I visited Viva Mexico by accident. There were two new places on my reviewing list, both of which, it turns out, are closed on a Tuesday.
41 Cockburn Street, Edinburgh (0131-226 5145, www.viva-mexico.co.uk)
Dinner for two, excluding drinks, £41.40
By the time we had found ourselves on Cockburn Street, my blood sugar was so low that I had begun to commune with my inner Bear Grylls (we all have one at times of crisis, along with other sensible folk, such as Delia Smith and the late Claire Rayner). He recommended that I start foraging for nutrients between the cobble-stones.
Luckily, it didn’t quite come to that (Delia wouldn’t have approved anyway).
In this window of this place, strung across a sort of Dia-de-los-Muertos take on a nativity scene, a new sign. Taqueria (aka taco shop).
Hooray, and there we have it – a peg.
There is, you see, nothing much else new about this place. It’s a family business, run by the Gonzalez clan, and has been serving Mexican food in the same old spot since 1984.
Apparently, when The Scotsman offices were nearby, it was the favoured haunt of journos. Many a deadline was missed, thanks to margarita goggles.
Inside, and it’s suitably cheerful, with paper lanterns, photographs of banditos, and wooden chairs with poncho-striped cushions.
Also, although upstairs is fun-sized, there are a pair of huge dining rooms in the basement.
I blame hypoglycemia for that fact that we accidentally ordered three taco dishes from the new taqueria menu. There is, after all, other stuff on the list, such as mini tostadas and tortilla soup.
Each of these was £2.50 for two, so we were presented with half a dozen nicely corny-tasting, though slightly chewy, Hob Nob-sized dough discs. Aside from the bases and coriander leaves, the other thing our three starters had in common, was the addition of chopped raw white onion. Too much of it, I’d say.
Still, onions aside, our favourites were topped with salty-chewy mutton, which had been marinated with beer and dried chillies.
The chargrilled pork ones weren’t bad either, with marbles of salty-sweet meat and a sliver of pineapple on top, while, our veggy tacos featured a filling of sweetcorn, pinto beans, blanched spinach and crumbled feta.
OK, but it was clear the outstanding addition on each plate was a ramekin of pico de gallo salsa, which was hot, tomato pulpy and tamarind sour. The Gonzalez clan should bottle and sell this stuff.
For mains, we ordered from the à la carte menu. It features all the usual Tex-Mex suspects. I went for the enchiladas de mole (£11.95), because I love those little blind critters. These consisted of three tightly-wrapped baked tortilla cigars, each packed with shredded chicken. Over the top was a chocolatey and smoky sesame-seed dusted mole sauce. It was as darkly-hued and glossy as Delia’s bowl cut, but I found it a little too cloying. Still, a good dollop of the accompanying refried beans helped to dilute the sugary pop in each mouthful.
Accompanying this dish was a not particularly impressive mound of vegetable rice, punctuated by the occasional pea. Not a treat, just something that Bear might eat for survival.
Our other main – cabo-style fish tacos (£11.50) – was perfectly adequate.
Deep-fried strips of white fish were covered in ginger-coloured breadcrumbs and cupped by floury tacos, which also held a coleslaw-esque mixture of shredded cabbage in a mayo-yoghurt-lime-chipotle sauce.
“Like a Mexican fish-finger sandwich,” said my dining partner. And there was more of the blah vegetable rice on the side.
Puddings are generally non-authentic, but we went with it. I can’t complain about my Dime bar crunch pie (£4.95). Sophisticated it ain’t, but it hadn’t pretended to have a fur coat on over its saucy knick-knacks. Instead, a biscuity base was topped with soft caramel, frothy cream, choccy drizzles and tiles of the eponymous sweetie.
Both of us liked the flan especial (£5.50) – the super-sized Mexican equivalent of a crème caramel. Instant hyperglycemia.
This institution of an eatery is decent enough, though Delia thought the food lacked a certain vibrancy (honestly, she’s SO fussy).
Anyway, as my editor, who has been one of Viva Mexico’s regulars since back-in-the-day explains; “It’s just a relaxed place for those who don’t want to do the whole ‘restaurant thing’. I like it because they don’t faff over you and, anyway, what’s not to love about crisps with cheese on them for tea?”
One thing is for sure, it’s certainly a better option than foraging between cobblestones.