Cultural haven El Chapo is ready to transform the way you dine out in Plymouth
The taste, sound, smell and feel of Latin America have arrived in style on Bretonside.
El Chapo is the trendiest new joint in arguably the most up and coming area of town – and it’s vowed to take the international cuisine market by storm.
The former home of B.E.D! Restaurant is now a celebration of life and colour – and absolutely everything served up on a plate is sourced directly from the depths of Peru and Columbia.
The search for the most authentic Latin American flavours is staggering – owners Mark and David won’t cook it unless it’s absolutely genuine.
David’s had a week in Holland – not for a chilled out holiday – rather on the hunt for food that will simply bowl customers over.
There’s a very healthy selection of Tequila – 12 to be exact – and the chilli selection is something else.
This isn’t the stuff you neck on a dirty night out in town – it’s rich and oh so smooth.
There’s 40 different varieties of the hot stuff – some come a gooey, rich chocolate colour, others soft and velvety – and there’s up to 70 different spices that get thrown in the food.
The restaurant takes the heat out of choosing the right wine and food and gin and tonic pairings – it’s all there for you on the menu.
Flags celebrating Latin American culture snake across the ceiling and the whole bar is awash with colour – a pleasant contrast to the grey and drab palate of life outside.
There’s a few cool touches – like a SKULL nicknamed ‘Toby’ that proudly sits on the end of the bar ready to greet diners.
Proud owners Mark and David threw open the doors at the end of August after spending most of 2018 kitting the place out.
It’s been a steady start – but that’s exactly how they wanted things to go.
They know their cuisine is niche, exacting – and staff need to trained methodically in the art of preparing the ultimate Latin American food.
“The big companies prepare everything on such a large scale,” Lisborn-born David explained.
“They’re destroying the restaurant market in a way, because they’re making everything so cheap, and everyone gets used to it.
“They don’t get a chance to try quality, different products.
“People want proper Mexican food, but then they go to Chiquitos and places like Las Iguanas.”
David was formerly front of house in other restaurants in the region.
He got in touch with Mark one day as he decided it was high time to set up on his own and do something wildly different to everyone else in the food business.
It’s taken them nine months, but now the place is up and running and ready to take people in.
“We both had the same idea, which was to maximise on the quality of the product; as it should be,” David said.
“It was sourcing the right products that was the problem,” Mark admitted. You can want all you like, but trying to get it is another thing.”
David says the response from customers so far has been hugely positive.
“We had a couple from LA the other day, they were used to having Latin American food in the UK so were a little nervous,” he said.
“But the gentleman said afterwards it was the best Mexican food he’s had in the UK.”
David and Mark say they’ve shunned traditional corporate attitudes – they want everyone to know them on first name terms.
And if people want to have a chat with the chef as he’s preparing everything – then they can do exactly that.
“The business model from 10 years ago has changed,” David, 30, said.
“With the new, younger people coming into business, they are developing their own companies and have developed their own rules, they’re less formal.
“We want people to come in, and think that this is family – it’s an experience.”
So, what’s on the menu?
For starters, there’s tantalising nachos, chicken wings, pork and chorizo meatballs BBQ ribs, spice caked prawns and garlic cheesy bread to name a few.
There’s a whole range to choose from for your main, there’s authentic burritos, fajitas, tacos, Mexican-style chilli and quesadilla.
There’s plenty on the grill too – ribs, steaks, chicken, beef, lamb, wraps and salad if you fancy something lighter.
A kids’ menu is served too.
David reckons the BEST meals on the board are – the ‘Bahian Beef’, the ‘Astic Fish’ and the ‘Prissa Lamb Shank’ – which he says is a gorgeous mix of flavours that blend well together that aren’t too overpowering.
What should I drink?
“The Tequila, definitely the Tequila,” David laughed.
“We also do a great Mojito. They’re a favourite.”