Bodega Cantina is a new restaurant in the very quaint St Martin’s Square in Leicester’s city center. Opened in July this year, the restaurant is the third location for the owners, which promises to bring an “independent, laid back South American vibe to Leicester,” serving a selection of dishes from street food favorites such as burritos, nachos and tacos to a range of Peruvian and Ecuadorian inspired main dish classics.
A couple of my friends and I decided to try Bodega on a warm Friday night after a great Leicester Critical Mass bike ride, and while we looked around for somewhere to lock the bikes, the manager popped out to say we could store them out back. We got a few looks rolling our bikes through the restaurant, but we were happy to have them safely tucked away!
We were seated at a high table in the center of the restaurant and ordered drinks – a round of Pacificos and a shot of nice tequila for yours truly (I’m an Arizonan, it’s a must). We also ordered a plate of vegan nachos to munch on while we checked over the extensive menu. The restaurant that night was buzzing, and the vibe was great. I love the decor – it’s colorful and festive, and really helps you imagine you are in some cheerful, South American country instead of the Leicester city center (not that Leicester can’t be cheerful!). Everyone is so friendly too – from the servers dropping off our drinks to the manager who made an effort to visit each table and chat to the diners.
Bodega Cantina has a special, dedicated vegan menu with a great variety of different options to choose from. I was hungry, so I went for the tacos, lime coriander rice and papas chorreadas, while Andrew ordered the vegetarian burrito.
The nachos came out first before we ordered mains, and they were amazing. The tortilla chips are homemade and fried right before they hit the table – no stale, bland chips for us. They were topped with lovely, freshly made guacamole, pico de gallo and spicy jalapeno slices. Needless to say, the plate disappeared quickly. I also had my shot of tequila with a side of sangrita which I was very excited about. For those who haven’t heard of it, it’s basically a shot of spicy lime tomato juice (think virgin bloody Mary) to accompany a shot of tequila. Unfortunately what came was a very watered down, flavorless tomato juice. The tequila was good though!
The tacos were definitely small, street-style type tacos you would expect to get in Mexico. They were nice, but the sweet potato filling could have had more spice. They were a bit bland until I added some salt and a little salsa. Perhaps some type of dressing would have been good. I appreciate they would normally come with sour cream or cheese – but even a coriander dressing perhaps would do the trick? Or a vegan chipotle aioli if they felt adventurous. Luckily the bottle of Pip’s hot sauce on the table was bursting with flavor and gave everything a real kick, and the tortillas were beautifully soft.
The sides were very nice – the rice was delicious, fluffy and tasted great with plenty of coriander chopped into it, while the potatoes were also a nice accompaniment to the main dishes.
Andrew enjoyed his burrito, which was filled with roasted veggies, cheese, avocado and sour cream. But again, the roasted veggies needed more flavor. He also felt the burrito was a bit small (as did the others at our table), but to me they were a good size and good value for money. Plus, the crispy sweet potato fries were incredible (just wish there had been more of them!). Keep in mind that if you’re hungry, make sure you ordered extra sides to share.
Overall we had a really nice experience. The restaurant has a great ambience, and the staff are phenomenal, but there is definitely some room for improvement.