just didn't want to leave! The service was great and the barman was so informative when helping us choose our drinks. There really is something for everyone, even if you think you don't like tequila.

 Eventually, we tore ourselves away and headed across the road to the Covent Garden institution that is The Porterhouse pub. Happily for me, it was pretty lively but quiet enough for me to hear everything that was being said.

Or after all that tequila, had our voices just got louder...?


  1. Please don't mention tequila… I blame those completely for the hideous hangover I had at the weekend (nothing to do with the multiple other drinks consumed!)! Those pork belly bites tho - they were just the thing I needed the morning after.

    Victoria x

    1. Oh dear!

      Those porkies would have sorted you right out


  2. I don't think I could drink neat tequila but I do love a margarita now and again! You look gorgeous as usual

  3. love this - also very much enjoying your fur (?) trimmed cardigan. I'm a total sucker for anything with fur .... It's a necessity in winter time i think!

  4. The tapas food looks absolutely delicious although unfortunately I'm one of those people that literally can't drink tequila. It makes me very very ill even after one sip :( We had the work Christmas party at Tonteria last year and two drinks down I had to leave because I just felt so awful!

    They're bloody beautiful drinks though! Especially those bottles!

    Katie <3


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